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Where Are We Headed

23 Jun

I wasn’t alive in the 70’s, so that means I missed out on the Whitlam government years, the dismissal and the recovery of left-wing politics in Australia afterwards.

I was only very young growing up in the 80’s so I didn’t fully appreciate Bob Hawke’s Labor taking victory in 1983 (although I did meet before the election as a 1 year old, I believe there’s even a photo of it that my parents have somewhere)

I was still in primary school when Keating took power from Hawke and then won another election for the ALP against John Hewson’s Coalition. I was only just finding my political feet, even if they were last place to my Nintendo and NBA trading card feet at the time.

I was 14 when, after 13 years in power, the ALP crumbled to a coalition headed by Howard, Fischer, Downer and Costello. On the back of Howard’s decision not to refute a far-right and dangerous Pauline Hanson after her maiden parliamentary speech, my anger and dislike towards Howard and his coalition was something I carried around for 11 years.

It was issues such as the mistreatment of asylum seekers, privatisation of industry after industry, the backflip over the promise of not introducing a GST, Work Choices, sending troops to Afghanistan and then Iraq that made me question why this government was continually voted in by the people.

Then I remembered another question; who were they up against?

Beazley never came close. Disconnected from the public, uncharismatic and unfortunately, unpopular.

Simon Creane – well, he never actually contested a federal election as leader but he definitely makes Kevin Rudd look like a Hollywood star.

Mark Latham. Now, we had a man here. A man who could have done the job.

I respected and admired Latham from the moment he took on the leadership of the ALP. A straight-talker, no nonsense about him and very strong in personality. However, it was this strength that would also be his downfall. Unfortunately, Latham wasn’t listening to his PR people as his relationship with the media crumbled.

This was all after a source close to me in Canberra told me one afternoon that the word coming out from our nation’s capital was that Latham would win in 2004.

Hope was there. I’m usually not a hoper. I either think something will happen or it won’t. Sometimes I’m surprised but that doesn’t give me hope other times. This time, however, I was as happy as you could get around election time. Latham was going to become our PM, the ALP was back in, no more Howard, no more Costello, no more Abbot!

The weeks leading up to the election left me bitter and extremely disappointed. Was this the last roll of the dice for the political left? Had Labor now, so cynically, abandoned their grassroots support and original ideologies for what was going on in the polls? They had turned into a marketing corporation shortly before Latham’s slide in popularity began. Disillusionment was just around the corner.

Since then and before 2007, the ALP were a compromising party. Lacking in vision and the ideals that brought them to power in the 70’s and 80’s. They were now basing their actions on the polls, the absolute worst thing a political party can ever do. To lose your ideals and sense of purpose is far worse than losing an election.

Where are we headed now?

The ALP is going to ballot. They are voting, as I type this right now, on the future of this country. Rudd or Gillard?

Does it make a difference? One is an old school socialist (yes!) and the other an obsessed bureaucrat. However, with Gillard’s surprising endorsement by the right-wing faction of the party which includes the AWU and a number of other power brokers, does this spell the end to a party that, in it’s very constitution, describes itself as a socialist party? Does Gillard have a price to pay if ALP members, including members within parliament as well as outside, tick her name?

Is this a slide to the right?

Is this the end of the opposition we organised against Howard’s regime and his quasi-fascist policies?

Let’s hope not, otherwise Australia is headed into a dark area and it will be hard to get out of it.

The Tools Are There – Use Them

11 Jun

With so much information and various ways to communicate at our fingertips, why is my generation so apathetic?

Expressing yourself and your ideas can inspire others to do the same or form an opinion, an ideology, if you will. However, Gen Y’s don’t often take the info and pass it on, share it, or respond to it. At least not the information that matters anyway.

With social media and networking, the expression of thoughts have never been so quick to reach so many. I can instantly let everyone know what’s on my mind whenever I want. Whether anyone actually cares isn’t the question, the important fact is that the idea has been put forward to a large audience for all to see.

Blogging, as I am doing right now, is another way that a though, an idea or a collection of ideas is published, largely as a way to persuade, provoke though or inspire.

So why, when we have the ability to receive so much information about what is going on in the world around us, do so many of my generation shut off or simply not care? I am finding it harder and harder to find individuals my own age with whom I can have an intelligent and sensible discussion about politics and social issues without the other party staring blankly at me or simply wishing to change the subject.

It is frustrating, to say the least, when others are so concerned with the self and their own world, even though there is absolutely no way which you can escape the influx of information about the outside world.

Is it information overload? Is this the problem?

I don’t want to point fingers at any one problem, perhaps it is a generational pattern. Gen X was largely apathetic as a response to the activist-turned yuppy baby-boomers. The activism of the 60’s and 70’s was a response to the conservatism of the previous generation.

