Category: current affairs

The rainbow elephant

I might be a little late in coming to this conversation. At least in the written form. But I’m here now and I’ve had a bit of time to think and listen and observe and try to absorb too.

It’s been personal. I’ve felt attacked and rejected by some of my dearest people. For me in a different way to others. But yes for me too. Less than others I’m sure. But I was surprised. It’s about love after all, not about me.

I might be more used to the personal is political mindset than some. There has been an undercurrent that the Question is a referendum on the very value of a whole segment of society. From that segment too has been a sense that “its us against the rest of you”, and “either your with us or you are against us”. All the nastiness and extremism of trying to generalise a few bad examples or rogue statistics as representing the whole. All the judgement and all the fear that goes along with being a minority, through no fault of one’s own. It hurts. Keeping all these segmentation up hurts too. Individually and collectively. It may have become political but Questions like this don’t have to stay like that. But that’s a tough balance.

The background

Within Australia at the moment we are having an ongoing debate regarding same-sex marriage or marriage equality as it has been dubbed. It’s been a warm and getting hotter topic for years. The Question: should same-sex attracted couples be included in the Marriage Act (which currently defines marriage as being between a man and a woman), and more recently, if there is to be a change in the law, how do we go about doing it.

Any revision could have been done by a revision of an act by Parliament which at least until recent dramas would have probably been simpler and cheaper. It is also outside a Constitutional change so falls exactly within the role we commission our elected representatives to do. They are charged to lead and govern our country, We “trust” them for a term to debate and decide the difficult and the easy; not deflect difficult ones to opinion polls which are not binding.

Whatever my view of the Question Let me say that I think Australia has lost its sense of statesmanship and become all too reactionary to opinion polls and the deflecting of responsibility for leadership. The decision was taken to elect our current Prime Minister and his view was clear. His job was to listen and lead the government and parliament to a consensus.

So we are having a plebiscite which is a cop out in my view. All the opinion poll will do is take a snapshot view of a politically jaded country. The Act will still need to be debated and drafted adding delay and drama whichever way the plebiscite goes.

The debate has been hard and cruel in both directions. Given my situations I have been attacked quite viciously from vocal, fundamentalist members of both main camps. The misinformation and generalisations coming from both directions has been hard to watch and has affected my thinking.

Part 1
I have a faith in God. My faith which feels more alien to what is being touted as Christian than ever informs my take on social justice. I’m less judgemental and more liberal as regards many issues precisely because of my faith. I also believe that it is not for people who are not privy to my understanding of God to represent their views as mine or are tell me how I or anyone should interpret scripture. A brother or elder is allowed to offer correction and instruction , but no one speaking in this debate has that role in my life. So stop telling me how to decide Rev/Fr never met you just because I have a faith. Jesus is my middle man to God, if I need one, not you, and his approach to love (and a whole lot of other stuff) was quite radical. Y’know stuff like Judge not let Ye be judged, love your neighbor as yourself. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. *I don’t think love can ever be a sin, but even if even if it is, by fundamentalist theology we all have to face our Maker and our reckoning will be between that person and God. It is not up to me to judge. Or you.

We don’t sit in harsh judgement of whether a straight marriage will work to anywhere near the extent that some of you do with a same-sex relationships. The stats are not good for straight couples, leaving plenty of couples missing the Good birth influence of one gender. The same-sex stats put us to shame. Families are built based around who loves who, not who sleeps in what bed. Common sense says that divorces of all types will happen, and when they do, they do. We are all human beings. The sky will not fall. Many kids of straight couples have had a rough upbringing. There will be some kids of same-sex marriages if it comes to that who feel the same. But if we mainstream it, the stigma will go and that will help all kids be kinder. Growing up I would fantasize that everyone had a crappy left arm and a head tilt…… just so I felt normal

There are the full range of people in all communities. Pedaphilia is in the straight world as it is in the gay, just as much if not more. Both sorts are in all the Churches and outside. The good the bad and yes the ugly are across the board. We are commanded to love and not to judge. By our fruit will we know each other, and knowing is different to judging which is in God’s hands. My suggestion is that we are generally built with two ears and one mouth. Let’s try and use them proportionally?

