The hidden danger of Mr Potato Head’s gender neutrality.

Mr Potato Head will now be known as Potato Head. The popular toy is no longer male according to Hasbro and the decision set social media alight as people reacted to the gender labelling of a plastic toy. People wanted to know why the decision was made, why it was made now, and the wider social implications of the decision.

At any time, did Hasbro consider the hidden danger of declaring Potato Head gender neutral; the danger that the decision trivialises the issue of gender neutrality in humans?

Potato Head is not a person. Potato Head is a plastic toy. It has no emotions, no intelligence, no feelings and no personality. It is not a sentient being. A toy cannot decide its own gender and a toy has never suffered the personal or public trauma of grappling with gender identity. A toy will never be teased. A toy has never been cast out or shunned by its peers, colleagues, friends or family.

A toy does not have to live in a body it despises due to societal, familial, cultural or religious pressure. A toy does not have to decide whether to identify as gender neutral, or to go further and undergo a physical transition from its gender of birth.

A toy is just pieces of moulded plastic.

The danger of declaring a plastic toy gender neutral is that people who label themselves gender neutral can now be compared to a plastic toy.

“So you’re gender neutral, just like Mr Potato Head,” others will say.

Furthermore, the toy will still exist as Mr Potato Head – just the branding on the box will change. What’s the point?

This further trivialises the issue of gender neutrality -as if Hasbro is saying,

“We will make a stand on a social issue, but not if it means we sell fewer toys…”

If toys become gender neutral, can other inanimate objects be declared gender neutral?

Let’s not beat around the bush, Hasbro made this decision with a purely commercial motivation and accompanied it with all the right corporate euphemisms. Hasbro claims the change aims to ‘promote gender equality and inclusion’, but clearly the move also posited Hasbro as a socially responsible company which is set to gain considerable PR benefit.

Potato Head is also an ageing ‘brand’. The Toy Story franchise is now old, and children have moved on to other toys and other cartoons. Declaring the toy gender neutral earns the company international publicity which is likely to increase sales.

Is this why Mrs Potato Head is still female?

Will Hasbro wait for her husband’s publicity to die down before declaring her neutrality?

Perhaps gender neutrality also allows Hasbro to sell more individual pieces, belonging to both genders, to stick onto the base shape of the Potato. This mix and match technique made Potato Head, and Mrs Potato Head, somewhat unique as a toy, but also created a marketing opportunity:

“Now that Potato Head is gender neutral,” Hasbro can say “you can add even more pieces to its ‘body’ – and you can buy them all right here…”

Is it only a matter of time before Woody, Buzz and the remaining Toy Story characters are declared gender neutral, and when this happens, how much damage will have been done to actual human beings who identify as gender neutral?

Image: http://www.theguardian.com

Don’t ban the mullet.

A private secondary school in Sydney recently banned the mullet haircut. The controversial move provoked news articles and comments throughout Australia, most of which failed to address the effect on one group in particular – teachers. Waverley College became the latest private school to ban its students from sporting the iconic hairstyle because it was deemed inappropriate, and this move will simply create more stress for teachers.

What’s a mullet?

The mullet is ‘long at the back and short at the sides’ and is also described as ‘business at the front, party out the back’. It is a distinct hairstyle that was hugely popular in the 1980s and is trending once more. Boys at the exclusive school in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, as well as other private schools throughout the country, are following the fashion of the day as well as emulating their footballing heroes who have sparked a resurgence in the hairstyle.

How will teachers suffer?

Rules have to be enforced, and teachers have to enforce them.

How are rules enforced?

Teachers usually give students a verbal warning. Many teenagers ignore these. Teachers then give a written warning. Students often ignore these. Already, a situation of conflict has been established between the student and the teacher.

Teachers then contact the parents, to ask for their assistance in enforcing the school rues. In the past, most parents supported schools and teachers in the management of a child’s behaviour and school work, but not these days. Many parents not only fail to support teachers but always side with their children, some even go as far as verbally, socially or physically attacking teachers.

Remember, parents know their sons have mullets. Parents also know the school rules, but sent their sons to school with a haircut that the school deems inappropriate. Parents also sign up to the rules of the school when they enrol their children, and are fully aware that strict adherence to grooming and uniform standards is a tradition these schools inherited from the British public school system.

Teachers are not likely to find much support from parents. If parents fail to support the school, the onus for removing the mullet thus falls entirely upon the teacher.

It’s not a mullet

When is a mullet not a mullet?

When the student tries to argue their way out of a haircut. Students are likely to argue that their hairstyle is actually called something else and on that technicality, they cannot be forced to cut their hair. They will find proof on instagram, from a barber or another source to prove their particular hairstyle is not a mullet, and thus they cannot be forced to cut it off. Private schools are breeding grounds for lawyers and politicians.

Teachers will have to listen to this argument, before preparing lessons, before marking exams and assessments, before writing exams, before attending meetings, before writing reports, before counselling students, before protecting students from cyberbullying, before teaching students road safety, before keeping students off drugs and alcohol, before doing playground duty, before coaching a sports team…

Furthermore, the school will be forced to write a definition of a mullet. Teachers will be forced to draft legal-style documents outlining precisely what constitutes a mullet and how it differs from other hairstyles. This all takes time.

All of this while solving the literacy crisis in Australia.

All of this while solving the numeracy crisis in Australia.

Come back when you’ve cut your hair

Another disciplinary technique is to suspend the student until the hair is returned to an acceptable style. Many teenagers would see this as a reward rather than a punishment. Parents won’t be happy, because they’ll have to supervise the child at home, and because they’re not getting what they paid for. Teachers also suffer. Teachers will still have to modify and send work home to that student, as well as providing feedback and ensuring the student does not suffer academically. Thus, even though the student knowingly breaks the rules, and the parents knew their child was breaking the rules, the teacher is still expected to ensure the student learns as much as they would have if they had not been suspended.

Human rights abuse

Students will argue that it is a violation of their human rights. This is not a joke. Modern-day school students invoke their human rights in response to the most minor incidents at schools, and it is not fanciful to predict that a boy at Waverley College will argue that cutting off his mullet is a violation of his human rights.