Why, with so much social change that took place in the 2oth Century, does all of that hard work seem to be coming unravelled? It’s disheartening to feel as though you’re a lone voice amongst your generation, especially with the information revolution becoming an information evolution – greater broadband speeds, more tools to connect and share and collaborate, more opportunity for voices to become heard.

I live amongst a generation of isolation and disconnection. Despite the connection that we all have through communications, our social conscience is missing.

An oil company can cause a major oil spill off the coast of Florida. This disaster causes massive ecological damage and further destroys a once harmonious ecosystem. It’s all over the news, the most credible news websites cover it constantly. There are further reports and updates each day that the damage is getting worse, that large numbers of wildlife will die.

No one cares

At least no one my age.

Oh, the shock value is there. ‘Oh my god, how could they do that?’, ‘Oh, that’s horrible’.

Then, back to your own life. Things go on.

I’m sorry, but they don’t. The only way that the social changes we have today came about is because people fought for them. They fought hard. They researched, they campaigned, they organised!

Gen Y – NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO DO IT FOR YOU!

The dominant attitude amongst my generation is just that: Someone else will do it.

Start giving a damn, Gen Y. No one else will. The dominant conservative ideology is there and always will be if you don’t get off your seat and start acting.

The tools are now there – the Information Superhighway has paved a path of potential for the youth of today to take control and act on social change.

They have learnt how to use the tools. They just need to know how to use them correctly.

The Legacy

11 Jun

This post is heavily inspired by Michael R. James, an Australian research scientist and writer. His article can be found here on ABC’s The Drum.

Today, I just want to share with you all, the legacy that was left behind by former PM, Gough Whitlam.

My father and I used to discuss Gough back when I was younger. His name is sometimes mentioned even now in political discussions. There is an air of great respect and admiration around these conversations. My father is a ‘boomer’ and his first election was in 1972 – the year that the ALP broke years of conservative rule.

Most people my age that I try to speak with about Gough are clueless. Blind to the progress that he gave Australia and the society that he set up – a society which we still live in today – based on social justice and democratic policy.

Here is the great legacy of a great man. I wish was around in his time to help campaign. What a time it would have been.

Name me one other Australian Prime Minister who made this much positive, social change.

Dominant Ideology

9 Jun

What is it that makes the dominant ideology in each society different? Is it the history of their people? Geographical factors? Climactic factors? Deep and pressing issues that have become ingrained in society over a period of time? Is it the people?

Why in Australia, do we have such a conservative dominant ideology when, even compared to other nations with a history of fascism and despotism, we appear to swing even further to the right than they do now?

The media in Australia, rather than choosing to subvert or challenge this ideology, has made the decision to reinforce it.

Australia began it’s swing, deep into the far right under John Howard. Those years with a conservative coalition in government were the blueprint for our unprogressive society today. The rampant anti-intellectualism, extremism, xenophobia and inward looking attitude that we have today are all results of Howard’s 11 year reign.

Even with an alleged centre-left government currently in power, Australia still cannot shake the fascist undertones that exist within our dominant ideology.

A nation, any nation, is made up of many different ideologies. We have moderate liberals, libertarians, socialists, nihilists, fundamentalists, socialists; it takes many to make the world go round. However, within each nation also exists the large circle that is the dominant ideology.

Australia has adopted a conservative, far right ideology.

So, the next question is: should we be worried?

If the thug-caste that Howard indirectly created (otherwise known as bogans) is anything to go by, then we can safely say that the arrogant, racist and pugilistic attitudes which often at times turn to action, will further sink our nation’s reputation in the global view. Action such as the unprovoked attacks on Indian university students in Melbourne. The complete inaction of the Victorian government and their police service is another point to keep about our leaders’ apathy in taking on those responsible for a race-based attack and protecting innocent students. So easy to begin a ‘war on terror’, so indecisive on whether to declare a war on crime.

We should be worried. Not only are the thug-caste allowed to run free and torment whomsoever they wish but we also have no guarantee that our government will combat this behaviour.

The media, in its usual way, chooses not to subvert nor challenge this ideology. Rather, it reinforces it. This is where the problem becomes more than just a problem but an issue that doesn’t seem like it will disappear. Once the agenda is set, then the agenda is set – not just by the media, but by the people who subscribe to the dominant ideology.

Pop-Media has done it again

3 Jun

David Koch you really are the biggest tool in this country. Actually, everyone involved on the channel 7 TV show, Sunrise is a complete tool.

It’s a complete wonder why anyone bothers to take this show without so much as a grain of salt. It would actually be a pretty funny program if they weren’t being serious. However, they ARE being serious. The delivery has all the conventions of brilliant sketch comedy, from Koch’s pathetic jokes and one-liners that even my dad would stay away from, right through to the extremely poor and misguided attempt at political and social commentary.