To quote @frbower Fr Rod Bower

“For the religiously inclined to participate productively in the public discourse of a secular democracy, there is required of them the ability (and willingness– JN) to translate theological specifics into universal values, accessible to all people regardless of their faith or lack thereof”

Part 2
My only request ok, two requests of those fighting for marriage equality: just as you don’t like to be tarred with the paedophile brush on the basis that some of you have been, please don’t judge all of those who claim a faith as being homophobic or for that matter are or condone child abusers. We come in all shapes and sizes too. Some of us are saints and some are down right bastards. Some are loud. Most are not. We are all individuals. Generalisation is dangerous and insulting. Some churches are preaching their view, but you are also using the venues open to you to advertise (as you should). Passion for an issue can be lovingly expressed, by all of us.

My second request is simple I hope. Talk to us all, don’t yell at us. We didn’t choose the plebersite. Issues don’t have to stay political even if they start there. We have had to recognise minorities before in less than ideal ways. We will have to again no doubt. Alienating won’t help your cause or Australia . We are all humans. We have had struggles, which may be different to this or not. You are not alone. I for one am not the enemy. Please talk to me like you are my neighbour, my sibling, best friend, my doctor, my accountant or my barista; about your love and fear and hope and plans. I’ll be listening and so will others.

All in all right now I’m simply ashamed of being a human being in Australia …..We need to behave better . I’m confused, and sad that it came to this.. This has hurt my faith and my faith in people tremendously and that’s not a good place to be if we are discussing love. Is it?

just my 5 cents.

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The other race that stopped our nation

In Australia, we have an idiom for the big horse race, the Melbourne Cup. It is known as the race that stops the nation. It is run annually on the first Tuesday in November. It is, regardless of whether you live in Melbourne or not, more or less a national holiday. Offices hold sweeps and long lunches breaks, women who wouldn’t normally wear a hat become fascinated with fascinators and even normally fairly serious news presenters and politicians are dressing up and talking or tweeting about their tips. These tips are often based on very random criteria, rather than any sort of history with the form guide. After all the fuss, the people who can and do stop to watch the race do so for the 3 minutes or so it takes to run and then return after a bit of celebration to merry-making or work.

In years past, the US election has been held in the same week as the Melbourne Cup. I recall 8 years ago, watching the horses one day and Obama’s speech the very next.

This year it was the week after, and more so than any other election “over there” that I can recall, ordinary Australians were glued to the news channels on Wednesday as the news came in. I was at an airport way ahead of my flight and everyone was talking about it among themselves and even to complete strangers. It was shock and disbelief. But we were glued to it for a good couple of days later. Friends who I don’t normally talk politics with were expressing shock and degrees of discomfort at the idea of Donald Trump as the leader of the free world and what that says about our global mindset and future. I’m sure there are messages there to be examined even before he takes command in January.

The last time I remember seeing Australians glued to the tv for events overseas like they were a week ago was when the World Trade Centers went down. Seems we tend to be the onlookers to the crashes we can’t tear ourselves away from.

My recovery method has centred around becoming hooked again on the West Wing. I know it is fiction but it has to be based on some degree of reality or it wouldn’t work as a drama right? I want to use my intellect more and use it for good .

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Tuesday tidbit: wish I’d known

Wish I’d known about below the line last week. And had electoral commission staff patient enough to let me decide between above and below the line myself (as I have every other election) without pressure and with a proper privacy screen.

For those wondering about my broader reaction to the election and/or my voting experience, I’m working on an email to a disability org so a post or two will no doubt come out of that. In short: could be better, could be worse.

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1/12

So Redfern station is to get a partial solution to access eh?

I understand the government wants to get people to Australian technology park, but what then? And it doesn’t really address what I see as Redfern’s main role in the system -that as hub.

I agree with REDwatch it’s a step in the right direction. My worry is that Redfern will as a result go to the bottom of the to-do list for future upgrades.

I also wonder what it says about the government’s lack of expectation of us as full citizens with full contributions that one platform is meant to be enough

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A big moment yesterday Newtown station works

An SMS I sent yesterday

“After waiting for 17 years for accessibility I’m waiting to board my first train to NEWTOWN train station”.

