Sunday, November 20, 2011

Feminism

How could I overlook feminism, the bread and butter of the left for generating antagonism between the sexes.

This one may need another disclaimer: I strongly believe in equal opportunity, for both men and women, and I don't believe women belong in the kitchen baking a lamb roast for a man.

Further, I was also exclusively raised by women - my mother and my older sister. With very little to no fatherly contact at all, I can see where men can be labelled as all being useless and disinterested listless deadbeats, bastards, etc etc.

So in all honesty, my opinion of what a man is and should be and the role he plays in society is mostly pieced together from The Simpsons and other sitcoms, and somewhat hobbled together with duct tape.

Only as a man would do, right?

I was also primarily educated by women. In primary and high school it was a 50/50 split, mostly, but in university I came to learn than the man as I knew it was the bastion of evil that needed to be cast out from society in his current form.

Being stupid, I took a social politics subject (Politics of Identity), which quickly informed me that because men had written science and medical books on female-only topics such as childbirth, the world view of women had been skewed.

It had been viewed only through the eyes of men, and it was time for deprogramming.

I didn't buy it; I dutifully failed the subject and moved on.

Upon entering a female-dominated higher education system, both in terms of students and lecturers, reverse sexism became surprisingly evident.

Snide remarks were made about penis size (apparently because I'm below average height - I'm not sure how the two are correlated), or that I should be learning to be a plumber or a welder instead.

It was largely expected that males shouldn't be in education, and they should stick to their garb.

Imagine if I made mention that they should be learning to sew buttons on their future husband's work outfit?

Maybe they were having a little revenge for the perceived sexism they were experiencing.

Oh, those mean ladies, and perhaps I'm personalising the issue, or reading too much into it - but like the feminist, I'm only going by experience, and whether or not this was all discrimination, I can only play devil's advocate and leave it for the reader to interpret.

But where would women, who are apparently for equal opportunity for all, pick up these misconceptions from?

Much has been made of weakening the male through media. For women to be strong, the left first needed to portray men as little more than worker drones carrying sperm, which in the future can be replaced, anyway.

Young women are always expected and made to feel confident about their bodies. This is somewhat of a parallel universe for the young woman, because while they are bombarded with images of skinny ideal women, while at the same time, they are taught to be confident with whatever size they are.

Even if it's morbid obesity.

Young men on the other hand are usually the butt of jokes if they fit the skinny, white, nerdy guy stereotype.

Sitcoms like the Big Bang theory exploit it for comedy.

They certainly shouldn't feel proud about being geeks and not trying to score with multiple women like alpha males - those lucky males are left for shows such as Sex in the City, where women are sexually liberated, unlike the weak subordinate males, who would be silly for thinking they could have a long term relationship with these women.

Gradually, like a frog in a saucepan, we've been slowly degenerating young men, and young women develop their opinions by immediately sussing men out for these stereotypes, of which these are just a few.

They're lads; they're hooligans; they're not obeying what they should be; they're not 'taking responsibility' and being a good provider.

Woa, wait, hang on - "provider"?

Ahh!

The term provider is straight out of the 1950s stereotypes that women have been trying to escape ever since being enlightened - however still, it is the man that gets to keep this provider stereotype.

Anything else, and he's a weakened being with little to no use. We'll throw him an unemployment cheque from time to time, wait for him to become an alcoholic, then kick 'em to the curb. What use is there of them?



What if men don't want to be providers, just like women may not want to be nurturers, or housewives, apparently, because they're now liberated from their male keepers and providing for themselves.

Perhaps they do want to be providers, but they have little option of filling that role with today's empowered woman.

If women are providing for themselves, what use is their left of the male? What's the motivation? Should we still hold the door open for a lady, or is that too now deemed to be keeping women as subordinate?

But I digress.

Knowing of a few intellectually empowered and independent women, I've come to realise that their husbands are rarely seen or heard, and are usually kept under lock and key and told what to do; they could only dream of being the 'man' of the house, and any of their achievements aren't equal, but second.

