Category Archives: politics

of budgets and bastardry

I know I’m not the only one struggling to catch my breath in the week since Joe Hockey handed down the Abbott government’s first budget. I’m a single mother with a houseful of kids. After spending half a lifetime as a work-at home mum, I unexpectedly found myself single and ill-prepared for the job market. So I got a degree. Currently, I’m undertaking post-grad studies part time while I try and get a business off the ground. The business is not even close to feeding us yet but I’m hopeful. I’m getting some government support while I pull our lives together. That benefit shrunk considerably when the Labor government forced single parents on to Newstart, but we’ve been able to tighten our belts and survive so far.

So, anyway, even though my plan is that I’ll soon be earning and not relying on Newstart, right now, we’d be on the street without it. So memes that describe double standards like this one really get my goat.

 

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What a despicable cheek it is to encourage people take notes about how poor people spend their money.

It reminds me that a pastor’s wife I once knew who told me she used to have to steel herself to face the inevitable criticism she’d receive from certain parishioners any time she turned up in church in a new dress.

And it reminded me of a time I laughed as I told a friend, the daughter of missionaries working in Albania, that I’d been visiting an older woman from the church and found her pegging used tea bags on the washing line. ‘For the missionaries,’ the woman had told me.

My missionary-kid friend didn’t laugh.

‘We got them,’ she said, ‘The dried out used tea bags. The sacks of 30-year-old clothing with the zips removed and the buttons cut off.’ She pursed her lips. ‘We grew up knowing that’s how much we mattered to our home church. Nice things weren’t for us. Not even zips were for us.’

To those cheapskates (whose behaviour was *not* representative of most of the Christians I knew when I was in the fold), missionaries were the Christian underclass. The only-ever-so-slightly-deserving-poor. Every gift to them was to be accounted for. Every indulgence resented.

I was shocked. Obviously, it’s wrong, plain and simple, to treat people that way. But I’m coming to realise that it’s more common than you might think.

 

Best-Practices-For-the-Job-Seeker

 

Today, at my job seeker service appointment, the job placement staffer griped to me that ‘the people who come in there are so entitled’. And, she sneered, ‘they can all afford cigarettes. And iPods.’

So, let me just speak directly to you for a moment, job placement staffer lady. First of all, addiction is a separate issue. You don’t know anything about these kids except that they are unemployed and therefore almost certainly poor. You don’t know what their childhood was like, or what their home life is like now. You don’t know their mental health status. You don’t know what they choose to go without in order to buy a pouch of tobacco. So you should consider shutting TFU.

And you don’t know how long they saved to buy that iPod. Maybe they bought it back when they had a job. Or maybe Grandma gave it to them for Christmas. iPods are ubiquitous and they’re not all that expensive. Not having one feels like a significant social disadvantage to a young person. I’ve known more than one suicidal kid for whom their music was, some days, all that kept them from hurting themselves. In any case, you’ve no right to quibble about what people are lucky enough to own. You are at least 60 kilos overweight. Should we suggest you stop griping about your low wage, as you did today, because we judge that you misuse your earnings by spending it on junk food? No, of course not, because that would be invasive and cruel.

You told me the Abbott government’s budget was fair and would put a stop to a culture of entitlement. I asked you whether you thought Australia would be a better place if those ‘entitled’ kids had less, or even no, money at their disposal. Whether you’d feel safer walking the street where the hungry and desperate lay in wait. I asked if you were OK with those kids selling drugs outside my kids’ schools to earn pocket money. Or breaking into your house and taking *your* iPod. I pointed out that in countries where welfare is particularly stigmatised and meagre it has the effect of breaking down people’s sense of belonging to the community. It reduces people’s inclination to join or rejoin the economy. It contributes to lowering health outcomes, and increasing mental health issues, homelessness, crime and incarceration rates…all of which are expensive to the community. I asked if government ‘savings’ looked so much like savings when you considered those long-term costs.