Yes after what seems a long slow build and a lot of behind the scenes work the station is operational.

I was quite emotional. I tried to engage the station staff at central station in the joy which wasn’t that apparent, but to no avail.

I weeped and giggled from central. I sheepishly explained to the sole occupant of the level bit of the carriage that I had waited a long time. She said they had done a good job. I noticed that very soon she will be pushing a pram and using the very lifts that I am lording.

I have done two single trips arriving at Newtown station. I have shared the lift with 3 mums with prams, 2 small children, one young man who is on crutches for 10 weeks and an older gentleman with walking sticks.

Clearly well needed

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what a gaffe: Open letter to the cabinet

This happened on my mothers local radio station.

 

He’s a happy little vegemite, that’s at least a good sign for a foreign minister sprooking a “once Australian” production.

 

Not that anyone will ask my opinion on the matter but for what it’s worth I think that the only “reasonable solution” (the time has passed for a “good” solution) is to have a challenge. Do it openly, loudly even. Plan it, book it in. Just have it. Have anyone whose name has been mooted by the media make a “real” statement as to status.

Then you have two options, just two I figure.

1. Kevin wins,well  so that the electorate’s original wish is respected. He might lose the election but he can push it back a bit at least . Then when you lose you can play swapsy if you like. If he wins and keeps winning he needs to talk succession. But if he wins in the world outside the cabinet room, then in one sense, the cabinet needs to suck it up. The people have spoken. Democracy has then done its job.  If he’s that bad at internal consultation there’s always Dale Carnegie! But I doubt they will win again.

2. Someone else wins and everyone else shuts up and winner gets given three clean news cycles. Yes I know technically the media decides that. But the party PR machine needs to cheer loudly. Keep all the news coming from the Government, Party and Country coming from this mouth ONLY. I think there are too many egos for this to work. But it must, because the Party can’t afford a bi-election. Nor can the liberal-minded of us all migrate to New Zealand quickly enough!

Even people I know with little interest in politics are taking bets on Julia remaining PM. Lets deal with it.

Why one might ask is this still an issue. Why is Kevin Rudd still on the front page of the paper every time he coughs?

Despite the carbon tax Copenhagen/mining tax mess up, I think that the polls that resulted were only meant as a slap. A punishment, not an execution. We figured he’d get the message that he had upset us and he’d have the time to kiss us and make up. He was still charming to us. So we didn’t know that he was hard to work with. But that wasn’t our problem. The spill made it our problem because it happened quickly, but not cleanly. and neither the mining tax, nor the carbon tax have looked like clear and clean wins for Julia Gillard anyway.

You turned our slap into your execution, without asking us. Clearly we don’t like that type of responsibility. We are happy enough (or not) with the responsibilities we have, thank you very much.

So now we are nervous about why the choices we make mean. Some are learning what the rest of us knew; you elect a local member and the rest happens in green and red rooms elsewhere.

But, even to those of us who do intellectually understand that though, you do sell the leader you have as prime ministerial candidate versus “other guy”. It’s not “our prime-ministerial candidate” versus “other guy” versus “whoever else we might like later”. Not in the first term.

However and whoever might lament  the Americanisation of politics; it is done as I have just described. Both sides have used this method. It is how it is. Yes we all need civics class to learn more about what our election day choices really mean and all the green and red rooms involved, that will have to go into an education package later on.

In the meantime you have two choices. But first have the challenge. Then decide and make sure everyone gets the memo this time

 

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As the dust settles

Yesterday NSW had an election. It was a landslide. that many others will no doubt talk of for many days to come.

Picking up on a post from Mary over at HAT, yes I think she might be right. From what I saw in the literature, there was a higher number of “baseline” accessible venues.

But I never left the house to vote.

I iVoted. At home. On my own laptop. More privately than I did more than once at a polling place.

Designed for people with vision impairment who use screen readers and various other disabilities – they broadened it out to allow travelling folks to feel included too.

