24 March, 2011

There is a Difference, Part 2

....or, Example number 357: Signs of the Times

So, the anti-carbon tax folks had their rally in Canberra yesterday – Tony Abbot’s so-called “people’s revolt,” and the most notable and/or amusing things about it were some of the signs people brought.  Some were professionally produced, some were downright nasty, and no-one seems to have any idea what this one is about:

In Australia, we say “mum,” but okay

There are some great ones on Latika Bourke’s Twitpic stream and on Super Opinion’s Facebook.

And true to form, Andrew Bolt used the ugly side of the protest to show what a bad old bunch the lefties are.  To illustrate his point that they’re all hypocrites, he posted pictures of signs from various anti-Howard rallies:

Are these signs nasty?  Ugly?  Offensive?  Stupid?  Absolutely!  The Hitler moustache is inexcusable if only on the grounds of cliché quite aside from all the other reasons.  But something is missing from all these pictures.  Have you spotted it?

Do you see Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, Mark Latham or Kevin Rudd standing in front of any of those signs or effigies, endorsing the sentiment?  No.  You don’t.  Compare and contrast with this shot from yesterday:

Who is that standing in front of the “JuLIAR.... BOB BROWNS (sic) BITCH,” sign?   It’s Tony Abbott and a good chunk of the Liberal party front bench.  And was any of the anti-Howard ugliness supported and promoted all over the eastern states by millionaires in the mainstream media?  No, they weren’t.

That’s the difference!

By the way, I asked in my previous post on this subject who on the right was prepared to disown the nastiness.  Credit must go to the right wing website vexnews.com for denouncing the extremist contingent at yesterday’s rally.

NB: All photographs remain the copyright of whoever took them and/or published them.

11 March, 2011

The Rules: News

When watching live coverage of breaking news, turn off when you stop learning anything new.

08 March, 2011

Some Questions on International Women's Day

I have some questions regarding International Women’s Day – questions which might be controversial.  Or they might not, but just in case they are, let me first explain where I’m coming from.  I have no intention of trying to be controversial for controversy’s sake.  I’m not going to ask why there isn’t a men’s day or anything like that.  I get it.  I get that living as a woman is generally more complicated than living as a man, both in day-to-day terms and over a lifetime.  I get that women generally have a harder time of it even in post-feminist societies.  I am all for equal pay.  That ought to go without saying.  It’s to our collective shame that it’s even an issue in 2011.  I have no time for gender roles.  I’m all for stay-at-home dads and women soldiers if that’s what they want to do.  So I’m not here to be deliberately obtuse or make some smartarse cheap shots.  I have some honest questions and I would appreciate honest answers if anybody has them.

It seems the whole issue of gender equality has been wankified beyond recognition.  According to this week’s Q and A, it would appear that the most important issues facing Australian women are the lack of women on corporate boards and a 27% pay discrepancy between men and women in the finance sector.  Now I’m no woman so it’s not for me to say, but if I had to take a guess, I would guess that most women have more important concerns.  I’ve already mentioned that equal pay is a no-brainer, but in the finance sector, I would expect that 27% would mean the difference between exorbitant and obscene.  I also don’t see how overpaid, out-of-touch women on corporate boards would be any better for society at large than overpaid, out-of-touch men.  These are both issues that, on Twitter, would usually be tagged #firstworldproblems as a tacit recognition that these are pretty good problems to have.

The question of quotas was also raised.  If you ask me (and forgive me for assuming you did), I think quotas are disrespectful to women because they will never truly know if they were the best person for the job or if they are simply there to fill a quota.  That’s not equality, that’s patronising.  There can never be true equality until gender, race, sexuality, etc. are not an issue at all.  Once quotas were brought up, it led to talking of quotas for parliament.  The problem there is a little thing called democracy.  Each party could ensure that 50% of their candidates are women, but that wouldn’t mean 50% of MPs would be female.  In a perfect world, parliament would have a proportional representation of women, men, aborigines, migrants, gays, Muslims, Christians, agnostics, disabled, diabetics and vegetarians, but  eventually you’re going to have to take it up with the voters.  But I will explain later my theory about the lack of women in parliament.

So here are my questions:
Why aren’t we as worried by the under-representation of women working on construction sites as we are about women on corporate boards?
Why are we talking about quotas for women in parliament but not in the military?
Is no-one worried about the lack of men taking up nursing as a career?

Again, I’m not saying this to be obtuse.  I am all for gender equality across all career paths, which is why it bothers me that the discussion seems to be all about gender equality in the “nice” jobs but not across the workforce in general.  Could it be that there are certain pursuits that particular genders find themselves suited to?  I’ll say again that I hate gender roles, but it’s a genuine question.

Regarding women in parliament, I get the impression that it’s just a lower priority for women in general than it is for men.  I’m not saying that’s a good or a bad thing, it’s just an observation and I would be happy for people to argue with me over that.  I know it’s not a popular point of view to suggest that politicians are underpaid, but the fact is that they are paid a lot less than any comparable position in industry.  There are several knock-on effects from this.  It means that those who are able but, shall we say, slightly less altruistic in their motives, are more likely to want to run a bank than treasury.  After all, the pay is so much better.  Therefore, those who are of a persuasion offer themselves as ministers, despite the relatively modest salary, are probably driven more by ego than by profit motive.  Since women tend to be less ego driven than men, those who have a flair for managing departments are more likely to have the sense to go somewhere where they are well paid and less hated for it.  Also, I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that women by and large are less greedy than men, which will make them less inclined to take a position that pays eight figures and contributes bugger all to society.  I think women are simply more likely to just get on with it.