I told you that a lot of the single parents I knew were struggling to sleep, struggling even to concentrate on the work at hand. I mentioned that I’d seen this posted on a single parents’ group on Facebook last night.

 

single parents

You told me that people need to just get a grip and not be irrationally afraid about the budget. That we just need to put things in perspective, stop over-thinking and just try harder to find work soon. I reminded you that everyone who walks through your door has been a little bit damaged by life. That we are struggling in one way or another. That when we hear from the government that our Plan B, C or D safety net is under threat, that we might genuinely face homelessness with our kids some time in the future, it makes us feel afraid. I told you that seemed a perfectly normal response to me.

I told you that you and workers like you are in a privileged position. That you get to act as a frame to support people who need your services while we learn to stand. That you need to build relationships with us, respecting us as equals, then help us each reach for our potential, call us to high standards, encourage us to take risks, and be there to support us when we fail. I told you that if we suspect, even for a moment that you are judging us, you lose any power you had to influence us. I reminded you that some of us can’t survive another setback like that.

I also told you that I thought it was entirely inappropriate for your receptionist to deny that you have a toilet on the premises and send a young mother with a desperately hopping toddler to a public toilet about 10 minutes walk away. You told me that a couple of times someone had left needles in your toilet cubicle so your office had banned clients from using it. ‘A few spoiled it for the many,’ you said.

I said I would never treat a toddler like that.

I guess you would.

You know what? I’m betting Prime Minister Abbott would too. I’m betting he’d smirk as he sent them on their way. You know how I know?

 

 

 

 

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dear pastor prater…

If you missed Pastor Matt Prater’s spooky performance on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s response, you might just want to take a peek now.



Although applauded for his comments in support of marriage equality on the night, Prime Minister Rudd has been widely criticised since by Christian writers such as Sandy Grant at Matthias Media’s The Briefing for ‘grossly caricaturing’ and ‘misrepresenting the Holy Book of the faith he confesses’. I have to say, I think Grant has some right to gripe. It would be difficult to honestly argue that the New Testament, at least, actually advocates slavery although the Book in general does seem to look upon it with a decidedly friendly eye. Still, Mr Rudd should have perhaps stuck with the biblical prohibitions against eating prawns and wearing mixed cloth, the guidelines for selling your daughter to her rapist or some other more well-established scriptural values like those.

And even Prater fans would have to admit, I think, that the pastor also rather ‘grossly misrepresented’ the PM’s change of heart on marriage equality saying Mr Rudd (or ‘Kevin’ as Prater addressed him) seemed ‘to keep chopping and changing his beliefs’ on the matter. As Rudd pointed out, he did indeed publicly admit to reversing his former position on same-sex marriage. It’s a backflip to be sure but just the one. Hardly the tumbling routine Prater was suggesting.

Prater went further and claimed insider knowledge with regard to Rudd’s motivations for changing his beliefs saying it was ‘just to get a popular vote’. I’m not a Rudd fan and could easily imagine that might be true enough. However it’s not a provable statement and to accuse the Prime Minister of such on live television was more than a little cheeky, I think.

But Rudd didn’t return the insult. While making it clear he doesn’t hold the Bible in the same esteem that Prater does, he didn’t suggest that God was disinclined to rail against slavery in his Book because (Rudd happens to know) God is a despicable racist fuck. See? Manners.

Anyway, it turns out Pastor Prater’s talents extend beyond insulting public officials, quoting select snippets from ancient texts, and impersonating a rabbit about to be mown down by a combine harvester. Pastor Prater, I’ll have you know, is also an artiste. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and take a listen to his performance on the audio track here. It’s ranty, homophobic, lyric-bludgeoning gold. Although I found the performance hilarious, it is unquestionably nauseating. But do listen if you can stomach it…and then don’t tell me white guys don’t got no rhythm.