In the past, teachers could have told the boy he was being ridiculous, and to stop complaining and accept the consequences of his actions. But not anymore. Accusations of human rights violations, even regarding a haircut, must be taken seriously. This means more time, more meetings, more paperwork and more scrutiny for teachers. Meanwhile, the boy retains his mullet.

Teachers will be forced to refer to the definition of a mullett, which they drafted, in order to protect themselves from the very real consequences of being accused of violating a child’s human rights.

Many would argue that fashion is the biggest loser every time someone sports a mullett, but when that mullett is worn by a school student, teachers are the biggest losers.

If you’ve read this far, you might hink this is ridiculous, that this is exaggerated, that this would never happen. It does. This is what teachers are forced to tolerate on a daily basis in Australian schools. Creating another rule in response to a fashion trend is simply dumping more work on overworked and underpaid teachers.

Throughout this entire process, the private school is protecting its image, the parents are protecting their children, and the students are protecting their hairstyle. Who is protecting the teachers?

Image:www.nypost.com

Defenders of free speech are destroying free speech.

The very people who decry the loss of free speech in modern society are destroying the ability of people to speak freely. Extremist views stifle reasoned discussions on important social issues and this prevents problems from being properly addressed or solved.

Extreme commentators at both ends of the political spectrum complain that their opinions and right to free speech are being quelled in modern society, while their own words stigmatise anyone who attempts to raise legitimate questions regarding a contentious issue.

Free speech crusaders throw around phrases such as ‘political correctness’ and ‘cancel culture’ and complain that they’re “…not allowed to say anything anymore.” They claim that the ‘thought police’ are denying them their right to express a personal opinion. In most cases, however, those opinions are blatantly racist and are often disguised as humour and casual racism which is borne of ignorance, and is deeply hurtful.

It was never right to be racist, it was just more accepted.

Immigration

Immigration is a perfect example of the death of free speech at the hands of extreme commentators. Extremists have hijacked the issue, and anyone else who attempts to publicly discuss the topic runs the risk of being branded as a racist or a bigot.

Donald Trump used racism. He famously promised to stop Muslims from entering the United States and to build a wall to stop Latinos entering the country, and these views contributed greatly to his election victory in 2016. He expressed the views that many extremists held in the United States, and he discussed immigration as a threat to the USA, to white Americans and to American values and their way of life.

Extremists have equated immigration with racism and xenophobia.

It is consequently difficult for anyone to raise the issue of immigration in the United States and other countries. Anyone who questions current immigration policies, for whatever reason, will be labelled a racist or a bigot. But mature, intelligent and measured discussions about immigration need to take place. Leaders and citizens need to ask how many people can safely live in a particular area. People need to ask if a landmass has enough resources to support a certain number of people, taking into consideration birth and death rates, existing infrastructure, employment opportunities and other factors which determine the success of immigration policies. These discussions are made difficult or impossible due to the hijacking of the issue by ignorant extremists.

Donald Trump is also famous for shutting down discussions with people who opposed his views. There is no better example of killing free speech.

LGBTQI+

The LGBTQI+ community also bear the brunt of intolerance and hateful speech. Issues such as gender fluidity, trans culture and same-sex marriage draw endless commentary from free speech crusaders, and prevent issues from being discussed.

Same-sex marriage is a contentious issue. Every country which has raised the prospect of legalising same-sex marriage, including those which succeeded, endured a divisive debate on the issue, and the defenders of free speech once again destroyed free speech.

Two prominent Australians weighed into the debate in Australia. Tennis legend Margaret Court and footballer Israel Folau exercised their right to free speech but consequently tarnished the debate. Court and Folau opposed same-sex marriage, and declared this publicly. This in itself was not a problem. However, they supported their views with statements claiming that all gay people will go to hell, that same-sex attraction is the work of the devil and that same-sex marriage is a dangerous threat to the social fabric and the family unit.

Anyone else who expressed opposition to same-sex marriage was accused of sharing the views of Court and Folau. Anyone should be allowed to express an opposition to same-sex marriage, but that is difficult to do when the likes of Court and Folau dominate the topic.

Trans athletes also provoke strong debate. Should people who are born male be allowed to play sport with and against females – if they identify as female, or if they have physically transitioned to female? This is a complex debate including issues of fairness and safety, and any decision must be made after a mature, evidence-based and open discussion. This discussion is impossible to conduct when some people label trans people as the devil’s work, an abomination, a disgrace and subhuman. When such hateful views are expressed freely, reasonable people cannot express their views on the topic, for fear of being associated with the bigots.

Gender-neutral language also divides the population. Gender fluid people prefer to use the words ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ and ‘them’ instead ‘him’ and ‘her’. A problem arises because they and them are plural pronouns, but they’re being used in a singular context – to refer to one person.

Linguists will point out that this is grammatically incorrect and confusing, while bigots will claim that is is outrageous, unnecessary…and worse. As a result, can anyone oppose the use of ‘they’ and ‘them’ to refer to individuals, without being labelled homophobic or transphobic?

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the threat to free speech at the hands of those who claim to defend it. Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists abound online and express views contrary to expert medical advice. Extreme bloggers and social media influencers, celebrities and even elected politicians are expressing wild and unfounded theories about the pandemic, while defending their views as free speech. In reality, they are putting human lives at risk.

Free speech is a foundation of democracy and an open society. It must be defended. It must also be conducted with evidence, acceptance of opposing views and reason.

Image: Christian Bruehner

Do you have grandchildren?

Do you have grandchildren?

Do you love your grandchildren?

Would you do anything for your grandchildren, and do you care about the world they will inherit?

Protect the planet which will provide your grandchildren with a long and healthy life.

Make your vote count.

If you live in a democratic country with open elections, the way you vote could determine the planet your grandchildren inherit.