These are simply some observations and I would be very happy to have some of them shot down.  I just think that if we’re going to talk equality, let’s talk equality across the board, not just the corporate board.

Personally, I observed International Women's Day as I do every other day: by not treating women as a minority.

It's not just the Q and A panel.  The prime minister has spoken out about the need for more women on company boards.  Gender parity in coal mines secretarial work still not an issue.

Update 2018:
I am older, I know more, and I entirely recant this post. I'm not going to delete it because that would be cowardly. I wrote it, I posted it, and I was stupid. Life is not a thought experiment.

03 March, 2011

There is a Difference

I’m regularly described as being something of a leftie.  This has always amused me, as I’ve always considered my views rather conservative in the traditional sense of the word and fairly Christian in the actual sense of the word.  I have never completely identified with any party.  I assume the leftie tag comes from my opposition to the right wing.  (I won’t call them conservatives.  I have no argument with conservatives but there is very little that is genuinely conservative in the positions espoused by many who self-identify as conservatives.)
If being opposed to the right makes me a leftie ipso facto, then so be it.  I don’t care.

So what brings about this general opposition to the right wing?  First let me say that opposition to one side does not equate to support of the other.  In politics, you have to choose the least worst so that the most worst doesn’t get in, but don’t take that vote against the most worst as a ringing endorsement of the least worst.  To put it simply, I’ll come down on the side that acts like less of a dick.  And by my reading, it tends to be the progressive side that acts like less of a dick than the right.  I know that both sides have their shrill loudmouths who are an embarrassment to their cause, but I do not accept the notion that each side is as bad as the other.  There is a difference.

To me, the difference is so self-evident that specific examples are almost unnecessary, but the most recent one comes from Miranda Devine and her column “No sympathy for sooky independents,” wherein she rationalises abuse directed at independent MP Tony Windsor.
“As proof of his suffering, Windsor released a phone message he had received: “You’re a f...ing dog Windsor,” said the male caller. “You’re a f...ing liar, a dog, a rat, a big f...ing MP dog doing damn nothing. You wait. You’re not going to get voted in again. I hope you die.”
Unseemly language aside, if that’s the worst threat Windsor can drum up then all he’s proved is that he’s a tricky wuss. Take out the swear words and the unpleasant hope that he dies and what you have left is a statement which reflects the feelings of much of Windsor’s electorate of New England....”
Actually Miranda, if you take out the swear words and the unpleasant hope that he dies, what you have left is barely one coherent sentence and a rather banal one at that.  And this is what distinguishes the left wing from the right wing commentariat in this country.  If Windsor and Oakeshott had backed the Coalition instead of Labor and received abuse for it, you can bet that the likes of Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt would race to their keyboards to bash out another “What is it with the left and foul-mouthed abuse when they don’t get their own way?” column.  If someone left a message on Tony Abbott’s ’phone calling him a fucking dog and hoping he dies, I can’t think of too many progressives who would rationalise that.  Indeed, there were many on the left who defended Tony Abbott over the “Shit happens” controversy, dismissing Mark Riley’s report as a shameful beat-up and gotcha journalism of the lowest order.  For the record, I agree with them.  There are many reasons to be critical of Tony Abbott.  This is not one of them.  If you were to sum up Devine’s point in one sentence, it would be, “It’s okay when we do it because damn it, we have a good reason!”

You don’t have to look very far to find other so-called lefties who are quick to distance themselves from  the outbursts of Catherine Deveny and even John Pilger.  In the US, it’s not hard to find conservatives who are quick to point out that the Bill O’Reillys, Sean Hannitys and Sarah Palins of the world do not speak for them.  Where are the Liberals who are prepared to publically disown the rhetoric of Miranda Devine, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt?  If you’re out there, please make yourselves known. 

Usually when one of the above, or any of their colleagues, says something offensive, the first thing you hear from their defenders is a lot of crying about free speech.  “What is it with the left and silencing people?” “Why does the left hate freedom?”  Such comments conveniently ignore the fact that free expression does not include a) the right to be paid for it, or b) immunity from criticism.  Ms Devine has the right to say whatever she wants about whatever she wants by any means at her disposal.  I am simply exercising my equal right to say that what she said is stupid.

Having dismissed the independents as sooks, some might argue that this makes Miranda Devine fair game for some hate and abuse herself.  It does not.  It’s tempting, but that would be too easy.  Miranda, I disagree with you.  I think you’re wrong and that you’re probably a hypocrite.  I do not think that you’re a fucking dog and I certainly do not hope you die.  Furthermore, I would not rationalise nor tolerate any such comments directed towards you.  That’s because I have standards - standards that the right wing claims to have but seldom shows any evidence of. 

That’s the difference.