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Here’s my best effort to jot down the lyrics for you. There may be some mistakes but I’m totally not going back for another crack.

prater song copy

On the audio track, the first thing you might notice is that Pastor Prater uses the word ‘parody’ despite the fact that it does not mean what the thinks it means. Meh. An innocent mistake. He also seems to believe that media ratings battles are literally warlike and bloody. A misconception, perhaps. I suspect the homoerotic irony of suggesting that ‘bloggers ram it down your throat’ may have passed the good pastor by as well.

No matter. The real gist of this song is that it constitutes a laundry list of Everything Matt Likes and Everything Matt Doesn’t. American televangelists and Australian Christian hate groups? Yay! Labor politicians and two people with pokey-outy bits wanting to co-habit in legally-recognised monogamy? Boo!

It will seem almost unbelievable to sensible folk but Prater is not alone in popping these particular items neatly into Good Things/Bad Things baskets. Thousands of Australian Christians – in particular Pentecostal and other bible-believing fundamentalists – would share his views, even if most of them may have put it a little less hilariously. I once counted myself among them. With the fundies of Australia, I’d have been proud to see Prater ‘standing up for Jesus’ on Q & A, though I’d have acknowledged even back then that he made a bit of a tosser of himself.

But here’s the thing: Pastor Prater’s public airing of despicable bigotry didn’t happen in a vacuum. And I’d like to have a few words with him about that. So here goes:

***

Dear Pastor Prater,

If I were still a Bible-believing Christian, and I were going to get just one 30-second crack at speaking direct to the leader of our nation on live television, I may have used the opportunity a little more wisely than you did. I may have said something like…

‘Mr Rudd, as a Christian, how do you countenance forbidding entry to our country to some of our planet’s most vulnerable people? How can you justify sending refugees – men, women, children, the elderly – to a lawless, dangerous place like Papua New Guinea? And have you considered what effect that may have on PNG society? What about Christian compassion? What about Christian charity? What about upholding the rights of ‘the stranger within your gates’?’

or, perhaps…

‘Prime Minister, if re-elected, what will your government do to address the problem of child poverty in Australia? Will you reverse your decision to pitch thousands of single parents off the Single Parent Pension thereby driving them and their children into terrifying penury?’

or, even…

‘Mr Rudd, Australia is one of the richest, most generous nations in the world. How is it that in 2013 we still have people living on our streets, sleeping rough night after night? What will your government do to ensure these people can live their lives in dignity and safety?’

You had one chance, Pastor, and gay folk wanting to get hitched was your big Bible-honouring issue? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Most of us don’t give a rat’s eyebrow what you think your deity said 2000 years ago. We don’t either deny your right to construct yourself as Prater the Hater if you choose. But many of us have gay friends and family and so we do care that your publicly aired ‘opinions’ and ‘beliefs’ encourage homophobic hate to flourish. Real people in the real world are harmed by your views, Pastor Prater. Some of them die as a result. And some of those who die are children and young people. So with all the respect I can muster, and on behalf of the many gay people I know and love, I ask you to please shut the fuck up. Please keep your poisonous bigotry inside your church walls where fewer and fewer Australians choose to visit.

Very sincerely,

Jane

alan jones, bullies, and my dead grandad

My grandfather was not a good man. I realise it is generally considered uncouth to say such things about one’s relatives, especially the dead ones, but, the truth is, my grandfather lived almost 91 years and yet died virtually friendless. At his funeral only the scantest sprinkling of immediate family and close family friends – ours not his – were present. What I remember most was that the Presbyterian minister – a Masonic ‘brother’ from my grandfather’s lodge – recited a most ridiculous little speech about the grief he imagined the deceased’s loved ones to be enduring. In truth, few of us were sorry to see Grandad go. One of his nearest and dearest, in fact, had requested an open coffin viewing in order, she told me, ‘to be sure the bastard was dead’. Such was the affection with which my grandfather was remembered by those who knew him best. Grandad’s is the only funeral I can remember leaving dry eyed.

