Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quit with the boomer sterotype, please

I suspect that some people who despise the ALP don't want to find themselves looking like filthy leftists, so instead, they're trying to frame political debates as generational debates. 

In other words: “boomers hate the upcoming generation, so” … we (the boomers) are killing free education, universal healthcare, and environmental action.

If you think you can keep your right-wing credentials this way, you're a more complete idiot than the “Western Sydney bogans” of uniform race, culture and political leaning that you believe exist because the AFR's Boss magazine tells you you're different from.

I mean it. I know V8-Falcon bogans who've fallen in love with nature and have more flexible political views than "hate boomer" hardliners.

Yes, I'm a boomer, and I hate hard-right anti-intellectual politics with the experienced hate of someone who's seen it all my life.

Since 1980 or thereabouts, I have marched in environmental protests of some kind of other. I also marched against the first introduction of university fees, and I have written on this blog about healthcare.

I've also put my own money into my environmental beliefs, by way of buying the business referred to in my profile.

We didn't buy Bunjaree Cottages to get rich. We bought it because it's about 14 hectares of mostly virgin bush in the Blue Mountains, because we wanted to protect it from the kind of person who thinks resorts involve concrete and lawn. A significant chunk of the property is a hanging swamp feeding a permanent creek that flows, eventually, into the Grose River.

Every now and again, I have to give a refund to people who don't understand wildlife and can't bear the ringtail possums running on the roof, or the antechinus that can squeeze so tight you can't keep them outdoors.

The same plot of land is home to lyrebirds, wonga pigeons, echidna and spotted quolls (the latter being an endangered species).

All of which means it's really offensive to find that because some media commentator has drawn a demographic line across political beliefs, a whole heap of people will accuse me of trying to undermine their futures.

Don't believe the hype, kids. The divide isn't generational – you are statistically more likely to be a hard-right voter than I am – it's a political divide in which business has completely captured one side of politics, only partially captured the other, and is therefore barracking for the side it owns.

The public demographers drawing “boomers versus the rest” lines across age boundaries are the owned creatures of business. They're taking part in pulling the wool, and it's working: you honestly believe you can characterise my beliefs and actions purely according to my age.

They – the destroyers of the environment, ravagers of health, despisers of education – have known how to divide and conquer since Machiavelli.

The political nastiness in Australia is not a synthetic boomers-versus-the-rest narrative. It's a simple ideology of the hard right, paid for by businessmen with no compunction about outright lies in service of their hip pockets, practised by politicians with no compunction about telling those second-hand lies, also in service of their pockets.

If you believe otherwise, you're a fool – and folly knows no generational limits.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thorpe and Hildebrand (with a language warning)

The summary of the story (you can search Twitter if you need a long version) is:

Ian Thorpe: Yes, I'm gay*

*There's a long footnote to this that isn't germane right now.

Joe Hildebrand: We already knew you were, hur hur hur.

[general outrage]

Joe Hildebrand: But seriously folks...

Think on this: Ian Thorpe is popular, admired, successful, well-off, and he believed in post-millennial Australia he had to stay in the closet.

Think on this: the first reaction, before his “oh, shit, wrong call”, of one of those shit-scrapers that Murdochia thinks represents anything but the views of other shit-scrapers, is to make a joke about Ian Thorpe being gay.

He then tries to dig himself out of the shit-scraper world, with lines like these:

In all seriousness, Ian Thorpe coming out might actually be the biggest breakthrough for gay acceptance Australia has ever seen.” (Me: bollocks, with all respect to Thorpie: Ian Roberts had to break a bigger taboo. I still think well of Ian Thorpe for doing so).

APOLOGY: I am so sorry that apparently everyone on Twitter didn't know Thorpey was gay. Best wishes to your home planet.” (You lame coward, Hildebrand)

The reality: Someone well-known, popular and successful makes his “I'm gay” statement, and the lowest-rent arse-worm of a cohort of low-rent arse-worms called “News Limited Columnists” immediately makes a gay joke. It's his first response. The foot rises as soon as the “gay” hammer hits the nerve near the knee.

