ANZAC Day is the one day of the year…

ANZAC Day is the one day of the year that many Australians show any genuine respect for Australian history. For the remaining 364 days, many remain ignorant, dismissive, racist, sexist and bigoted. These overtly patriotic Aussies access a deeply-hidden reverence on April 25 and demand that the remainder of the population display an equal amount of pride in the achievements of soldiers and the nation as a whole.

Respect Australian history!

Many Australians implore us all to respect the nation’s history on ANZAC Day during personal conversations, across social media, in the workplace and on the flagpole in front of their house. These same people exhibit very little interest in the stories of women, migrants and Aboriginal people and the part they played in the nation’s history. History for many Australians extends to accounts of WWI and WWII, the Gold Rush, Federation and the Explorers. The figures they credit with building the nation are Diggers (soldiers) farmers, sportspeople and Explorers – almost all of whom are Caucasian and male. All Australians recognise the part these people played in shaping the modern nation, but some realise that women, migrants and Aboriginal people also made a significant contribution to contemporary Australia, and deserve to be remembered.

The respectful mourners cling to the following tried and true phrases about the history of this nation:

Australia has no history

Proud, flag-waving patriots often bemoan the fact that Australia has no history. They perpetuate this idea with reference to the age-old cultures and structures of Europe or Asia and compare these to Australia’s comparative youth. There is one major flaw in this thinking; it completely dismisses the existence of Indigenous Australians, who continue the world’s oldest surviving culture.

It happened long ago, forget about it

When confronted with the truth of colonisation and the forceful dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, many Australians tell Aboriginal people that ‘it happened a long time ago’ and that everyone should ‘let it go’, ‘move on’ or ‘forget about it’. They issue the same response to stories of the Stolen Generation, The Aboriginal Day of Mourning’ and accounts of individual massacres of Aboriginal people across the nation. Interestingly, they refuse to forget about WWI even though that happened ‘a long time ago’.

They defend our way of life

We are told that Australia’s armed forces defend the nation. We are told that our armed services personnel ‘keep us safe’ and ‘protect our way of life’. The last time we were reminded of this our prime minister, Scott Morrison, even forced himself to cry for the cameras. Most of us believe these broad statements, out of patriotism or naivety. We fail to recognise that these statements are often used to justify support of the multi-million dollar defence industry, and to send young people to needless deaths. Armed forces play a part in defending the nation, but so do trade and diplomacy.

Did the ANZACS protect Australia?

ANZAC Day was created to recognise the sacrifices, hardships and deaths of soldiers in WWI, particularly in Gallipoli, Turkey. WWI never directly threatened Australia. Australians lost their lives protecting Great Britain. ANZAC Day also recognises Australia’s contribution to WWII, when we fought again for the British. Our own country was directly threatened in WWII when Japanese submarines entered Sydney harbour and their planes bombed Darwin. It is also argued that the fall of Singapore posed a subsequent threat to Australia, and that Australian soldiers suffered while defending the tiny nation. That said, most Australian armed forces personnel fought for Great Britain in WWII, in battles waged a long way from Australia. Did they protect Australia, or did they protect our relationship with our colonial masters?

Current ANZAC Day commemorations pay tribute to soldiers who have have worn the Australian uniform in any war, but all of these battles have occurred overseas, most often in service of The United States during their wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. The only extended battle that occurred on Australian soil was the battle between the British colonisers and Indigenous Australians, but the ANZAC Day commemorators don’t like to be reminded of this. They cling to another popular phrase associated with the history of the nation: Australia was settled, and not invaded.

Do Australians realise this historical truth, or are they too enamoured with the patriotism of ANZAC Day to accept the subtle and nuanced details of modern history?

The strength and depth of emotion prompted by ANZAC Day could be explained by a question:

What is Australian?

The problematic nature of Australian identity also explains the heightened reverence towards ANZAC Day. April 25 has become a quasi national day and surpassed January 26 in the minds of many Aussies, because Australia Day is problematic.