If you are offered a genuine choice between candidates, vote according to which candidate will protect the planet. Many conservative parties claim they are better at managing the economy, but supporting old industries such as fossil fuels is bad economic policy. Renewable energy is the future, and countries which fail to embrace this will be left behind financially.

Remember, your grandchildren cannot vote until they are at least 18, so you are making a decision about the future of the planet on their behalf.

Where is your super?

Superannuation funds are all the same aren’t they? Not quite. Some funds invest in the fossil fuel industry, others don’t. More and more superannuation providers are divesting from fossil fuels and from other unsustainable business, and are offering what is known commonly as ‘ethical super’.

Do some research and find out if your current super fund invests in environmentally destructive businesses. If it does, find another super fund which does not. Destructive businesses cannot operate without financial support from companies such as super funds.

What about my savings?

You worked hard to earn and save your money, and it should work for you in retirement. Ethical super funds offer strong returns, which is why many people are switching.

Energy

Speaking of energy, what powers your home; solar, fossil fuels?

Could you install solar panels? Yes, they’re expensive, but they save money in the long run and they are a much cleaner form of energy. With efficient battery storage, they also work when the sun doesn’t shine. Even if you can’t install solar panels where you live, you can normally choose greener options through your energy provider.

What about water tanks?

If you have space in the garden, install a water tank to catch rain water for use in the garden and inside the house.

Grow your own food.

The water from the water tank can nourish your plants, and reduce your water bill.

Grow a few tomatoes and herbs, or create a large organic garden with enough fruit and vegetables for an entire meal. It’s fresh, it’s healthy and it’s free.

Locally grown food also protects the planet and the health of your grandchildren. It protects the soil and the entire ecosystem which is used to grow food. If the environment is damaged, growing food becomes more difficult. As a consequence, basic food stuffs will become more expensive.

How much do you want your grandkids to pay for food in the future?

Media consumption.

A cup of tea, toast and the morning paper. An age-old tradition, and one that’s easier to enjoy in retirement. The media you consume, including newspaper, radio, television and internet content, determines the way you think about the world.

Most tabloid and conservative newspapers report negatively on environmental issues, and many blatantly deny climate change because this bias appeals to their audience.

If you live in countries such as Australia, The UK and The USA, it’s hard to avoid NewsCorp media, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has been described as a cancer on democracy due to the content of his media networks, which run blatant propaganda.

Do you let Rupert Murdoch tell you what to think?

Incidentally, most tabloid newspapers are written at a literacy level of a 9th-grade student. It’s a long time since you were in the 9th grade. Furthermore, a study by the The University of London’s Institute of Education found that people who read tabloid newspapers have smaller vocabularies than people who do not read newspapers

Presents

I want your presence, not your presents.

It’s a great Dad joke, but it’s also a worthy sentiment. Spending time with your grandkids is better than any random toy, and there are other ways to spoil the little ones in a sustainable way.

Consider buying ethical gifts for the next special celebration. Give the children an endangered animal to adopt through a wildlife organisation. Give them a tree or plant for the garden which grows as they grow. Make something for the kids, or even make it with them, instead of buying a random gift from a shop.

Spend money on experiences for your grandchildren. Pay for a healthy, fun holiday activity which gets the kids outdoors and active. The more time they spend in nature, the more likely they are to protect it.

How long before this gift ends up in landfill?

If you buy your children a plastic toy based on the latest fad, you can be sure that toy will be discarded as soon as the next fad arrives.

Kids have too much these days.

Very true. So don’t add to this clutter by buying disposable presents. Instead, choose a more sustainable gift.

Travel

Travel is one of the great advantages of retirement. Even if you’re still working, it’s a great way to get away from work and enjoy life. If you fly, offset your flight when you buy the ticket. Most airlines offer carbon offsets. Think also about the method of transport you use to reach your holiday destination, and find ways to make all of your holidays more environmentally sustainable.

A healthy, clean planet, with fresh air and clean water, with lush forests and abundant wildlife is better for your health as well. The longer you stay healthy, the longer you can enjoy quality time with your grandkids.

Image: Katrina Knapp, Baby qb

Australians care more about their dogs than their prime minister.

Sorry Scotty, but it seems Australians care more about their dogs than they do about you.

Feedback on recent articles centred on Scott Morrison and dog owners demonstrates a much greater passion for people’s four legged friends than for their prime minister.

The articles in question are numerous satirical texts published in a monthly magazine called The Beast, which is distributed in Bondi and the eastern beaches of Sydney.

The first article concerning the prime minister was titled:

“Scott Morrison Imprisoned for UnAustralian Activities”

It suggested that the current elected leader of the democratic nation of Australia should spend the rest of his life in bars – effective immediately. It listed many real shortcomings of the prime minister and his colleagues, and focussed on one particular action which is UnAustralian (you’ll have to read the article to find out).

Other articles were titled:

“The Shire Sends ScoMo Back to Where He Came From”

“Waverley’s Nightwatchman Scores a Century”

The articles provoked no response. No letters were sent directly to the author. No letters to the editor were published in the following issues, despite the fact that Morrison grew up in the eastern suburbs, went to school in the area and still has family and friends in the area. The region is also a safe seat for the Liberal Party, Morrison’s party.

Not one reader leapt to his defence.

Why?

The nickname “Scotty” may explain their reluctance. Educated and informed Australians call Morrison ‘Scotty from Marketing’ because they know he is nothing more than a Liberal National Party re-branding exercise. The previous leader, Malcolm Turnbull was seen as aloof and unapproachable. Thus, Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Liberal powerbrokers removed Turnbull and installed Morrison, and sent him forth to drink beer, watch football and spout meaningless slogans.

‘Liar from the Shire’ is another popular nickname. The Shire is the region of southern Sydney which Morrison represents, and Morrison is famous for lying about many of his own policy failures. It is also commonly known that Morrison only won preselection for the safe Liberal seat after moving out of the eastern suburbs and running a dirty tricks campaign against the other Liberal candidate.

Australians also know that Morrison is merely a puppet of Rupert Murdoch and the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps readers of The Beast did not rush to defend the prime minister because they are starting to see through the spin.