This isn't to say men are angels, to the contrary; men can be downright bastards. Swigging, bashing, womanising, shirking abusive bastards, and before divorce was more commonly available, women would be suffering in silence with little avenue for recourse.

So we're back to square one. Women start disbelieving the fairy tale of male chivalry, the promise of family is a lie, and the offer of sexual and career empowerment become increasingly attractive, and perhaps another woman may even satisfy their needs better.

This is where left feminism steps in, offering all the hope and solutions women could ever need.

An emphasis is placed on achieving education and employment outcomes for girls. The male has found his own way from the beginning of time, and they don't participate or matter in the left frame of education and opportunity.

The outcome for males is largely inconsequential. Let them hunt wild boar for all we care, or better yet - join the army.

You could say this is conspiracy - but it's known that in schools, boys have been slipping behind for sometime.

Higher education is the domain of the wealthy male's family, the lower and underclass male is merely an extra in his own self-fulfilling destiny of labour, dwelling in the western suburbs with fast cars and fast women.

Women largely dominate the employment and job search industry itself. I've encountered such offices where there is only one male in sight, either as the mailman, or a newly employed consultant that foolishly stumbled into such a position.

If you've made it past the education system which gives a 'ho-hum' sigh to the male student, you may be lucky enough to find yourself in job interviews - which are being conducted by females.

Now, this is great, no sarcasm intended.

I feel at ease speaking to women in such positions. But it's a little bit difficult to develop rapport, and depending on the male in the chair, he might find himself competing that little bit more with female applicants.

Crazy to think, isn't it? Perhaps I've gone mad.

I feel bad even throwing up such suggestions. Women still have lower income rates than their male counterparts; they still battle discrimination if they fall pregnant,with employers needing to make contingencies; but the important thing to remember, that while women are increasingly playing the gatekeepers to employment and the subsequent capital it has to offer, it's just some fancy window dressing.

Understanding "equal opportunity" employment policies mostly means that if you're an unfortunate male, you better start looking elsewhere. There's just too many independent women with unquestionable aspiration that need employment more than you - there's a shovel, why are you still here.

So what do we get?

We get a bunch of confused men increasingly demonised by the left.

A bunch of confused men that have no idea what they're doing in life. They're working to save for a deposit on a house, that may one day have the high probability of being robbed from him in a future divorce proceeding; along with the chance of things turning so sour that he sees his offspring maybe once a month if he's a lucky boy.

That's a whole other kettle of fish, for another episode.

As the line in Fight Club puts it: "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need."

Obama fawning

My oh my, I'm just waking up from the whirlwind charm turned on by US President Barrack Obama.

Like a beautiful dream, I'm asking myself - "was that real?"

As expected, the media analysed every aspect of the trip. Despite the Queen facing crowded hordes of subjects unprotected on the streets, Parliament House had a public-free perimeter set up around it, and the house was to be closed off during the President's address.

I had a brief boyish fantasy of being able to waltz into Parliament and watch it when I first heard he was visiting, but those dreams weren't to be.

The limo also featured heavily, with spiffy little 3D graphics showing the President's car, or "beast" as was fondly dubbed, had a shotgun in the door - whoda thunk it.

Come Wednesday when the President landed, and the Governor-General changing her outfit on the same day into some sort of polka-dot parachute, a joint press conference was scheduled for 6PM.

We waited in great anticipation.

Prime Minister Gillard opened the conference, announcing the greater enhanced military co-operation between our two nations. However, while she was delivering this anticipated piece of news, there was something a little odd.

Her voice sounded as though she was announcing another war dead in Afghanistan.

It seems as though she may have been even closer to crying, with a very weakened voice, as though she may have been heavily star-struck standing next to the President, the leader of the free world, a Nobel Peace Prize winner - but being a stateswoman, she should have been able to handle it with ease.

But a couple of days before all of this, Labor back flipped on a showstopper - uranium sales to India.

What on earth is going on? India are not signatories to the NPT, and they live next door to Pakistan, who are also armed with nukes and whose political stability is constantly is question.

In a space of a couple of years and a new leader, the Labor Party has made a very broad, and somewhat unpopular policy shift.