Many Australians continue to celebrate Australia Day with joy and pride, while Indigenous Australians refer to it as Invasion Day. The day itself raises the difficult question of what it means to be Australian. Is an Australian an Indigenous person? Is an Australian a Caucasian soldier, farmer or athlete, or is an Australian a migrant who could have been born anywhere in the world? Is it all of the above?

For many Australians, this question is too difficult to answer, or even to consider, so they impose their patriotism on ANZAC Day. Some keen observers have tracked the increasing patriotism associated with ANZAC Day, and fear it could overshadow the remembrance of fallen soldiers, for whom the day was created.

Don’t criticise ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day is sacred. ANZAC Day is off limits. Even this article is likely to be met with scorn and criticised as unpatriotic or an insult to fallen soldiers – most likely by the same people who carry bumper stickers reading:

Australia, if you don’t like it, fuck off!

Any questioning of any aspect of ANZAC Day is interpreted as an attack on the memories of fallen soldiers and their surviving families. These reactive, emotional responses exemplify the blind reverence for April 25 among a section of the Australian population, who show little to no interest in nuanced and varied accounts of Australian history for the remainder of the year.

Should we ignore ANZAC Day?

No

Absolutely not.

This article is in no way intended to diminish the sacrifices of individual soldiers, civilians and their families. It is not intended to brush aside the sufferings and horrors of war. It is designed to remind people that historical perspective should be exercised every day of the year, not just when commemorating war. It is also designed to remind all Australians that patriotism is a vital component of ANZAC Day celebrations but it should not overshadow the original purpose of the day; to pay respect to individual soldiers, and to do everything possible to make sure war never happens again.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

Underperforming team set to bring on reserves.

The starting team is failing. The run on team isn’t up to scratch. What do you do?

You give the reserves a chance.

You put on the replacement players, the ones who’ve been waiting for a chance to show what they can do. It might work, and the team might return to winning ways. It might not, but surely it’s worth a try.

It’s time to take the men off the field, and give women a chance. Men have ruled the world since time began, and the harsh reality is that the world is in a bad way. Man are dropping the ball, missing tackles, throwing forward passes, missing an open goal, and often show a complete lack of effort.

So why are they still on the field?

When sporting teams fail, starting players are replaced – some of them never return. The replacements are given a go, to see if they can fix the problems. Fans demand change. Managers and club bosses demand change. Sponsors demand change. Something always changes when a sporting team is performing poorly for an extended period of time.

If we demand such action for our favourite sporting teams, why are we not demanding the same of the leaders of our society? After all, sporting teams just play sport – it’s not that important. On the other hand, societal leaders, especially politicians, make laws and decisions which effect the daily lives of all of their constituents.

Having multiple women in genuine positions of power could solve some of the world’s biggest problems including overpopulation, environmental destruction, rising inequality, corporate greed, exploitation and human trafficking.

Overpopulation

Overpopulation is the biggest problem facing the world right now. Men cause population growth, and men have prevented it from being addressed. Men continue to stifle efforts to control population growth by standing in the way of methods such as the use of contraception, and the legalisation of abortion and assisted dying. Even suicide is illegal in many countries.

Acceptance and decriminalisation of same-sex relationships could limit population growth, because same-sex couples cannot naturally reproduce. Furthermore, it is known that fewer children are born into relationships with greater gender equality.

Interestingly, organised religions outlaw or criminalise many all of the actions which could limit population growth. Men control organised religions.

Human trafficking

Trafficked people can be male or female, adults or children. Many are forced into hard labour, many are forced into prostitution. Who runs the corporations which benefit from cheap labour? Usually men. Who uses the services of prostitutes? Usually men.

Environmental destruction

Corporate greed, as well as overpopulation, is driving environmental destruction. The climate crisis is causing extreme weather events, which can be disastrous or even deadly. The climate crisis has created environmental refugees and has reduced the amount of resources available to people, at the same time that the world is becoming more populated. Men run the corporations, and created the culture of greed which underpins the corporate world. Corporations and their leaders are obliged to return higher and higher margins of profit at every reporting period. Even business and finance experts agree that this can only be achieved either by acts of economic genius, or by the exploitation of the environment and/or people.