Maybe the satirical articles have no impact.

Perhaps, but the reponse to the dog articles would suggest otherwise.

Recent articles about dog owners in the eastern suburbs have carried the following titles:

“Safe Injecting Space Planned for Mackenzies Bay”

“Free Literacy Classes for Eastern Suburbs Dog Parents”

“Dog Owners Kicked off Clovelly Dog Park”

All of these articles criticise eastern suburbs dog owners, primarily because they walk their dogs in off-leash areas and ignore the local rules.

Every single article about dogs and dog owners provokes a flood of responses. Readers launch into an attack on the author and the content of the articles. Feedback is impassioned, emotional, personal and usually filled with profanity.

Mistake-ridden responses include phrases such as

“Fuck you and your shit article…”

“Up you’res kieran im gonna take 10 Dogs n do drugzzzz”

Other responses are not suitable for public viewing.

Dog owners react strongly to every single article written about the topic of dogs and the actions of their owners, but ignore articles about the person who runs their country, who was born and bred in the eastern suburbs.

Australians clearly care more about their dogs than their prime minister.

Images: Gabriel Crismariu, Craig Greenhill

The problem with Harry Styles and the Vogue cover.

The Vogue magazine cover featuring Harry Styles is problematic. The decision to dress the famous singer in female attire has and saturated the mass media with supportive and critical gender-based commentary, and this is a problem.

Placing a man in a dress on the front cover of a mainstream fashion magazine is a distraction. It is a distraction from more important gender issues facing the modern world.

There are real discussions to be had, and real action to be taken, in the realm of gender inequality. A man wearing a dress is not one of those. If a man wants to wear a dress, let him wear a dress, it’s not a big deal.

Violence against women, workplace harassment, the gender pay gap, gender discrimination and domestic violence are all important issues.

Violence against women continues throughout the world. Women continue to be victims of violence at the hands of men, and this issue needs to be discussed and dealt with. The physical and emotional powerlessness of women in so many contexts needs to be discussed and acted upon so that women throughout the world can live without suffering violence.

If there is one advantage of the Vogue cover, it is the potential to challenge the toxic masculinity which fuels a lot of the violence against women.

The world should be discussing measures to end violence against women, not discussing Harry Styles in a dress.

Workplace harassment is a reality for many women throughout the world. In so many workplaces, women’s voices are not heard. They suffer power imbalances and the men who hold that power exploit it to harass women physically, mentally and emotionally. This continues to happen in every nation and can only be addressed when it is part of a daily discussion, and daily action.

Women are still excluded from more senior and more lucrative professional positions on the basis of gender. Women are still being excluded from the decision making cliques within workplaces, even though all of the decisions made impact upon them.

The world should be talking about ending workplace harassment, not Harry Styles in a dress.

Somehow, the gender pay gap still exists. In 2020, women are often paid less for doing exactly the same job as men, or earn less because the occupations in which they are more likely to work (health, education, community service…) earn far less than occupations dominated by men.

One of the most vulnerable groups in society is older women, who are not able to save as much money during their lowly-paid careers and find themselves in financial hardship later in life – but not many people talk about this.

It is said that pornography is the only occupation in which women earn more than men. Thus, the only occupation which collectively advantages women is an industry which objectifies women.

We should be discussing how it is possible to pay women less than men, and not the fact that Harry Styles wore a dress.

Underlying the gender pay gap, sexual and physical violence against women, and workplace harassment, is gender discrimination. Within society, within relationships and families, within the media and within other institutions such as religion and the legal system, women are still discriminated against.

Institutional and entrenched gender discrimination should be at the forefront of discussions in the media and society, not the fact that Harry Styles wore a dress.

Publicity…

It’s important to remember that the Vogue cover has generated an enormous amount of publicity. Whether opposing or supporting the cover photo, people are talking about Vogue (as is this article). Publicity was always going to accompany the first ever Vogue cover featuring a man, but the comments have all centred on his wardrobe choice.

Who decided to put the pop star in a dress? Did Styles decide? If so, good luck to him. Did Vogue decide? It is a fashion magazine compiled by fashion experts, so perhaps it was a stylistic decision. Perhaps a designer or fashionista decided that Styles looks good in a dress – don’t forget that fashion is entirely superficial and based on appearance, and aesthetics had to have been a major consideration when arranging the clothing for the photo shoot.

It’s all good publicity for Styles, for Vogue and the designer. In an era of global financial hardship and falling magazine sales, the publicity generated by this cover is extremely valuable. The internet is also flooded with merchandise featuring the famous image.

The end of masculinity.

Scores of men rushed to social media to decry the end of traditional masculinity, but did Styles ever conform to stereotypes of traditional masculinity?

Harry Styles put on a dress. Someone took his photo, and it appeared on the cover of a magazine. It’s not a big deal. Gender discrimination which underscores violence against women, workplace harassment and the gender pay gap are all big deals. This is what we should be talking about.

And don’t forget, this debate surrounds a magazine cover featuring…a man.

Image: Vogue, Tyler Mitchell

Democracy and the future of major sporting events.

Will major sporting events soon be held only in non-democratic countries?

International sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup may take place only in countries without genuine democracy as governments in democratic countries struggle to justify to their populations the exorbitant cost of hosting these events. Authorities in non-democratic countries, on the other hand, do not need to justify anything to their subjects.

The citizens of democratic nations are increasingly aware of the enormous financial costs and disruption required to host international competitions. The same people are also aware of the lack of funding directed towards more immediate needs in their countries such as schools, universities, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Do major sporting events make a profit?

The question is not so much whether major sporting events make a profit, or if they benefit countries in other ways. The question is whether governments can persuade their populations that the events make a profit or benefit the nation.

Can governments continue to justify the construction of enormous sporting stadia when government schools are underfunded?

Can governments continue to justify accommodating the world’s athletes when hospitals are underfunded?

Can governments justify spending $118 million on opening or closing ceremonies when public transport is insufficient or non-existant?