And it seemed to be timed well - once it was announced, it garnered a little obligatory news coverage and acknowledgement that it will be discussed at the next Labor conference.

And that was it before the President landed.

Just today, the government is introducing new legislation that will allow countries (RE: the US) to store cluster bomb munitions locally; Peter Garrett must be spitting chips, the former Midnight Oil star that pined music against such things.

Little was made of climate change, health care, or other topics you would expect two left leaders would like to mutually highlight to bolster their respective domestic agendas.

Instead, military issues dominated, with Obama's final day being spent in Darwin addressing troops. Who the bloody hell goes to Darwin? Being the closest place to China in Australia, it's the perfect spot to place some Yankee troops.

The shoe is quickly changed once you're in power in the left, and everything old is new again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hating on the media

This was bound to happen under a relatively new minority government that needs as much positive media attention as it can get.

This year's phone hacking scandal by Murdoch's now defunct News of The World generated such a stir here in Australia that it pushed the Greens to call for an inquiry into our own media.

There were even cheeky suggestions from some quarters that Australian journalists may be employing the same dark tactics in our own local newsrooms - shock and horror ensued.

But what was really the motivating factor was the perceived damaging attacks from those in rightwing media such as 2GB's Alan Jones and The Australian, Murdoch's 'premier' paper in (you guessed it) Australia.

Both are routinely accused of stirring up controversy, running campaigns agains Labor ministers, and assorted scallywaggery that lands them the ire of the likes of the Greens.

And why do they do it?

To sell papers and ad spots on air, the same motivating factor for all forms of commercial media.

In a democracy, there's a fair chance that half of the population disagrees with whatever government is in power at the time. Wouldn't that make for a wonderful market opportunity?

Unfortunately, our government doesn't realise this, and is taking words of both the written form and broadcast, as outright slander.

The Greens more so, who recently won their push for an inquiry of sorts:

Greens welcome media inquiry

What it will achieve will be known in a few months, by which time everyone may have forgotten why we had one in the first place.

Any politician should be flattered to feature in any article or story at all, even if it is somewhat unflattering. I'd even go so far as to say if it even bends some facts: it would give them the chance to correct the record, and then they have the prospect of gaining even more airtime.

Furthermore, they should be pleased their citizens are reading news media at all. Politicians and journalists alike in Australia live in an extremely sheltered bubble existence without at all realising it.

They write to a particular audience. They never write for a wider scope, for example, anyone with an education lower than their own; make no bones about it, after spending some time in news rooms, journalists think little of the public.

Which allows us to make a reasonable conclusion: the people reading political articles in the first place would be reasonably well-off white middle class Australians that can reach reasonable, white middle class conclusions about what they are reading.

So why hold an inquiry?

I personally can't see, for instance, how an article flaming Stephen Conroy would change Jack and Jill's opinion of him. According to most journalists, they'd already be too busy in the western suburbs of Sydney cleaning up donkey droppings or the like to care, or even know who he is.

When John Howard was in government, the media had an absolute field day with his rightwing government. At the time, Australia had some very healthy political satire comedy, which today is left wanting.

Towards the end of his reign, the well-known ABC's The Chaser routinely chastised the Howard government - which was fair, the Howard government was deserving of satire, and they provided them with good material.

Once Labor was in, the show had a short run thereafter, and now they've turned to taking the piss out of the media itself instead.

Very little satire is now tolerated in Australian politics. It provided a good outlet and spoke to a wider audience, and probably helped to engage more Australians into the political conversation.

Even the website for the Australian Parliament explicitly warns that none of its audio can be used for satirical purposes - which is a shame, because Bob Katter provides plenty of fodder.

But during the Howard era, I can't recall there ever being a call for an inquiry into news media that routinely and relentlessly threw mud at them; this is where a Labor/Greens government differs, in that they can't scrape off that mud.

Labor is so twitchy and archaic in making sure they survive the polls, they'll immediately draw to it attention and put on notice anyone who disagrees with them and their policies.