Business experts also argue that female directors can often adopt a different style of management.

It is well documented that during a recent economic downturn, major banks in Iceland suffered massive losses, and were threatened with closure. The economic meltdown was blamed on a banking and business culture that was labelled ‘buccaneering’ and ‘reckless’ – and was overwhelmingly male. The economy was rescued in large part by women.

Three women in particular were credited with boosting the economy. Halla Tómasdóttir and Kristin Petursdóttir are the founders of Audur Capital, and they teamed up with one of Iceland’s most famous names, the singer Bjork, to establish an investment fund that invested in green technology. They made a deliberate effort to incorporate female values into the world of private equity, wealth management and corporate advice. From all reports, it worked.

Iceland’s northern neighbour, Finland, is the origin of Women’s Bank, a fund that supports sustainable entrepreneurship and livelihood among women in developing countries.

According to the Women’s Bank;

“…gaining approval for women’s entrepreneurship is the most efficient way of decreasing poverty in the world, as women and girls often form a forgotten resource.”

Perhaps the best way to harness this resource is to place more women in charge.

Still in Finland, the country has recently earned the distinction of having the world’s youngest leader. Sanna Marin was 34 when elected as prime minister, and remains one of the few women to run a country. Many of her party colleagues are young and female. Is Finland prospering? It appears to be. A detailed analysis of the country’s performance is too lengthy for this article, but the country consistently performs highly in international standardised education tests.

Another young female national leader is Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. New Zealand has almost returned to ‘normality’ after negotiating its way through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s management of the pandemic is held up as world leading practice. Results that Scott Morrison, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro could only dream of.

Jacinda Ardern is a woman. Jacinda Ardern got results. In contrast, Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, responded to nationwide protests calling for an end to violence against woman by essentially telling protestors they should be grateful they didn’t get shot.

Is this goal realistic?

Mosuo and Scandinavian cultures prove that a society based on female empowerment can prosper.

Scandinavian societies traditionally enjoyed greater gender equality. Historical texts tell us that women carried out physical tasks alongside men, including hand to hand combat, and owned some of the land on which they worked. They ran a variety of independent businesses and were apparently able to keep the profits, and pass those profits onto their own children. Then this changed, and women were relegated to domestic roles and lost much of their independence. It is believed that this was largely due to the arrival of Christianity.

Mosuo women belong to a rare matriarchal society in Yunnan, south-west China. Apparently, Mosuo women are in charge, marriage does not exist and society follows a maternal bloodline. Men are called upon only for the act of reproduction and women own and inherit poperty.

Does it work?

Well, the system has been lived for thousands of years, and the Mosuo are surviving and prospering.

Great game in a losing team.

Of course. Not all men are performing poorly. Just like a sporting team, some men are doing a great job while those around them are failing. These starting players should be kept on the field when the reserves are brought on because they can be part of the change, part of the solution. Luckily, capable, qualified, skilled, dedicated, determined and proven reserves are ready to take their place of those who are not playing well.

Conversely, women need to be installed in positions of power in sufficient numbers. Individual women may be talented and capable, and some countries, states, provinces, organisations and corporations are led by women. But individual woman will struggle to make genuine change, and may only be able to, or interested in, perpetuating the cycle which caused so much damage to the world. Bringing on only one reserve when the team is being thrashed will not save the team – no matter how good that player is.

The ideal team is thus a combination of men and women who are capable and produce consistent results. A team selected by merit, not gender.

Men created and control the systems which have placed the world in such a precarious position. The systems need to change for a more optimistic future. Can those systems change while men are still in charge?

Image: http://www.sherrin.com.au

Why are dogs allowed in cafes?

Dogs are as common in Australian cafes these days as smashed avocado and freshly-ground coffee. But should they be?

Diners adhering to the latest social trend pile into cafes with their four-legged friends and potentially threaten the health of cafe staff and other diners.