Brazil highlighted this contradiction recently. The country hosted both the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 despite a struggling economy, a broken public health system, grossly underfunded public schools and crumbling infrastructure. Many educated Brazilians are still waiting for the promised economic and social benefits of these two events. Many South Africans have undoubtedly been asking the same questions since 2010.

Volunteers

Have you ever volunteered at a major sporting event?

Would you volunteer at a major sporting event?

As everyday people learn more about the corruption and lavish lifestyles of the officials at major sporting organisations, surely they will be less inclined to jump into a garish uniform and stand for hours outside a train station directing fans to venues – for no pay.

Many volunteers have thankless jobs. They never see a moment of sport. The never see their sporting heroes in person. In return, they get to keep their uniform and receive a generic thankyou letter from a random politician. Major sporting events cannot go ahead without an army of volunteers. Could FIFA or the IOC afford to pay every volunteer at one of their international events?

Rulers of non-democratic nations, meanwhile, are better able to persuade citizens to volunteer.

Patriotism

Patriotism drives many volunteers to offer their vital services, but will it be enough in the future?

Patriotism drove young people to volunteer for the army in World War I for example, but many of today’s youth do not share this patriotic fervour. Can the same shift in attitude be applied to the sporting sphere, and would young people choose to volunteer for a sporting event?

Volunteers at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games spoke of their national pride, and continue to reference this as a motivation and reward for volunteering at the games. I myself experienced some of this patriotism when I volunteered. That said, I volunteered in the media, with the best seats in the house, at the Athletics, and spent the games interviewing athletes. I also sat on the finish line, a few rows back, when Cathy Freeman won gold. Most volunteers were not so lucky.

Patriotism also persuaded many Brazilians to eventually support, or at least stop criticising, the hosting of the 2014 World Cup. The government was canny enough to know that the country’s obsession with the world game would eventually silence many of its critics. This enthusiasm surely waned when they lost 7 – 1 to Germany on home soil.

The public is also much more likely to congratulate or tolerate a government’s decision to host a major event in that country wins. Winning elite sporting competitions also costs a lot of money.

Patriotism will still persuade many citizens to support international competitions in the future. Australians were elated to hear that their country will share the FIFA Women’s World Cup with New Zealand in 2023, but by that time will Australia still be a democracy?

A quick internet search reveals that many major events scheduled for the next five years will be held in countries such as Japan, Switzerland, France and Italy, which are universally accepted as democratic. Other events will be held in the USA, but as long as Trump is in office can the USA claim to be democratic?

It’s worth noting that all of these counties were awarded the competitions before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the total financial and social cost of the virus is calculated, will citizens support any future bids for major sporting events?

Authority

Non-democratic countries don’t need to justify anything to their subjects. China, Russia and the Gulf States are now hosting many of the world’s major sporting events and their governments operate unencumbered by public sentiment.

China has hosted many major sporting events and will do so in the near future. They entered this space by hosting the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and have hosted various forms of Asian Games. The Winter Olympics are set to be held in Beijing in 2022 and the country has been the venue for prestigious events in Basketball, Swimming and Athletics in recent years.

China is not a democratic nation.

Russia is an interesting conundrum. Russian athletes were prohibited from competing under the national flag at many recent major events due to widespread state-supported doping, but the country still hosted events such as the Winter Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan.

Russia is not a democratic nation.

The Gulf states

The Gulf states are attracting sports administrators to their nations. Their geographical location and air transport hubs make them enticing locations for staging international events, and their oil wealth allows them to cover the costs. The oil money also affords their people a very high standard of living and a subsequent tolerance of government policies.

Qatar is determined to become a sporting nation. They have invested heavily in sporting academies and sporting infrastructure. They host major events and hire foreign experts to train their homegrown talent. They are set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and have promised to keep players, officials, fans and the media comfortable despite the stifling desert heat. The air conditioned World Cup is bound to cost an absolute fortune, but the oil rich states should have little trouble convincing their subjects to bear this burden.

Having worked at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, which was the first major event of any kind held in that country, I can attest to the enthusiasm, pride and excitement Qataris will feel towards football’s greatest tournament in two year’s time.

The United Arab Emirates has attempted to position itself as a favourable tourism destination through hosting international competitions in sports such as Rugby Sevens, Tennis, Golf, Sailing, Equestrian and Road Running.

The flow-on effect

Financial costs and benefits are not the only factors for governments to consider when deciding to host a major event. Flow-on effects must also be taken into account.

One flow-on effect is the increase in sports participation after a major event such as the Olympic Games. This is not true. Many first-world countries which have recently hosted major events are seeing an increase in childhood obesity every year.

Major events lead to an increase in sports participation immediately after the games, or an increase in participation in particular sports. If a national hockey team or basketball team wins gold, those two sports will most likely attract more members. But many of these sports were probably mass participation sports in that country anyway. Norway wins Cross -Country skiing gold because of the popularity of that sport. The same can be said of Speed Skating in The Netherlands, Rugby Sevens in Fiji and Table Tennis in China.

Facilities

Sporting infrastructure is touted as a positive legacy for a host city or country. Many venues are reused as specialist or multipurpose sporting facilities. However, A quick google search reveals a multitude of facilities in many countries left to crumble after world’s best athletes have departed. Some of these abandoned facilities were used as recently as the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Evidence of this wastage, and the tactics used by governments to justify the initial construction, will surely make citizens of democratic nations more cynical and less inclined to support bids for major events in the future.

E- Sports

Is it cheaper to host E-Sports events?

Competitions still often take place inside sports stadiums but there are fewer competitors at fewer venues who seem to require less equipment. Competitions consist of a few ‘gamers’, their elaborate computer game equipment, copious energy drinks and some broadcast equipment to display the action on a big screen and to livestream to audiences around the world. The fact that E-Sports competitions take place electronically means that they can be enjoyed online. Does this make them easier and cheaper to host?

E-Sports must be an enticing options for governments in the future because they are enormously popular. The most watched Youtube videos are those featuring computer games and gamers.

Are we looking at this the wrong way?