Once they're voted out, I'm sure all hubbub about the media being evil will cease, and we'll see that the media is considered fair and balanced once again when they start hating on Abbott and his merry men.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#occupyinsertstreet

Is this the popular uprising against the fascist controllers of capital that lefties and anarchists have been waiting for?

No, not particularly. Not in the least.

While it is popular, I can't see it making real, effectual change unless it completely overthrows the capitalist model we have now and starts the whole thing over, which is nary possible.

In the United States, I can certainly understand how such a movement formed. Banks and multinational companies were bailed out for their failings, wheelings and dealings. Their auto industry for example has been slowly dismantled since the Reagan years, and they failed to tend to the market with fuel efficient vehicles, leaving the door open to cheaper imports.

A scenario which is rumoured to be repeating with Australia's auto industry.

But how can protest make proper reforms?

An example of how bizarre this movement is the multi-million dollar celebrities joining in with the crowd.

Not to mention one protester that recently had a hissy fit in McDonald's for not getting a free burger.

With celebrity involvement, it signals that fortunes made through talent are good, but people that made money through shady means, ala credit default swaps, are bad. Even though bankers are probably far more educated and talented in their own way; it's just that were put to do financially destructive work in the free market by the banks.

As with protests in the 60s and 70s, where celebrities like John Lennon cashed in on being with the young rebellious groups, I cynically see these protests as being of the same ilk.

The disembodied hacker group Anonymous claim some credit for starting the movement. Anyone can be a member - if you're holding a "we are the 99%" placard and wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, you're in.

And how are the international protests, such as Occupy Sydney, being organised?

Facebook, Twitter, et al.

Also, the technology that enables their use are the result of decades of research, capital investment, and the hope that products sold generate a profit, driving further investment.

The dark side being that much of what is physically manufactured comes from China by people on slave wages.

By all logic and reason, they should be organising protests on behalf of impoverished Chinese employees outside these factories.

Protest is something foreign in the Australian political establishment. Accordingly, the Occupy movement here doesn't have much popular support in the media outside the usual suspect groups, such as Green Left Weekly.

In contrast to Occupy Wall Street, and despite their claims, the protest isn't really focused on any one particular issue.

I haven't seen a mission statement, or list of demands - I'm sure they have these things, but given the fact that, being a consumer of news media, I can't recall a single one of their placards or messages.

Even following their Facebook page, is a mish-mash of web memes and "we'll be back!" postings in regard to their being turfed out by police.

This isn't to say I disagree with them and the original intent.

But what are they trying to target, inequity? I don't see any of them venturing to the outer western suburbs, like Mount Druitt, and knocking door-to-door in Department of Housing areas garnering support; where the very inequity of long term unemployment and other social ills are becoming increasingly concentrated.

A better idea would be to occupy Centrelink. Our welfare system is in far more trouble than the wider economy, which is by all intents and purposes the envy of the global community, if you have a ticket to it.

No, this is a somewhat removed protest. So far their most publicised demands in Martin Place are for wifi internet access and a place to charge iPhones and laptops - why not carry the eco message and use solar panels?

The best summary for the Occupy movements around Australia are that when it hits Monday, a large swathe of the protesters get to return to their jobs.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gay marriage

Gay marriage. Well.

I was a little unsure if this would be a suitable topic to highlight how issues that were of little concern in the past can overrun agendas in modern times.

A disclaimer: I have no problem with homosexuality, and I do in fact strongly believe that there should be an option for such unions for people in all walks of society.

I cite the example of Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage that commanded such needless attention, compared to a homosexual couple that may have been together for many decades without the same option.

A ridiculous state of affairs.

My fly in the ointment, however, is that modern society has enabled what was previously somewhat taboo to be mainstream, perhaps even encouraged in some regards.

Modern music videos are rife with debauchery that border on soft-core pornography; much of which depicts homosexual behaviour to children from an early age.

That’s sounding like a prude, but compared to several decades ago, it certainly wasn’t the norm like it is today, and it’s impossible to say what effect this is having on the developmental stages in children.

As the old adage goes, sex sells, and it certainly applies to music.