Surely, pet dogs present a threat to hygiene standards, particularly in an age of heightened awareness since the outbreak of COVID-19. While humans are now required to check in via an app, and to sanitise their hands, dogs are not. Dogs don’t sanitise their paws before their owners take brunch, and a lot of these dogs have come straight from the park or the beach where they have been rolling around in the grass, the mud or the sand.

Dogs have a seat at the table.

Many owners even set their dog on a cafe chair to eat and drink with them. The dog’s posterior, which may have recently ejected a dropping and has never seen a bidet, is thus placed on a seat which a future patron will occupy. Cafes wipe down tables, and clean cutlery and crockery, but I don’t remember seeing waitstaff wiping down a seat at a cafe.

How is this hygienic?

How is it allowed during COVID-19?

Pet dogs definitely present a threat to health and hygiene in areas of food preparation and consumption. For this reason, they are technically prohibited from public food preparation areas, such as communal barbecue areas at parks and beaches.

But my dog is clean

Owners will claim that their dog is clean. It gets washed, goes to the vet and is healthy.

How do we know that?

Cafe staff and other customers have to take the owner’s word for it. Every other person using that cafe has to trust that every dog is clean and not likely to threaten the hygiene and safety of the eatery.

We do it at home

Dog owners will argue that they let their dogs into their kitchens and dining rooms at home, and that they let their dogs eat from their floor or their dinner plates, or straight from their hands. They argue that it is no different to a dog eating at a cafe.

It is different.

Owners accept the risk of contamination when they obtain a pet. Owners know exactly where the dog has been before it enters the kitchen or the dining room. Owners know when the dog was last washed. Owners can also control their dog and stop it from doing soemthing that might threaten someone else’s health or safety. Strangers can’t. Dogs won’t automatically obey directions of a stranger, and dog owners often react with horror when someone else tries to control their precious pooch.

Maybe the current pandemic is an opportunity to remind people that dogs don’t belong in cafes.

Image: 2PhotoPots

…no religion too…

Imagine there was no religion taught in Australian schools. Imagine removing religion from the curriculum of every school and thus removing the primary justification for the existence of private schools.

Why?

Private schools are detrimental to the Australia education system, and almost all private schools are faith-based.

How?

Ban compulsory lessons which teach students a particular faith and allow schools to only teach about religion, the way government schools currently approach the subject. Students at government schools currently receive instruction in their chosen faith only in lessons taught by religious specialists from outside the school, and only if their parents have chosen that option. The remaining students participate in other subjects. In contrast, religious education lessons at faith-based schools are compulsory.

Teach about religion.

Religion underpins Australian society. The Judeo-Christian world view informs our parliamentary and legal systems, so religion cannot and should not be ignored. History and Humanities subjects can still examine the role religion played in events such as colonisation and the Stolen Generation in Australia. Students can study, and even join, religious volunteer organisations like Vinnies and the Salvation Army. They can also research the Crusades and the Reformation, the conflict in the West Bank and Northern Ireland, and even the convergence of major religions in the court of Kublai Khan.

Is it possible to teach about religion without teaching religion?

Yes.

Government schools do it. Steiner schools do it, so do the small number of independent secular schools. I’ve done it. I had to explain the term BC to secondary students at a government school in Brunei, a country under strict Sharia law.

A module entitled ‘Belief Systems’ or ‘Faith’ could also present the broad principles of the world’s major religions, without instructing students to follow any of these systems of belief.

Would any fee-paying schools survive?

Yes. Non-religious private schools exist in Australia and include the following:

  • Steiner, Waldorf and Montessori schools.
  • International schools, such as International Grammar School in Sydney.
  • National schools, such as Japanese, French, German schools…
  • Schools such as Reddam House and Ascham in Sydney.

What if private schools dropped religion?

Many may survive. Reddam, after all, is famously non-religious and is entering its 21st year, while Ascham is one of the most prestigious girls schools in the country – for families who can afford it.

How are private schools detrimental?

Funding

Private schools continue to receive substantial government funding as well as contributions from the religious organisations which run them, plus fees from parents. The same religious organisations receive additional government funding – for being religious organisations, and enjoy tax concessions – for being religious organisations.