Instead of asking whether only authoritarian regimes will host major events in the future, can we cite the hosting of an international sporting competition as evidence that a country is not democratic?

Persuading the powerful

Finally, how many countries will be able to afford to ‘persuade’ the sports officials who decide which country hosts the upcoming sporting extravaganza?

What’s the difference between a koala and a paedophile?

What’s the difference between a koala and a paedophile?

Nobody wants to hug a paedophile.

True, but there is another difference. In Australia right now, some paedophiles enjoy more protection than koalas.

Child molesters are currently receiving protection form religious organisations such as the Catholic Church. Historical records have revealed that many guilty child molesters were not prosecuted for their crimes, and were simply moved to another parish or district, where many of them offended again.

These facts came to light during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Another revelation was the protection paedophiles receive within confession. The law of the Catholic Church states that anything that is said by a person to a priest in confession is between the confessor, the priest and God. Therefore, if a person admits to committing child abuse during confession, that crime will not be reported to police.

The Royal Commission attempted to change this law. A recommendation attempted to force priests to report admissions of child abuse to police in order to help reduce or eliminate acts of child abuse in the future. Senior figures within the Catholic Church have since publicly stated that they will refuse to pass on admissions of crimes to police, even though this is blatantly breaking the law.

Church authorities are adamant that they will protect the sanctity and secrecy of confession – rather than protect victims of child abuse.

Koalas, meanwhile, are being offered very little protection in Australia. Such is the state of the koala population throughout the country that experts claim our national symbol could become extinct by 2050.

Koalas suffered massively during the most recent bush fires, and will not get their homes back until the charred bush land regenerates, which could take many years. Further habitat is being destroyed by rampant land clearing throughout the country.

The animals are regularly killed by feral animals such as wild dogs and are victims of road accidents, especially at night. Shrinking habitat due to urban expansion has caused a shortage of food and damage to their gene pool which provokes diseases. Drought leaves them with insufficient water to drink and excessive, unseasonal heat kills them.

The cuddly and lovable animals are also under threat from specific resource projects, including:

Brandy Hill quarry extension in Port Stephens, NSW

Shenhua Watermark coalmine near Gunnedah, NSW

Blueberry farming around Coffs Harbour, NSW

Land clearing in north-west NSW.

Child abusers, meanwhile, are also receiving financial support. Australian taxpayers fund religious organisations and religious organisations often pay no tax, because they are religious organisations. Koalas, meanwhile, are losing their habitat and their lives because countless programs and organisations designed to protect them are being de-funded or under-funded.

Current environmental policies in Australia, and the refusal of church organisations to report child abuse to authorities, indicates that some paedophiles are more of a protected species that koalas.

Perhaps we need to dress koalas in a cloak and collar.

Donald Trump is A False to be Reckoned With.

US President Donald Trump is a proven liar but is still a formidable force in US and international politics.

Trump started fabricating the truth as soon as he arrived in the oval office. He lied about the number of people who attended his inauguration and has lied ever since. No matter how much he lies, people still support him and vote for him.

Fake News

The most cunning trick Trump pulled was adopting the phrase Fake News. His uneducated, semi-literate and ignorant supporter base latched onto a catchy and easily-digested slogan which is designed to discredit any criticism of Trump or his actions.

Every time a rational commentator or journalist proved without doubt that one of Trump’s statements was a blatant lie – he retorted with the phrase Fake News. No matter how ridiculous Trump’s statements or claims, no matter how much undeniable evidence was presented to the public, he could deny the evidence with this phrase.

The slogan also allowed his supporters to avoid investigating or analysing news stories or issues in detail. It allowed them to shoot down or dismiss anyone who wanted to engage them in an intelligent discussion on an issue. It allowed Trump to therefore to rally his supporters through emotion and patriotism. It allowed his to run the country via Twitter.

Trump supporters were led to believe that fake news came from ‘them’, not from ‘us’.

If Trump called climate change fake news, the people accepted it as fake news. The slogan served as a rallying cry for his supporters. If Trump said the dangers of COVID-19 were fake news, his supporters accepted it as fake news, despite the country having the highest number of deaths in the world.

Outsiders and open minded Americans often find it hard to believe that so many people believe the president. But it is important to remember that it is impossible to develop critical literacy without possessing basic literacy. Across the United States, as in other developing countries such as Australia, literacy rates are falling. People don’t read and don’t value education, and lack the literacy skills necessary to discern between truth, bias and false claims. Conservative governments understand this and deliberately underfund public educational institutions in order to maintain poor literacy. An uneducated population is easier to control.

To be Reckoned With…

Trump is still powerful. His use of phrases such as Fake News and Make America Great Again have earned him enormous support. He will call upon his marketing prowess to run a convincing election campaign targeted cleverly at his demographic. Reports have emerged that mail boxes are being removed throughout the country to prevent people from casting postal votes in the lead up to the election, and who knows what he is doing behind the scenes.

It is dangerous to underestimate Trump. Hilary Clinton did it at the last election and paid the price. The world saw Trump as a joke and his candidacy as a side show, but he won the election. Satirists and comedians drew enormous value from his presence in the White House until they realised that he was creating the problems which plague the country today. Satirists also realised that Trump’s fact was more ridiculous than any of their fiction.

Rational people and sensible citizens must continue to fight against the lies and the false claims during the election in order to avoid another term with Trump.

Even if he loses the upcoming election, the damage he has done to the USA will take years to repair, and the country will be more divided than ever. The other section of his supporter base does not mind if this is the case.

Trump’s other supporter base is big business. Trump himself is a business man and analysts have suggested that he ran for office not just because he is a narcissist, but because he saw an opportunity to further his own business interests. Corporations are benefiting from Trump’s presidency. Ironically, they benefit from exploiting average Americans, by exploiting American workers – by exploiting Trump supporters.

If this cruel dichotomy was pointed out to Trump’s supporters, they would just say it is fake news.

Image: Washington Post

Teachers face this every day.