One of nine children born into grinding poverty in Glasgow in 1906, my grandfather shared a bed with two of his brothers. The family cottage was tiny; my grandfather’s bed was hidden inside a hallway cupboard during the day, and folded out for the boys to sleep in each night. My great-grandfather, who died before I was born, was, by all accounts, a cruel and violent man with a terrifyingly volatile temper. He would beat his children – and in particular, his sons – on a whim, with whatever weapon came to hand. Whispered family stories tell of brutal bashings with cricket bats and iron bars. In the end, Great-grandad finally died of an infection subsequent to presenting at a hospital emergency room with a slit throat. The official story was that his injury was the result of a botched suicide attempt. According to my mother’s cousin, John, who has an interest in genealogy and so conducted interviews with family members of that generation before they died, my forebears’ dirty little secret is that, in fact, after a lifetime of violent abuse, one of Great-grandad’s sons finally did for him.

It’s little wonder then that my grandfather grew up tough – and mean. He didn’t marry until his late-thirties and so was quite old by the time he and my grandmother emigrated to Australia, following my mother who had married an Australian lad and begun a family here. Grandad was bald as an egg – he had been since his 20s – but sported a tenacious half ring of grey bristle that prickled from ear to ear above his collar. He was physically imposing – tall, barrel chested and strong, even in old age. But it was his invisible yet quite tangible presence that I remember most. Grandad possessed a power to impose his mood on a household that was breathtaking in efficacy. Even as a small child, I wondered how it was he was able to do it. When he and my grandmother were spending a holiday with us, I could wake in the morning and know before I left my room whether Grandad’s mood du jour had turned dangerous yet or not.

When he was feeling chipper, Grandad could be jovial and generous. He had a repertoire of silly jokes and delighted to make us children laugh. When the mood took him, he would empty his pockets of change and with a kindly wink, tell us to ‘pop it in yer moneyboxes’. And then, ‘…to buy books!’ he would call after us as we scampered away. Grandad was entirely obsessed with self-education. He had left school at 11 and had never quite recovered from the sting of failing to make better than Captain during his Second World War posting in Italy. He was always after us kids to read the classics. We ignored him at the time, of course, but years later, having uncovered a love great literature in myself, I often smile to think he’d have been pleased in his way.

But life with Grandad was lived on a knife edge. His mood would change without warning or obvious provocation, and a profound, threatening blackness would descend on the house. It was as though rage were seeping from Grandad’s pores, or flashing from his eyes and fingertips like lightning. We all were acutely aware of his every twitch and tone for the duration of the darkness. My mother, though not herself a victim of the violence of Grandad’s younger years, had many times heard him beating her mother and brothers behind closed doors. When Grandad’s moods were upon him – and we seldom went a whole day without one during a visit – my mother would enter a state of brittle, wild-eyed terror and, drag me and my two sisters along with her. We girls would have to fly about getting Grandad cups of tea and anticipating imminent requests for other treats, turning down the television, speaking way more politely that was usual for us, and generally not-upsetting-your-grandfather. I cannot recall that Grandad’s aggression was ever more visible than power pouting but I do remember the gut-wrenching fear of the possibility that Something Much Worse could happen that held me in its grip on those days.

Although I understand now that she could do no better, I remain capable of flashes of anger that my mother taught me the most important thing to do when confronted with a bully is to avoid any possibility that you might irritate them further, whatever the cost to yourself. I learned to fear the anger of others, and to internalise blame whether or not their feelings had anything to do with me. I have come a very long journey learning to overcome a pathological dread of conflict. In part, I attribute to that phobia my teenage attraction to Christianity, and my staying so many years subject to the manipulation and control that was a central feature of my church experience.

By the end of his life, Grandad hated everyone. He was road raging waaaay before it became a thing. I remember shrinking down in the back of his car while he shook his fist at drivers who had dared to irritate him, shouting ‘Swine!’ and ‘Bastard!’ out of the window, even, perhaps especially, at women. He spent the last decade of his life in a bedsit at a War Veterans home in Sydney; meal times in the communal dining room were an abiding misery for him. Every time we visited it wouldn’t take him long to get around to complaining about the other residents: ‘That bloody fat-arsed bitch Annie MacDonald with her fucking whining….’ Annie seemed often to be the focus of Grandad’s ire. I often wondered at her boldness in continuing so to brazenly piss him off. I used to like to imagine she was a strong woman who enjoyed the game, and to wish that I’d been able to do the same.