For stool-samples like Joe, the only excuse to be gay and get an apology for the kind of joke that makes 17-year-olds laugh is that you are successful, popular, and well-known. Any other gay – the ones that aren't Ian Thorpe – is still fair game for this pond scum.

The only reason Hildebrand backed down even to the lame degree he did is obvious: the damn fool managed to find a target that even the most Neanderthal of his knuckle-dragging followers liked.

Stick it to those ABC lefties, but leave Thorpie alone” scared him when “leave gays alone” wouldn't.

The lame school bully turned around, and none of his muscle were standing behind him, so he ran. The very pith and essence of “coward”.

In 1977, I got a kicking in Katoomba Street at 4pm in the afternoon. Because I'm gay? No, I'm not. Because I had gay friends. That taught me a certain degree of solidarity, and gave me (yet another) lesson in the gang-behaviour of the bully.

What a lame, weak, small man is Joe Hildebrand.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Newman's everywhere! (Some lunchtime silliness)

Sung to the tune of Queensland's Everywhere (you can find it here). And in honour of Denis Carnahan, there are some lines which scan only if you force-fit them!

Could somebody please help me,
There's some flooding on the way,
I thought I'd call triple-zero,
But they gave the game away.
They said there's a superhero, who has made them obsolete,
If you need someone to rescue you,
Here's the name you should repeat:

Who's your ambo?
Campbell Newman!
Who's your firey?
Campbell Newman!
Who's your hero?
Campbell Newman!
Newman's everywhere!

So you thought the Queensland Coast Guard
Had the hero game wrapped up
For saving lives and saving property
When the river was rising up.
You're deluded thinking rescuing's for the ordinary man.
Super-dooper Campbell Newman is
The only one who can...

Who saved Brisbane?
Campbell Newman!
Who saved Towoomba?
Campbell Newman!
Who saved all Queensland,
From the socialists?
Newman's everywhere!

There's no bushfire too rampant,
When Newman wears the cape.
When you need an Iron-human,
He's the first to chest the tape.
If King Kong attacked the Gold Coast, Cam would take it on the chin.
It's Australia's great misfortune that
There's only one of him.

Who's deluded?
Campbell Newman!
Who's ego's out of control?
Campbell Newman!

[pause music, scream the next bit with no rhyme or meter]
Who's a heartless cyborg who sends children to concentration camps?
[resume music]

That's Scott Morrison!
Newman's Everywhere!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A debate poisoned by what we know

This is a recap of a previous post, but I think it's worth reiterating.

Australia is being manipulated and poisoned because politicians can now exploit what we know, and didn't know in an earlier age. 

In the 1970s – as I once confirmed with a researcher – Australia had no idea about the refugee boats that didn't make it.

That meant the refugee debate could be framed in terms of the boats that did make it. They were made – at least by sympathetic journalists like Ita Buttrose – into personifications of bravery, people who were so fearless, and Australia such a beacon, that of course we should accept them.

Australia back then crafted a policy to stop the boats by getting people here without the boat. Not by blocking them: by trying to process their refugee status quickly, and bring them.

Australia now has this burden of knowledge, which becomes a burden of guilt, which becomes the burden of political speech, which becomes the burden of atrocity.

Now, the world knows that some boats don't make it. The cynical racists among our politicians – of both sides – have used that knowledge against us, which doesn't make sense.

Think about it: if you tend to the Right, you're supposed to believe in individual agency as a core article of faith. Fretting about dangers is hypocrisy: the individuals leaving wherever they're leaving are doing so of their own free will.

When the Right witters on about deaths at sea, they do it solely to wedge the Left: because, forty years later, now we know that refugees might die on the trip, we agonise about it.

They – the Right – don't agonise. They don't care – any government that can send refugees back to their torturers is a cynical liar when it talks of preventing deaths at see.

It's the Left that cares, agonises, and lets itself get wedged by the idea that we can prevent the deaths at sea.

Here's the cold equation: we can't prevent the deaths. Preventing arrivals, transfers at sea, three-word slogans, “Border Force”, no-comment press conferences – these things do nothing to prevent people leaving, and some of them will be in boats that sink.