Selling anything through either homosexuality or heterosexuality is insulting to everyone’s intelligence, whether they are gay, straight, or bi.

The plus side perhaps is that it makes it easier for young people to accept their own sexuality if it’s more normalised; which in the past was, and mostly still is, a daunting task to admit to themselves, let alone parents and peers.

In the grand scheme of things, orientation doesn’t matter at all.

But society isn’t perfect, and there’s one last lingering issue the gay and lesbian community wants to vehemently see through: gay marriage.

Probably more so than the adoption of children or IVF treatment for lesbian couples as marriage is a highly symbolic flagship issue.

It’s important to point out at this point that this is certainly not an issue exclusive to the left of politics.

Although, you’d be hard pressed to find conservative politicians on the right, ala Bob Katter in Australia, who would accept gay marriage into their policy for fear of upsetting their constituency.

Some would even go so far as to chastise homosexuality outright given half a chance.

But with all due respect, gay marriage has turned into one of those issues that recently became ‘sexy’ for the left that they can ride continuing waves of popularity on.

On Q&A, Australia’s open floor political discussion program on the ABC, along with the carbon tax, gay marriage absolutely dominates discussion, indicative of what is going on in the broader political discussion.

All other pressing issues, like homelessness, health, education, financial stresses and so on all become thrown to the curb.

In short, you can’t eat gay marriage.

If you ask a young gay man or woman whom they will be voting for, it invariably becomes whoever will legalise gay marriage – which is somewhat disparaging.

It’s disparaging because it’s become the single issue that can have the absolute hell politicised out of it, and it would be foolish to think leftish politicians are unable to capitalise upon it.

It’s a sure way into buying the youth vote.

An example would be the Green’s senator Sarah Hanson-Young twittering live from the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, encouraging and pledging support for gay marriage.

The outward impression I garnered is that the parade itself was never exactly focused on such docile and buttoned-down things as marriage.

Broadly speaking, we live in a society that is completely obsessed with sex and sexuality - you’re not in the game if you’re not getting down and dirty with as many different people in the shortest humanly possible time.

Human sexuality has largely been dissected, repackaged and resold to us, and it’s become somewhat skewed as to what constitutes 'normal' sexual behaviour.

In heterosexual relationships there’s evidence that suggests men are becoming increasingly demanding of their partners to act out what they’ve seen in pornography.

So is gay marriage about marriage, which is supposed to function as a means for two people to make a home together suitable to raising children, showing love and affection, and uniting their lives, or is it becoming purely a sexuality issue?

Without making grand assumptions, I’d hazard a guess that the gay and lesbian community would feel more comfortable with themselves if the marriage option were on the table somewhere down the line.

It’s certainly a giant wedge used by both sides of the argument.

We regularly see television spots where gay advocates will cite examples and statistics from telephone polls on how the support for gay marriage is growing.

There’s great glee from everyone when Christians are seemingly onboard with anything, just look how Hill Song Church is courted during election time, for example.

Of course, those that participate in such polls are already those that would look at the issue favourably. 

Just as with all issues, whether it is gay marriage or anything else that generates controversy, the silent majority is ignored.

Anyone who disagrees with the proposition would immediately be labelled a bigot, so who wouldn’t want to agree with them?

And again, it’s largely applicable to all issues the left concerns itself with in modern times. Anyone who disagrees with anything from them is either sexist or racist and deemed to have an uneducated opinion.

Gay marriage is a subject that is dangerously easy to degenerate and disregard as something that will simply go away if we ignore it.

But can you imagine the outrage tomorrow if it were announced a referendum was being held on the issue? 

Then imagine the total outrage if the referendum failed.

In time for all things. There's a long way to go in even just removing discrimination, let alone the prized pig of marriage.

At least the debate has grown up from when it was seen as yet another freak show on Jerry Springer.

I’m going to be cheeky and say that as a lefty concerned with other matters, I can’t honestly support either side, and I’m a little discouraged that it’s overtaken much of our political discussion, as if it's the only problem we're facing.

Weddings are expensive affairs, financially and emotionally, especially if and when they fail. 