***

I had cause to think of my grandfather this week as a furor erupted over the words of another nasty and powerful man. I live in Queensland so don’t listen to Alan Jones’ 2GB program, and only get to hear of his exploits when he’s crossed another line, as he so often does. The public outcry since the vile content of his recent speech was made public has been astonishingly loud. In response to what is probably unprecedented public pressure, so far over 60 companies who formerly advertised during Jones’ immensely popular radio program have withdrawn their support. A petition to sack Alan Jones has managed to attract over 107, 000 signatures to date. I have signed the petition myself, and sent numerous emails to advertisers suggesting they rethink their advertising policy in light of Jones’ long history of bigoted, racist, and misogynistic hate-speech.

Alan Jones (AAP).

There has, though, been some criticism of the social-media-driven campaign against Jones. Jones made what I think was a ludicrous attempt at an apology-thingy on Sunday and some have suggested that ought to be the end of it. But, rather than contrition, Jones used his ‘apology’ press conference to further express his contempt for his detractors. Not surprisingly, this riled more than a few of us up even further. Some have suggested that the anti-Jones backlash is an ALP stunt. While I have no doubt the ALP won’t miss an opportunity to gain political ground wherever it can, I can’t see 100, 000 signatures appearing on a petition almost overnight unless most of those people were just really, really annoyed. Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes commented that the action will make little difference in the long term. That could be true, but, in my view, that’s not what’s really important.

Paul Sheehan argues that the public backlash against Jones is disproportionate to his crimes, that it is an abuse of power, an act of bullying in itself. While I couldn’t care less whether Alan Jones actually loses his job over this, and while I acknowledge his right to free speech, the point is, a significant number of Australians, including some of Jones’ former fans and toadying political pals, have stood up and said, ‘We don’t like what you did. We want you to stop.’ That’s precisely the way to handle bullies. Ask any Year 2 teacher. It’s what I did in response to my grandfather phoning to abuse me when I was the 20-something mother of toddlers. ‘Grandad,’ I said, ‘I’m a grown woman. I don’t have to take this any more.’ And I hung up.

Jones is acting like a bully who has gotten away with his behaviours for far too long. To me, it looks as though Australia has risen to its feet and said in a loud voice, and without trembling, that we’re not going to put up with his nonsense any more. That is our right and our responsibility, and I’m proud to have participated. It’s likely Jones will go on to offend again, bullying is how he makes his living after all, and plenty of people don’t seem to mind that he does. But my hope is that when Jones once more goes too far, a whole lot of us will rise up and shout a little bit louder. And the time after that, louder again.

I learned something I didn’t know about Alan Jones while reading an article by David Penberthy this week. Penberthy says that, when he isn’t inciting thugs to racial violence, denigrating women, or suggesting our Prime Minister ought to be subjected to a violent death, Alan Jones ‘busies himself with generous acts for put-upon individuals and families, doing unpaid charity work, [and] writing letters to ministers on behalf of people who are illiterate or uneducated’. Who knew? If that’s true, perhaps Jones isn’t rotten to the core, and perhaps he has managed to earn the respect of one or two healthy, emotionally functional adults who have no reason to fear him. Jones is not a young man. Perhaps these good deeds will lead to a more impressive turn out at Jones’ funeral than my grandfather was able to garner.