This reduces the funding provided to government schools, which are poorly resourced and struggle to offer a strong education to their students. An underfunded public education system produces an undereducated population, and this is bad for most of the country – most, but not all. A weakened public education system strengthens the private education system and offers an automatic head start to the students of private schools. So much for an egalitarian society.

Studies have indicated that the single biggest determinant of academic success in Australia is wealth. Thus, it is not surprising that the following attitudes exist among everyday Australians:

  • Private schools are better than public schools
  • People only send their children to public schools because they can’t afford private schools.
  • Private schools, especially Catholic schools, have better discipline.
  • Private schools are great for networking, which helps students secure employment later in life.

They’re not learning anyway.

Most students at Christian private schools know very little about their own faith. I can’t comment on Islamic or Jewish schools, because the majority of my teaching has been in government schools or Catholic and Protestant schools. Despite up to 12 years of instruction in one particular faith, most students will leave Christian schools with very little knowledge about the teachings of their own faith. So why should these Christian schools exist?

Australia is a secular society. Most students are not practising Christians, neither are their parents. Some students don’t belong to the faith of their school, nor do some of the teachers. Religious education is seen as the ‘bludge’ subject and very few parents ever book appointments with teachers of religion during Parent/Teacher interviews – but they all see the Maths teacher!

In fact, the dearth of religious knowledge among students at Christian private schools prompted a previous article on this site. The article proposes an independently administered exam in the faith of that school, to be sat by every student at that school (except K-2 students). If schools do not score an average of 80%, across the entire school, then they do not receive any government funding in the next round of funding distribution. They can only regain their funding when they score an average of 80% in the exam.

I am certain most Christian schools in Australia would not pass such an exam.

In addition, most Christian churches are largely empty during weekly church services, and Christmas and Easter are now a celebration of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Most children are sent to private schools because they are ‘better than the local public school’. Furthermore, the religious education subject is often given to (or forced upon) young teachers or new teachers at Christian schools, who can only ‘off-load’ the subject once they’ve proven themselves in their core subjects.

Australia is a secular country, and yet almost all of its private schools are religious.

Single-sex education

Most private schools are still single-sex. In 2021. Some have become wholly or partly co-educational, but most cling to their single-sex traditions. This can be beneficial to some of the students, depending on which educational theorist you read, but is it beneficial to society?

Students at single-sex schools miss the opportunity to mix daily with members of the opposite sex, but are suddenly forced to do so when they enter the real world. Moreover, some exclusive private schools still provide boarding. Thus, students study and live among their own gender, for up to 12 years. This informs their world view, and many of these students, especially boys, become leaders of society and make decisions which directly affect the lives of every Australian.

We are still suffering the results of this phenomena.

Attorney General Christian Porter was recently accused of historical rape. He was never found guilty, but was exposed for infidelity and sleazy behaviour with young female members of his staff, in a public bar near Parliament House. Porter attended Hale School in Perth. He and the remainder of his party have refused to allow an independent inquiry into his behaviour, which many Australians see as a disregard for the victim of the alleged rape and to women in general. The revelations prompted widespread protests throughout the nation calling for greater gender equality.

The response from the government has been appalling, and continues to inflame the conflict. Most of the politicians responsible for the response are male, and most attended single-sex, faith-based, private schools.

This follows the very public and misogynistic behaviour of students from two of Melbourne’s most exclusive boys private schools, Wesley College and St Kevin’s. It also follows allegations of a culture of rape and sexual abuse of girls by boys from Sydney’s most exclusive private schools, which was recently revealed in the mainstream media. An online petition signed by thousands of former private school girls alleges sexual assault by private school boys, and calls for greater focus on consent in sex education lessons delivered to boys. The creator of the petition, Chanel Contos, claims the culture of rape in Sydney is the worst she witnessed, despite having lived in two other countries.

Recent articles by Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper, and from respected child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, do not blame private schools for the toxic masculinity that pervades Australian society. They do, however, concede that they are a contributing factor.