I’d dare say the marriage and divorce industry would be smiling favourably if they had a new market open to them.

Now that's true equality.

How (not) to Vote

As this blog is being written from an Australian perspective (although many issues covered will be universally applicable) I figured it best to start with our current political climate.

Australia currently has what’s called a ‘minority’ government.

The federal election last year was somewhat of a tie. 

Our Labor party negotiated a deal with three independents and the Greens party.

As the Greens are regarded as being from the far left in Australia, there’s the general feeling that many of its associated issues, like the environment, have come to dominate the government’s agenda.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the environment is important.

A favourite past time of our conservative radio talk show hosts and the Opposition is to replay the following sound bite from Julia Gillard, the current leader of the Labor Party just before the election:

“There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.”

After it was discovered she would need to negotiate with the Greens to have the balance of power, it wasn’t soon before she would have to admit to their carbon tax.

Keeping in mind, however, that an emissions trading scheme was already under negotiation by Rudd’s government with the Liberals, before he was shafted by Gillard.

That scheme was scuttled when the Australian Liberals (our conservative party) shafted their own leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who was for the scheme, for Tony Abbott - who is considered to be far less progressive.

Everyone thought the issue was done and dusted at that point.

Climate change eventually disappeared from Australia’s agenda, and we got on with more ‘important’ things, like trying to pass a mining tax, which also helped kill off Rudd’s leadership.

If this is confusing to you – well, good. It should be.

It’s also made many Australians very disillusioned with their democratic process, and although politicians are ignorantly unaware of it, a lot of youth are simply not paying them one iota of attention.

In a fit of protest at the last federal election, I voted in a manner that’s considered an informal vote - I filled in all candidate boxes with the number one.

Australia has compulsory voting, so it was the next best thing to not turning up at all.

Of course you can legally leave ballot papers blank if you so wish, but given the absolute disgust in what was on offer, I just had the urge to ‘mess up’ the ballot.

Now, could this be considered throwing my vote away?

What right do I have to complain about the political system if I don’t participate in it?

I would answer by pointing to the outcome of the election, where I dare say many voters felt the same confusion and disheartenment with what was on offer.

For one thing, I didn’t want to vote Greens across the board. Nor did I have the option to vote for the three independents, Rob Oakeshott, Andrew Wilkie and Tony Windsor, who negotiated this minority government.

Both major party leaders, Gillard and Abbott, were showering the independents with dollars for their respective electorates for them to sign off on the coveted prime ministership.

None of the independents represented my electorate, and so didn’t represent me.

In fact, this gets to the crux of why Australians are so disengaged with this narrative – they feel as though they have no representation in Parliament, no one to stand up for them and their issues.

Parliament itself is viewed as even more of a farce than it previously was.

Instead, we have men and women of ‘all things’ – it’s very difficult now for the average Australian voter who is busied with other worries to pay them attention.

While we do live in a relatively free democracy, even though we have no Bill of Rights and the like, it’s nigh impossible for the average voter to discern any meaning behind it all.

And that sets a dangerous precedent. 

As following entries will explore, we’ll see where this public disengagement leads to minority issues dominating everyone’s thought space.

Questioning yourself

One of the first steps in making progress in any walk of life is sometimes questioning yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at times.

Most people develop their political leanings, whether they are especially politically aware or not, from fairly early on in their upbringing.

A common scenario may be that a child is reared in a somewhat conservative family, reaches high school and possibly university, subsequently gains a little freedom, and then rebels against the establishment that they obeyed for so long.

This transition usually returns to normal somewhat once the person reaches the 'real world' and becomes more accepting of the establishment.

This is not such a case.

Personally, I am in no way conventional. However, in modern times and culture, the only way to be unconventional is to be of the left, or the progressive side of politics and culture.

They do have some great ideas, and at one point, I could swear communism would cure all our ills.

Of course, giving labels such as 'left' and 'conservative' overly simplifies any argument, so this blog will try to limit use of those terms as much as possible.

If you're of the left and disheartened, take heart.

You're not alone.