But if I had Alan Jones’ ear for 5 minutes, this is what I’d say:

Fame is not the same thing as respect, Alan Jones, and fear is not the same as love. Who loves you, Alan? Who knows you – really knows you – and loves you still? Who will weep for you when you are gone? And what will your legacy to the Australian people be? How will the rest of us remember you, Alan? With your power, your platform, your gift of the gab, what did you do to make Australia a better, fairer, safer, kinder place for our children and grandchildren to inherit? What has been your most noble contribution, Mr Jones? And if you’re struggling to think, consider this: My grandfather lived a good deal longer than many men do. Every morning for more than 90 years he rose to a day full of possibilities, a bright instant in which to leave his mark on the world. And every day, almost without exception, he chose to do harm and not good. If that doesn’t strike you as horribly sobering and dreadfully sad, then I feel very, very sorry for you indeed.

the stainless steel tube of fundamentalism

The end of the siege. Waco, Texas, February 28, 1993.

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to comment on another aspect of the recent Jim Wallace episode.

It’s probably perplexing to many that Wallace seemed unable to acknowledge the inappropriateness of his remark, indeed, that he seemed blind to all but the attack of his detractors on himself and, in his view, everything he holds dear.  This article by Bill Muehlenberg is similar in tone. But Muehlenberg ups the ante by using the truly disgusting term ‘gaystapo’ to describe what he identifies as one of ‘the usual suspects’: the ‘homosexual lobby’ and their ‘stalinist agenda’.

Because of my fundamentalist experience, this sort of language is uncomfortably familiar. Indeed both of these men are communicating precisely the way I would expect, although I imagine their pigheadedness must be incredibly frustrating for those who have never sat on that side of the fence. So let me try and cast a little light on it from an ex-fundy perspective. But be warned, what I am about to say may offend both Christians and perhaps to some atheists (thus pretty well knocking out all my friends in one fell swoop). I apologise for that in advance.

Being a fundamentalist is like living inside a stainless-steel tunnel. Truths that may seem perfectly obvious to other people just bounce right off without leaving a mark. Fundamentalists simply don’t see stuff they don’t already agree with. By and large they peer at the world through the very narrow hole at the end of their gun-barrel hidey hole and need to expend very little energy rejecting ideas that are contrary to their firmly-held views. These views are so staunchly inflexible because they are based on an unchanging document which they take to be the Word of God.

Try and see it from their perspective: The Book explains how Christians should understand the world. It tells them about God, about man, about heaven and hell, how to think and feel and act about pretty well everything. Many Christians hold an absolute belief that the words in the Book literally are directions straight from the God they love and serve. If the book says that all homosexuals will suffer hellfire, or that women are to live subordinate to men, who are they to argue? In fact, to do so would be unthinkable. It’s only logical: If God is real, and that really is his book, then the only sensible course is to obey whatever it says, to learn to think as God apparently thinks. He is God and therefore the one who gets to make the rules after all.

Although I appreciate that may sound silly to someone who has never thought that way, my purpose is not to ridicule those ideas or to suggest that people who hold ones which differ from mine are stupid – I know that is not the case. It is simply to say: Those ideas are beliefs. We all have them. And nobody is going to change our beliefs by shouting us. In fact, in the case of fundamentalists, it tends to have to opposite effect: It can make them go all Branch Davidian on you. Looking out of that stainless steel tube as people scream obscenities and throw poop at things that you know for sure are precious to God just makes you surer that moving into you and your kids into a bullet-proof metal abode was a good plan. After all, the Book says that if you are getting it right, ‘the world will hate you‘. Remember Waco? Believing they were under attack just made those poor cult members super-glad they had had the foresight to collect an arsenal, and more determined than ever to defend themselves and their children come what may. Nobody said, ‘Oops, yep, you were right. We’ve been pretty silly about all this. Coming out now. Thanks.’

I understand completely why people find men like Wallace and Muehlenberg and everything they stand for so deeply offensive. And I fully appreciate that offence provokes a deep rage that often finds form in a spluttering, obscenity-peppered response. I’ve indulged in more than one splutter myself in the past few days. As a catharsis, I admit its efficacy; and if you feel you need to do it, far be it from me to suggest you stop. But I do want to point out that screaming at men who have built such a sturdy wall around themselves will achieve virtually nothing…but make them more likely to repeat their offensive actions – and worse – at a later date.