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Australians reacted in horror to social media footage showing citizens refusing to obey coronavirus social distancing rules. The perpetrators demonstrated rudeness, arrogance, insolence and self-entitlement, and blatantly disobeyed authorities and expert advice which placed themselves and others at risk. Australian school teachers face this kind of behaviour every day.

I don’t consent to being punished

One woman actually said this to police in one of the viral videos. Australians mocked the woman for holding such a ridiculous view of law and order and the new health measures. This attitude is not entirely new however. Australian students, and many of their parents, have created an atmosphere in schools in which students feel they have the right to ignore teachers or punishments if they do not consent, or if the punishment doesn’t suit them.

“I told my daughter not to do the detention.”

A parent said this to me. No hint of irony or sarcasm. Her year 7 daughter had been repeatedly warned about her misbehaviour and defiance which was preventing her and her classmates from learning. The student refused to do numerous detentions, and she told me she would not do any in the future. She accompanied her response with a smirk that would have made Scott Morrison proud.

How can she get away with this?

Because her mother told her not to do the detention.

Why?

Because the daughter didn’t want to do the punishment. They kind of missed the point – no one is supposed to want or like a punishment.

Teachers have been stripped of their ability to manage student behaviour in schools. Parents and students now dictate behaviours to teachers, and schools largely acquiesce, partly because this is the atmosphere that Australia as a nation has created in our school system, and partly because this was a fee-paying school in which parents believe they have unlimited power. As student behaviour worsens, teachers’ power decreases.

Another student once refused to do a lunchtime detention, but only because two other teachers had already given him detention for the same lunch break. I suggested he hire a secretary.

Casual defiance

During the early days of the pandemic in Australia, many citizens blatantly ignored or disobeyed police. When the first lockdown was implemented, police patrolled public spaces to enforce social distancing rules. News reports carried endless stories of everyday Aussies blatantly ignoring police, refusing to obey directives, answering back to police and arguing with the officers. Yes, arguing with police. The citizens were in the wrong, the police were enforcing rules designed to protect the general public, but people flat out refused to obey.

The citizens weren’t committing a crime as such. Their actions were minor compared to serious crimes, but they were disobeying police. Teachers are subjected to this behaviour every day. Students are asked or told to correct minor behaviours and so often they refuse, comply reluctantly or slowly, answer back, argue or reply with a smart, arrogant comment.

The casual defiance greets teachers every single day. It is enormously frustrating and draining for teachers to have to put up with this unnecessary behaviour every few minutes of every day.

By the way, is anyone else concerned that everyday Aussies are blatantly disobeying police and getting away with it?

Whingers

Australians love the term Whingeing Pom, which implies that English people complain about everything. Australians now whinge as much as any pasty Pom.

Australians are complaining that they are forced to wear a mask or walk the same streets in their own neighbourhood every day in order to curb the spread of the disease. Their ancestors lived through world wars and the depression, but they whinge about having to wear a mask outside. Australia’s penchant for whingeing is no more evident than in a school classroom.

Whinge your way to better grades.

Students no longer accept poor grades. If they don’t get the marks they want, many students complain. Unfortunately, even the most incoherent, meaningless, poorly written work must be re-assessed. Teachers are not allowed to tell students that their work simply isn’t good enough, even if it is clearly below the accepted minimum standard for that stage of education. Given the state of literacy in this country, some work should be sent straight to the recycling bin

Students have realised that they can whinge and complain their way to better marks. Students and/or parents complain, behind the teacher’s back, to the head of department or to the principal. The teacher is hauled before the head of department or principal, as if they are in trouble. The essay/ piece of work is given to another teacher to assess and in most cases the mark will be improved. It might only go from a C to a C plus, and no further, but the student wins. The teacher’s professional integrity is shattered, and their relationship with their colleague who re-marked the work could be damaged. Teachers will often give a higher mark to a re-assessed paper because for them it is not worth the hassle of maintaining the original mark.

This attitude is frighteningly obvious in the allocation of special consideration for students sitting the Higher School Certificate (HSC), the final exams in NSW. Hundreds of students, especially from private schools, are being granted extra time, breaks or other allowances to make their exams easier, and thus increase their grades. Many students should not qualify. They have exploited a loophole in the system and are benefiting.

The Boy in the Blazer

A classic example of a student who had whinged his way to special consideration in the HSC was the boy in the blazer. He attended a private school in Sydney, and his blazer was full of ‘letters’. Letters on a blazer are the private school way of honouring school achievement, and consist of an embroidered list on the student’s blazer. This boy had a long list of ‘letters’ on his blazer as a ‘prefect’ and ‘captain’ and member of various sporting teams. His demeanour suggested no learning difficulty. Yet, this ‘super’ student still needed extra time and other allowances to complete his exams.

Don’t give an E

I was told never to give a E. Using the scale of A,B,C,D,E, with E being the lowest, I was told to never give an E, because it was too much hassle for me as the teacher. If I had given E, I would spend hours of my free time justifying the grade, and the grade would probably be changed anyway.

Australians are whinging their way to better marks. They’re also whinging their way to a future of illiteracy.

Shameless and fearless

The people disobeying police also appear to have no shame or fear. They broadcast their disobedience and law breaking, and usually their un-masked face, on their own social media channels. They are either as stupid as a first-grade footballer, or absolutely convinced that they will not be punished.

They are not afraid of consequences.

In one school at which I taught, graffiti was a huge problem. You must be thinking, wouldn’t it be great if you could find out who was doing the graffiti, so you could punish the accordingly and stop it from happening. Wouldn’t it be great if you could put on your detective hat and determine through stealth who had applied the abstract tag or piece to the wall. It would be like uncovering the identity of Banksy. Except these students weren’t Banksy – they would graffiti their own initials. Everyone knew exactly who was guilty. The students had no fear or shame, however, because they were never punished.

A violation of human rights

The Bunnings video.

Another video showed a woman berating lowly-paid staff at hardware store Bunnings. Bunnings recently introduced a rule requiring every customer in Victoria to wear a face mask. No mask – no entry. The woman claimed that it was her right not to wear a mask, and that forcing her to wear a mask, or barring her entry, was a violation of her human rights.