The information on the iVote website read:

You can vote before Polling Day using iVote if:

  • your vision is so impaired, or you are otherwise so physically incapacitated or so illiterate, that you are unable to vote without assistance,
  • you are unable to vote without assistance or have difficulty voting at a polling place because you have a disability (within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977),
  • your real place of living is not within 20 kilometres, by the nearest practicable route, of a polling place; or
  • you will not be in New South Wales throughout the hours of polling on polling day

.

The process was painless enough for the fact it was hard to see the bigger Legislative Council in its entirety, and I had to do this sequentially as opposed to top and tailing it as I normally do.

Yes I would do it again. But my question is; is this going to simply be a work around so the various electoral commissions don’t need to improve the distances to and percentages of accessible venues. I hope not. But sadly I fear so

 

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my take on the Brisbane floods – a need met and posturing

I’m not going to start with an apology for my silence. I’m just going to start. I’m going to start with some good news amid chaos.

There have been two simultaneous tragedies recently on the world stage. Both have caught my attention, for very different reasons. The floods. The assassination attempt of Gabby Giffords.  Both sad. Both with disability implications. I’m going to start with the one closest to home and more immediate in its implications and in this case celebrations.

Heroes big and small

Amid all the tragedy of the Queensland and northern New South Wales floods there have been many stories of heroism, and many stories of loss.

Whoever coordinated the AUSLAN (Australian sign language) interpreter service accompanying the police briefings and Premier’s  speeches every time I saw them on TV is my hero. Particularly on Channel 10 and Foxtel (who didn’t crop the interpreter out of the picture, somewhat defeating the purpose I would think). It’s the first time I’ve seen inclusion work so effortlessly upfront in the mainstream Australia media. In their press release, available here, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network congratulated the Queensland government and I will to. Of all the many things they will be congratulated for, this won’t be remembered as broadly as it should.

As to the floods more broadly

Friends of my brother’s were affected, but otherwise it didn’t touch me personally.

We are increasingly becoming a land of extremes, the kind of extremes that Dorothea MacKellar talked about in her poem; which I did elocution lessons on as a teenager. It includes the following stanza.

I love a sunburned country;
a land of sweeping plains,
of ragged Mountain ranges;
of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
her beauty and her terror–
the wide brown land for me!

Last year and many years it has been fire that has ripped communities to the core. Floods have been devastating for local communities and growing up in the country area I saw a few of those though thankfully never first-hand. However, they have never been so wide and broad in their scope.

I’m not sure whether it is a change in the weather pattern, the 24-hour seven day a week news and online cycles or a combination of factors but these disasters seem to be coming thicker and faster. It’s probably a combination of these factors.

Giving campaigns

What also seems to be coming thicker and faster are the appeals for help. . There have been fundraising efforts by every television network in Australia, many shopping chains, including coffee shops and high-end boutiques.

Even Naffnang are holding an online auction of some sort.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that banding together as a country to support those who need it in at the moment of crisis is a bad thing. But even this seems to now be turning into a bit of a commercial competition of one-upmanship. Who can pull at the heartstrings tightest. Lovely in sentiment. But perhaps not in the delivery.

Ultimately if the money goes where it is supposed to, to the individuals who need it the most, and not just those with the best connections, or the squeaky-ist wheel, it will be good. Or not even good, but great.

Personally I’d rather just write a bigger cheque to the one organisation, or to people I know personally who need it and stay away from feeling like I have to donate every time an organisation decides to raise money and look good.

My local television station doesn’t need my donation to choose to make a donation in its own right. they have enough money to do it without announcing it or seeking my help. My local coffee shop can too without selling me a muffin or cupcake. They don’t need to tell me how good they are. I’m reminded of a Bible verse which has nothing to do with Noah. From Matthew 6;

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Believe in the religiousness of it or not. My point is that surely now isn’t the time to be posturing or letting our media do it for us. Now is the time to back each other, report on the news, give us the updates if that is your job, but stop competing to be fund-raisers.

I get that some people need reminding to give. Some people need the opportunity to be right in front of them. Some of us don’t though. It feels too much. And it is starting to feel insincere. The fact is that those who will give will find a way to do it.

Perhaps a bigger change …?

It is time to start assuming that people know the right thing to do and are capable of doing it, whatever that is. It is time to raise the level of public debate. It is time to stop catering to the lowest common denominator. It is time to do the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do.

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