And, I imagine, each time they find themselves the victims of twitter sprays, Wallace and friends rub their hands together with glee: It’s a PR free kick: they know they are likely to gain at least few new followers who sympathise with them in their sad persecution. This is why Wallace would focus on the attack and not his comments during his Sunrise appearance: He is ignoring us. He knows who he’s trying to reach and what they want to hear. There are a lot of disenfranchised Australians who agree with these fundamentalist commentators. Shouting abuse at Wallace will probably effectively stop most of those people from openly standing up and voicing their views for fear of becoming a target for attack – but it won’t alter their beliefs. The more Wallace is attacked, the more support I believe he is likely to gain.

I’m not suggesting that views such as Wallace voiced on Anzac Day should not be challenged. Of course they must. I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out of their way to be polite. Wallace and Muehlenberg’s views stink and that needs to be said. My object is not to chastise those who were understandably disgusted at Wallace’s tweet and vented their rage. But I believe it’s worth understanding what the likely effect of hurling abuse will be on Australia’s fundamentalists and the even more numerous moderate Christians: The leaders will hunker down, toughen up and become more hateful in their communications; the followers will quietly grow in number and resolve.

And we shouldn’t think we’ve seen any more than the tip of the iceberg of Wallace and Muehlenberg’s frothing zeal. Their views are almost indistinguishable from those of Westboro Baptist Church and many Australian Christians feel a strong connection to some other pretty scary US-based zealots as well. I suspect the ugliness has not anything like peaked.

My point is, you aren’t going to reach someone who lives in a bullet-proof cave no matter what you say. My advice is to forget about trying. If those fundamentalists are ever going to change their beliefs, it will not be because someone abused them into it. However, there are a lot of Australians who are sitting in the middle of issues such same-sex marriage who will listen and so may be influenced. Frankly, I think they find it difficult to sympathise with the more extreme communications from both camps. Those who want to influence this large, silent public might like to consider that undecided moderates are watching, and beginning to form their own beliefs.

I, at least, think that’s worth considering.

 

jim wallace and the despicable tricks of abusers (and arrogant schmucks)

Yesterday, Anzac Day here in Australia, will be remembered as the day head of the Australian Christian Lobby, retired Brigadier Jim Wallace, made a complete ass of himself on Twitter.

New to Twitter, Wallace, apparently moved during a patriotic Anzacy sort of moment, dashed off the following tweet:

In case you can’t read it, I’ll copy the content here:

Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!

Oh, yes. That’s in excellent taste, Jim.

The furore that ensued as Wallace’s tweet subsequently whizzed around the twittersphere was impressive and, more than once, obscene. Jim had managed, as I said, to make himself look a total git.

Within minutes, Wallace had removed the tweet and was covering his arse with the RSL by posting the following:

My apologies this was the wrong context to raise these issues. ANZACs mean too much to me to demean this day.

I’m guessing you noticed Jim was ‘apologising’ for the timing of his comments, rather than the content.

Anyway, I’m not going to comment on the obvious fact that Wallace inadvertently revealed his actual racist, anti-gay agenda, or that he chose such an inappropriate day to do all that, or the staggering arrogance of his false apology. But I can’t let this pass without saying a word about Wallace’s appearance on Channel 7’s Sunrise program this morning – his attitude reminded me so much of that of the many abusers and bullies I have had the misfortune to encounter. Here’s the video:

When asked to justify his now-notorious tweet, Wallace responded first by saying that ‘to be maligned by Twitter activists is not the end of the world.’ He goes on to compare himself to olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice whose one-time inappropriate tweet also caused her considerable humiliation. But at no point does Wallace take responsibility for posting what he now knows (if he didn’t before) was a dreadfully offensive statement to be making, nevermind making it in a public forum.

So…as someone who has close experience of the lasting effect of sexual abuse on children, I feel I need to make this statement:  I warn my kids about people like Jim Wallace in an effort to abuser-proof them. I tell them that bullies and abusers function by fooling us that it not the person who said or did something wrong who is at fault, but rather the poor sod who made an embarrassing fuss about it. I tell them that this is an evil lie.