Why is it that so many Australian coronavirus controversies have occurred at a Bunnings?

People the world over are complaining that the COVID-19 rules violate their human rights. The cult of the individual, to which these people subscribe, and for which we can thank the USA, has convinced these people that their individual rights are more important than the wellbeing of society, and that any action which prevents them from doing what they want to do is a violation of their human rights.

The dirty kitchen

I once taught at a boarding school. My role included supervising secondary boys in their dorm rooms, including the small kitchen they could use for snacks and supper. Teenage boys have a famously large appetite so bed-time snacks were common. The boys knew they had to clean up after themselves.

One night, one boy had finished his snack and was walking out of the kitchen without cleaning up his mess. I told him to clean it up. He refused. I insisted he clean it up, because that was the rule. I also insisted because the student was new, and was attempting to get away with disobeying every teacher in the school. He had so far ticked many of the teachers off his list, including the headmaster, which was rather disconcerting. I refused to give in to this deliberate act of disobedience, and a tense situation ensued. I did not raise my voice. I did not touch or approach the student. I simply used the broken record technique which has served teachers well throughout the ages. The headmaster heard what was happening and tried to help. Ironically, the boy ignored the headmaster and eventually listened to me and cleaned up his mess, before threatening all manner of harm on me.

I was later warned about my actions by the headmaster. He told me, with a straight face, that when I insisted on the student cleaning up his mess, I was violating the boy’s human rights. I’ll remember that next time someone asks me to clean the kitchen.

In that case, if you’ve ever collected garbage, worked as a cleaner or changed a baby’s nappy, are you a victim of human rights abuse?

Time wasting

Don’t forget, this behaviour is an enormous time waster.

Every COVID-19 related warning, arrest, fine or action has to be filed by police. This involves paperwork and man hours to process. Every time a person refuses to wear a mask or social distance and accept the subsequent punishment, they are wasting police time. One example circulating the media involved a lawyer for the anti-masker attending the police station in a balaclava to issue some form of legal proceedings against police on behalf of his client. His client was clearly in the wrong and clearly has no case, but the system is required to process the legal proceedings.

Teachers are also subject to enormous time wasting by students and parents who refuse to accept the justifiable actions of the teachers or the school. Every student or parental complaint has to be documented. Every act of student misbehaviour has to be documented. Modern day teachers spend so much of their time logging student misbehaviour in order to satisfy bureaucratic requirements and to cover their own backs that they are left with little to time to plan, prepare and teach.

Powerless

A lot of the responses to the videos on social media asked;

Why do police put up with this? 

A lot of people also don’t understand why teachers put up with bad behaviour every single day.

They have no choice.

The authority of teachers is being stripped away year by year, and the list of prohibited punishments grows longer every year. Students know this, and canny teenagers realise they are unlikely to face consequences for most forms of misbehaviour. Teachers are now paranoid that a punishment will result in an accusation of mistreatment from the student or parent. Worse still, that complaint is likely to be listened to. A complaint, no matter how unjustified, can these days cost a teacher their job or career.

Are police similarly constrained? I’ve never worked in the police or law enforcement so I can’t say, but are they under similar instructions to tread carefully with offenders? The social media videos show a lot of police copping a lot of abuse from people in the wrong. We certainly have to congratulate the police, and teachers, for keeping their cool in these situations.

Self-entitlement

Did you see the video of the young woman driving through a Melbourne border checkpoint? It made the news and did the rounds on social media – mainly because the woman in question posted it on her own facebook account.

The woman refused to cooperate with police then drove through the checkpoint, before police could decide whether she had a right to pass through the checkpoint. Her manner was rude, insolent and arrogant towards police, and she refused to do anything police asked her to do. She then drove off laughing and celebrating her ‘victory’. She revealed her identity on social media, and had to know that police would take down her number plate.

This is typical of the sense of self-entitlement that many young Australians feel, and typical of the behaviour directed at teachers on a daily basis.

Authorities claimed the woman “…deliberately attempted to cause issue for police…”. Countless school students deliberately cause issues for teachers, for the fun of it. This destroys the learning of other students, and in the case of subjects like manual arts, technology or sport, puts everyone in physical danger.

“Teenagers are disobedient, it’s your job to discipline them”

I was told this by the mother of a girl whose blatant disobedience was ruining my year 10 English class. She forgot that first and foremost its the job of parents to discipline their children, something she had failed to do for the last 16 years.

Just because teachers DO put up with this behaviour, doesn’t mean they SHOULD. In countries with high levels of academic achievement, teachers are regarded as scholars, and spend much less time dealing with behavioural issues. Meanwhile, Australia continues to fall behind.

Just like the anti-maskers or COVID-19 conspiracy theorists, the actions of disobedience ruin things for everyone else. Anti-maskers put other people at risk of contracting a deadly disease. Disobedient students prevent other students from learning.

Are you saying school is all about discipline and punishment?

No.

School is for learning. Without behaviour management, or discipline, teaching and learning cannot occur. Literacy and numeracy rates continue to fall across the nation, and poor student behaviour is one of the main reasons. Not the only reason, but a significant reason. There are many different ways to ensure students behave, and corporal punishment is not one of them, despite what some people might say.

Are you saying shop staff, police and medical staff should put up with this behaviour?

Absolutely not. Low-paid  shop workers, like those at Bunnings, as well as police, ambulance drivers and other front line workers, should never have to put up with this behaviour. It is disgraceful and it highlights many of the underlying faults in Australian society.

Why is it such a big deal?

It is harming students, teachers and the nation.

Disobedient, rude, selfish, arrogant and entitled students are on the rise, and they are ruining the education of the good students. The endless defiance of students is driving good people away from the teaching profession, and the behaviour of students on a daily basis is lowering the general standard of education in the country. An uneducated population will not withstand competition from emerging and advanced nations, and Australia is dumbing down more and more every year.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a politician to thank Australian teachers for their dedication during COVID-19…in the form of a pay rise.

Image: Element5digital