If I wasn’t already well fortified in my self-ban on any mainstream media I’d probably be exposed to this shameless rival to the even more nauseating, Good Morning Australia on the 9 network. In much the same way that Australia’s political landscape offers almost nothing in choice (apart from the Greens), we are given no alternatives to the big 3 commercial networks. Even the ABC and SBS have their agenda. Where are the independents? Where is the alternative to the same drum beat that has had journalists and reporters dancing for the past 60 years?

Thank you for Social Media. At least I can read an intelligent, balanced and eloquent editorial from a non-professional writer somewhere else in this country or the world who has more intelligence and especially more nerve to state the facts and give an opinion based on logic and reason.

Reading about the ridiculous story which took place on Sunrise yesterday morning, I almost had no choice but to depart ways with my recently eaten lunch. An audience poll was taken where they counted votes on who would be the preferred PM: Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Bob Brown and… wait for it… the so cleverly constructed joke; Mr Don Key… complete with a picture of an actual donkey. Well done, Sunrise. You’ve turned us all into idiots, just like your viewers.

Koch, on a completely nonsensical rant, tried to tell us all how politicians should cease thinking about themselves and their parties, and start thinking about the Australian people. OH! What a deep and insightful thing to say Mr Koch.

To make matters worse, Neil Mitchell of the Herald Sun wrote this even more nauseating article based on the episode.

I’ve already given my two cents to Mr Mitchell on his extremely poor writing and inability to back up statements with actual facts and examples for the reader. I wonder how stupid he actually believes his readers are? Then again, it’s the Herald Sun that we’re talking about here.

To get back to the audience poll, the simple fact that the donkey won does not mean anything. We’re hearing a whole lot of talk now from within pop-news and faux-news circles that there are no decent candidates worth voting for at the next federal election.

Need I remind everyone that Australia is a parliamentary democracy and as such we do not ‘vote’ for who is going to be Prime Minister. Well we don’t vote them in directly. We vote for our local candidates. They belong to a party, and if they are voted in and their party gains the majority in the house of representatives then they form part of the government.

Something to remind a few people about.

What strikes me as unfair is the lack of respect given to one of the few politicians at the moment, Senator Bob Brown. Brown has been unfairly named part of the ‘loony left’ in Australian politics.

How can it be that a politician is dubbed ‘loony’ when their policies are all based on logic and reason? While others bow to a religious dogma and a capitalist agenda.

Food for thought.

What Scared Me Today

2 Jun

I began the day with the usual optimism and jubilance. As I entered my office at around 6:30 this morning my mind passed the same thoughts it had since the beginning of this week, ‘I can make a difference today’.

Coffee in one hand, briefcase in the other I sat down, switched on my Macbook, warmed the photocopy machine up and plugged into the matrix. (OK, that last bit didn’t happen)

The newfound optimism can be attributed mostly to the fact that my film festival, a project I have tried to get up and running for the past two years at my school, is going to be nicely funded by the administration this year. This means it has a great chance of being a big success.

So, I put my promoters hat on and have been shamelessly creating propaganda for the event all week long; posters, 30 second online ads, promotional booklets – you name it, I’m making it.

My first class this morning was a diverse and relatively enthusiastic group of year 10 students. Diverse in that there are a number of different attitudes and personalities, enthusiastic in that they are always ready to get to work on any media project and willing to learn. I think that the learning however, has stopped. At least the willingness has.

When vibrantly talking about the festival to the students this morning (I may have gotten carried away at one point with far too man hand movements and jumping up and down) I made a point of it to let them know that the film festival is open not just to media students whom I teach but also to staff at the college. This means that teachers can create productions to submit.

This piece of news seemed inconsequential to the students. All the students, except one. The expression on his face quickly turned from joy to fear as the news that adults would be entering the festival entered his mind.

Immediately his hand shot up. “Mister! That’s not fair!”

“Excuse me, why isn’t that fair?” I asked in reply.

“Because…” and here’s the kicker, “Teachers know more than students”.

This is the phrase that has haunted me ever since 9:45 this morning.

“Teachers know more than students.”

What, may I ask, kind of society are we living in where a 15 year old believes that in every aspect of their lives, an adult knows more than they do?

I thought that the old way of thinking, ‘Adults know best’, went out years ago. This isn’t true. It may ring true with a number of things that have come with experience such as raising children, property investment, financial responsibility, but it ends there.

We do not have the answers. Just because we may hold a high school/TAFE/University graduation, have a full-time job, drive a car and pay bills, that does not mean we are an oracle to be questioned for all of the answers in life. We don’t have the answers! And yes, sometimes we may have a few of the answers, but it’s up to the young to work them out for themselves.