Abusers harm us, and then slyly try to make us feel ashamed about saying we were harmed. They trick their victims into feeling bad that they spoke up rather than taking responsibility for their own abusive actions. The irony that no fuss would need to have been made had the abuser not acted inappropriately in the first place seems to evade them.

It’s this sort of self-preserving manipulation that makes molested children reluctant to disclose the terrible truth of the abuser’s actions for fear of spoiling everyone’s mood and bringing the wrath of the abuser down on their heads. Not that I’m suggesting Jim Wallace is a child molester, but the game is the same. And it should never go unchallenged.

Wallace had an opportunity this morning to acknowledge that his statements were racist and bigoted. He could have either repented and promised to mend his ways, or fessed up that that’s just who we are dealing with here (like we didn’t already know). His deflecting the blame for the furore from himself to the ‘kind of people’ who outed him is a despicably dishonest act.

So on behalf of all those of us who have had bullies and abusers try to smear our psyches with the shit of guilt that rightfully belongs elsewhere, I’m calling Wallace’s actions what they are. And now we know: He’s that kind of man.

major changes

>Just wanted to note here that I’ve rewritten my study plan and changed my Major from Communications to History and Politics. I’m still going a bunch of Communications subjects as well as some Sociology. I’m happier about it. It feels much more like me. But I’m not going to feel embarrassed if I that’s not the last time I fiddle with my course.

I’ve enrolled in my next two units:

GEN11 – Gender, History and Culture
HST110 – The Making of Australia

If I follow this plan, I don’t need to do the Liberal Studies degree but will fit right into the Griffith BA program. The student advisor thinks that’s a better place to sit for post-study vocational kudos. I’m not sure it matters but I’m happy with that.

I’m excited!

I also want to note that there has been some interest in another blog I keep. The moderator of the internet’s largest blog on that subject has asked whether she can crosspost some of my writings and run them weekly as a series. I was reluctant at first as I don’t want to editorialise that blog to suit others but she’s assured me she’ll take the posts as is.

It’s a nice feeling that my writing is improving and that there are people apart from friends and family who are enjoying it.

dipping her toe in the water

>As part of my News and Politics subject I’ve had to conduct interviews with various people. For my current assignment I needed to speak to at least one politician about a political subject. I found it’s not so easy to get to these people as you might think.

Initially I had trouble getting through to ABC political journalist, Annabel Crabb, one of my heroes but, I thought, much to famous to talk to me. I wasn’t able to reach her by the usual ABC channels so in the end I tweeted her. She replied quickly and called me for a chat. I was so excited I could hardly breathe. Silly I suppose but after 20 years at home with my kids, it was a red letter day for me. Annabel was, as I had expected, intelligent, articulate and absolutely gracious. I got a really good interview and have high hopes for this assignment.

Getting to a politician proved harder. Bob Brown’s minders wouldn’t let me near him and Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t even reply to my emails. I decided I needed to downgrade. As I am writing about politicans using Twitter, I tracked down Shayne Neumann, one of only six Qld federal politicians who uses Twitter. Parliament is sitting this week but I managed to book an interview and, yesterday, Shayne called from Canberra.

Former lawyer and second-term ALP member for Blaire, Shayne Neumann is a very interesting fellow. I quickly got through my 10 questions and that was all good. But Shayne generously allowed us to wandering into other conversation. We talked about same-sex marriage, euthanasia, refugees, Tony Abbott and party politics. We discussed the undemocratic nature of conscience voting, the hung parliament, feminism, feminists and social justice issues. I learned a great deal about the Labor Party and have a renewed respect for hard working MPs.

Actually, talking to Shayne was a real thrill. It was encouraging to converse with such an intelligent, articulate, political moderate. I’m feeling more and more encouraged that there may be some way I can understand and participate in the world after all. And for someone who is trying not to have too many opinions, I found I have quite a few. I’m starting to really enjoy this.