(Remember for a moment that mandatory detention was an ALP idea that must live in infamy forever).

And it's the ALP's mandatory detention plus the “Leftist” concern about deaths at sea creates the opportunity for the wedge: if we make Australia sufficiently odious the boats won't leave, goes the argument, when actually the Monsoon is the only thing that seems to change the boat departures.

And if we didn't know at all – if, as in the innocent 1970s there were no satellite phones, no call-for-help – our moral choices would be both simpler and, in local political terms, so much more wedge-proof. We would only have to concern ourselves with arrivals, not departures.

There is my solution to The Left's dilemma. We can't stop the departures. What people flee is too much beyond our ken. Stop being caught in the “stop the boats” question and instead, insist that we deal humanely with those that arrive.

Don't let the political debate be poisoned by our knowledge that some don't survive the voyage. Honour the dead, but give our efforts to the living refugees.

After all, they are heroes.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Banksia Wind

The banksia wind is special.

Maybe it's the other trees. Banksias aren't tall: they grow as a second-storey beneath the canopy of gum-trees or angophora. While the gums grow tall and spread their arms out to the light, the banksias are gnarled and low, bent, misshapen and tough. Other small trees bend their growth to the wind, living at an angle: banksias grow thicker to stay straight, drop branches and develop burly lumps. They're pigheaded trees, too stubborn to bend and usually too tough to break.

They sing in the wind.

First, there's the sound of the wind approaching, a susurration off to the right in the high leaves of the gum-trees. It's a wash that approaches in three-dimensional stereo: at first, a point of sound a hundred metres distant, washing towards you in the high leaves, like waves in the distance before they arrive at shore and break on the rocks.

And the swish-swish of the wind comes closer, becomes a wash that fills a whole hemisphere of the ears: a sound already unique when you stand among the gum-trees, the speech of the spirit of tall wood and rangy bark and loose leaves.

And then it's all around you. 

With an extra note: the hush and hum because the wind has arrived, and you're standing beneath the gums but among the banksias, and it's the banksias that sing while the gum-trees hiss.

The song of the banksia.

It's a song of leaves slapping against each other: argumentative? or the strike of hand-palms celebrating a momentary victory? Who knows. Then there's the violins of leaves out-of-reach of others, vibrating on their own, a million voices in a thousand keys. It's the shuddering flap of the leaves at the edge of branches, like cicadas too wet to drum. And it's the bass-notes of branches that vibrate but don't bend.

Of course it made us cry.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Medical research lets the government wedge science

The Medical Research Future Fund is a sham, and medical researchers are falling for it. They already behave as if:
  1. The MRFF exists, and
  2. Medical research will suffer if it doesn't go ahead.
I'll bet Tony, Joe, Kevin and the rest of the toxic sludge of cabinet are in helpless fits of giggles. They've wedged the science community, with medical research distracted by the shiny and defending the fund's sometime-promise, while other sciences are being stripped of money today.

The big medical research charities have sunk either into a self-interested silence (shut up or the government will take it away), except for those that outright support a fund backed by a malicious attack on the poor. Of the 26 charities I've checked, everywhere from mental health to cancer support, none have directly criticised the GP co-payment.

Sorry, medical researchers, but you're backing the wrong horse if you think that “save what you can” is a sensible response to this budget.

Sorry, medical researchers, but you've been set to chase, catch, and defend a chimera. The government's purpose with the MRFF was political, not scientific: to recruit some part of the scientific research community that would defend the atrocious budget. And it's working.

Sorry, medical researchers, but if you support the MRFF you have to answer a very hard question. How many poor people will die because they can't afford the $7 co-payment that funds the blue-sky-sometime research fund that you're eyeing with avarice?

Research that already existed is getting cut, and you're letting yourselves get distracted by a shiny promise, and your distraction is a political tool of the government.

You're trading today's patient welfare againts tomorrow's political promise.

Even a brand-new medical research fund, starting tomorrow, doesn't cure people who are sick today. It will take years to get a result that can be put to a trial, and if the trial works, a couple of years to generate a result and become a treatment.