I blame our education system. Students are graded in each subject area. These grades are based on informal and formal assessments such as tests, quizzes, expository texts, artistic and mechanical creations, fitness levels and exams. None of these assess the students ability to function in society – to contribute to society.

I hate grades.

I blame the concept of grading, of ticking or crossing a box, of giving a score, of assessing an outcome, of conditioning the student to behave in a manner that they normally would not just for the almighty “A”.

I hate it. This isn’t a reflection of real life. So many students and teachers talk about the ‘real world’, as if it is separate from their school education. Why can’t we actually approach teaching like we are in the ‘real world’?

So many of us in education are obsessed with ticking boxes and keeping students sheltered from reality. When will the day come where an educational institution doesn’t just attempt to educate and allow the students to learn, but to contribute something to society. When will our institutions provide, not only realistic expectations, but demonstrate real world goals and objectives to prepare our children.

So much fear, conformity and following of conduct is evident in a school. Students are full of fear to the point where self-expression has disappeared. Simply saying ‘no’ for a good reason or cause rather than ‘no’ just to be outwardly defiant is not evident anymore. Once upon a time, saying ‘no’ meant something. It meant defiance in the face of a lack of personal rights – right to privacy, right to speak up, right to a decent education.

We have created grade-grubbers who do not know how to think for themselves. We are creating a future void of any independent thought and motivation.

It is scary how that one phrase, “Teachers know more than students”, means so much more than just being a general quip by a high school student. This is the society that we have created and that we must very soon transform.

If we don’t, then the future looks very bleak.

Our Social unAwareness

20 May

For a long time, I’ve found it difficult to find any pride in calling myself a West Australian. That’s the blunt truth.

Many people from this state will tell you that it’s a land of beauty and richness. We have an abundance of natural resources, the people are friendly and unique, and we have a long and exciting history.

I think that the first of those three points would be the only one with some valid truth to it.

Show me a friendly west aussie and I’ll show you a dozen extremely rude ones.

Tell me one exciting and interesting story from our history and I’ll tell you a number of boring and long-winded ones.

I’m not setting out here today to put down this state or to declare my hatred for it, but I am somewhat perplexed by the pride that so many take in it when we clearly have no sense of progression or direction.

I’m speaking of course about the attitude that reigns supreme here; a lack of social awareness and far too much inward looking.

We are a state of people who have no awareness of the outside world. We spend far too much time consumed with our own territory and our capital city that we lead ourselves to believe that it is the whole world.

Perth is a town with a relatively small population and far too much suburban sprawl. That is the truth. Now there is absolutely no problem with that, however many people that live here believe that it is a great city. It is far from being a great city. We have far too many issues going on that halt any kind of progress. Our attitudes are stained by an ultra- conservative philosophy that reeks of xenophobia and far too much economic liberalism. The mining companies, for example, are looked to by this state as the driving force of our strong economy. Yet it is also these mining companies who are causing our young to miss out on a rich education and experience a diverse range of cultures and lifestyles. It is these corporations that are destroying the very land we live in for the sake of the economy – in the end, economic matters are inconsequential compared to social matters. What is really important is people, not finance. Humanity can flourish without a free market.

Lately there has been a call from within a right-wing faction in this state to have WA secede from the rest of Australia. As ludicrous as this may sound, it is also a dangerous call and one that threatens to alienate and further isolate our people. The arrogance that exists within the people of Perth and other towns in this state is unjustified. Although the economy appears to be strong, it relies on one area and that is the resource sector. Iron ore, nickel and gas do not remain forever. Once they’re gone they’re gone. Then where are we?

The attitude towards sport is also quite backwards. People continually cry out for a new ‘footy’ stadium while Health and Education are left out in the cold. Our hospitals are ill-equipped yet this is never mentioned as an issue until election or budget time. We truly do not deserve the status that we have as one of the states driving this country until our public services are improved. It’s frustrating, that after so many years where a basic service to humanity has gone wanting, it is still undervalued by our government and media.

There is a group that exists within Perth, of so-called intelligent professionals that are working towards improving Perth and its reputation. However, it is not the physical aspects of this city that need improvement, it is the social aspects that require our full and undivided attention. As far too much emphasis is placed on the look and feel of a city, it is the implementation of better social projects; welfare, health, education, that need to take place in order for the people to live a more full and enriched life.

This will not happen in WA if attitudes are not changed. This comes with a better education and experience regarding social matters. As Western Australians we must stop looking to the mining companies as our saviours and begin looking at other great cities and regions in the world – mainly welfare states, particularly in Europe where a higher tax means that individuals and families are better off.

If the government simply takes in a little more money then it has the ability to distribute it evenly and more abundantly to public services that are in dire need.

Unfortunately, this is where WA is very far behind.