In the interim – say, the six years from 2014 to 2020 – it will be nothing more than a patent farm hoping to arbitrage what might work into what will generate money for patent owners.

And in the meantime?

People will die.

They'll die because the co-payment parlays into a cascading payment for anyone whose condition is more complex than a single GP visit.

People are going to die because of this government's policies, and the payoff of a medical research fund coming some day if the government keeps its promise isn't going to save them.

Because the whole thing is toxic, and if you believe that a promise to your special interest makes the budget less toxic, you've been tricked. You've been fooled, gulled, wedged: you've been persuaded to argue in favour of an attack on people who have no defence, because you've been given a promise by proven liars.

And you believe them, because your hope is louder than the whisper of good sense.

I will march against your Medical Research Future Fund because it's a whitewash designed to paint a patina of respectability on an odious impost on the poor. And no, I won't worry that someone might die in 2030 because I marched. Today's poor and sick need universal healthcare more than they need the promise of a liar.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The relentless diary of chronic illness

A point about chronic illness that's hard to grasp from the outside is the relentless sameness of it.

A really good chronic illness is so dominating. It commands the daily routine, and the weekly and monthly and annual diary. It changes everything, from high finance to housekeeping.

A chronic illness imposes its own shape on life. It embosses life with its own imprint, and it leaves precious little space on the paper to write your own story.

Its story – Ms T's illness – goes like this:

0530: Day starts with medications, some of which are soporific. Return to bed.

0630: More medications, more sleep.

0730: Wake properly, have breakfast. Rest of morning medication. Some of these make you feel ill.

0830: Return to bed to cope with nausea.

0900: Wake, shower (if well enough), dress, etc.

0930: Plan the day, starting (probably) with loading the washer.

Things will happen after 0930, but only slowly and carefully. If pain, nausea and diarrhoea are your companions, you don't undertake anything lightly. Trust me.

By 1000, you might feel well enough to plan, say, a shopping trip, and if nothing goes wrong by 1030, you will even commit to getting the 1050 bus. That gets you back home by midday as long as nothing goes wrong, in time to prep others' lunches (I am spoiled: if I'm working from home, Ms T always brings me lunch).

1300: With lunch over, take medications that mean a brief rest.

The afternoon will be occupied with trying to do things that must be done, fighting off the nausea of chemotherapy and the lassitude of so many medications, and trying to form a coherent plan for preparing dinner.

1730: Start preparing dinner, frequently with assistance. “Can you help me with the potatoes?”

1900: Dinner, perhaps with wine, and the TV news.

1930 to 2000 (depending): More drugs, shower or bath (if too unwell to shower in the morning), bed.

A high-quality chronic illness – not cancer, in Ms T's case, an immune system disorder that can only be held in check with heavy chemotherapy – might leave the sufferer with four hours each day that aren't dictated by the illness.

The chemo has its own life. Ms T has been prescribed cyclophosphamide on various frequencies between fortnightly and (thankfully, currently, quarterly).

And that doesn't count the diary items. Once a fortnight, sometimes once a week, there's a GP visit because of all those drugs need prescriptions. At least once a month, averaged over a year, there's a specialist appointment at a hospital. Twice a year, on average, there's a procedure that requires at least a day-surgery visit to hospital.

And there's the pathology, which never ends.

This is the invisible life that the nasty right-wing punishers and straighteners don't understand.

If you're chronically ill:
  1. You have no “normal life” into which might be slotted “employable”.
  1. You can't avoid GP visits. Some medications require a monthly review, even if it's an authority prescription.
  1. You can't avoid pathology, nor specialist or hospital visits.
  2. You will almost certainly be reduced to a single income, at least some of the time.

We're lucky. We have survived so far without needing more of the social “safety net” (a term I despise) than our medical system.

But I'm outraged that the rich are happy to consign others to – in effect – death, because they see chronic illness as some kind of divine punishment, rather than misfortune.

This government is made up of evil men who actively detest the people they govern, and want them to die.