Restricted curriculum

Religious schools present a restricted curriculum. Religious doctrine determines their teaching of science, gender, sexuality and other social issues. Future leaders carry this particular world view into politics and make judgements based on that world view. Our government and business leaders have also grown up in a world in which religious chaplains replace qualified counsellors at schools.

Where will students learn religion?

At home.

Place the onus on parents to provide their children with a religious education, either entirely at home or at institutions like Sunday School. The classes would take place outside of school hours and receive no government funding.

How can students learn morality?

At home.

Religious devotees of all faiths often argue that a non-religious person cannot learn morality. The boys at St Kevin’s, Wesley College and Hale clearly did not learn morality. The male politicians in the LNP, most of whom attended faith-based, single-sex private schools, show no evidence of moral learning. It is clear that notions of gender, class and racial superiority took precedence over values such as compassion, morality, respect, tolerance and service, for students of these private schools.

Is this article just religion bashing?

No.

Religion bashing is certainly on trend in Australia, but this article is not targeting religion per se. The article cites religion as the primary justification for the existence of most private schools in the country, and nominates private schooling as the problem.

A precedent

Private schools are rare or non-existent in countries such as Finland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Scandinavian countries. Singapore does have private schools, but these cater mostly for international/expat children. These same countries consistently top the rankings in international standardised exams. Experts suggest there is a correlation. When almost every child is forced to attend their local government school, every parent has a strong vested interest in the quality of that school. Thus, parents put pressure on the government to maintain high standards at local government schools, and hold the politicians and schools accountable. In addition, the people who make the decisions about school funding and educational standards, politicians, also send their children to government schools.

In Finland, apparently it is illegal to charge fees for a child’s education.

One must also point to the culture of these countries, not just the lack of private schools. Academic achievement is highly regarded in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and this explains their success. The countries themselves are also far from perfect. Enormous pressure is placed on students in some Asian countries and this can have disastrous effects on young people That said, Australia can learn something from these countries as literacy and numeracy rates continue to fall throughout the nation.

What happens next?

What would happen if schools were prevented from teaching religion in Australia? What would happen to the schools?

Schools could drop religion and remain private. Many parents would not remove their children, because we’ve already established that most parents don’t send their children to private schools for a religious education, but for a better general education.

If private schools are not religious, religious organisations have no reason to fund them. They may run into financial ruin, at which point they would be taken over by the government and become public schools. Parents could leave their children in that school, or seek another private school and compete with other parents for limited spaces.

If existng private school parents were forced to send their children to a public school, they would put more pressure on the government and educational authorities to adequately fund and resource the school and to ensure strong academic outcomes. More parents would have a vested in in quality public education, just as they do in countries such as Finland, Japan and Singapore, and governments would have no choice but to allocate more resources and care to public education.

Not only would parents demand adequate funding for their child’s school, but children from different social backgrounds would attend the same schools, and this has been found to create greater empathy between all groups in society, including those who formulate laws.

Where will they find the money?

The money to fund public education exists. Much of it is currently being directed to private schools, some of it is sitting in government coffers waiting to be spent on projects which will win votes at the next election. If there were fewer private schools in Australia, public education would become one of those central issues which could determine the outcome of an election.

The main obstacle to adequate funding of public education is political will, and religion.

Images: Element5Digital, http://www.pridelife.com.

Huge shock for Cronulla fans at start of 2021 season.

Cronulla Sharks fans have reacted with horror to the news that they are the most gullible fans in rugby league after it was discovered that their No. 1 ticket holder is an imposter.

And all it took was a beer, a smirk and a baseball cap.

On the morning of the NRL season kick-off, news has broken that Prime Minister Scott Morrison fooled the club into thinking that he supports the pride of The Shire. Morrison is seen at most home games wearing team merchandise, and his customary smirk, surrounded by adoring and naive fans who genuinely believed he is one of them – until today.

News broke that Morrison actually grew up in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney in the heartland of the Sydney Roosters. He also attended Sydney Boys High School, which is part of the Greater Public Schools network and only plays Rugby Union. What’s more, he declared himself a fan of the Western Bulldogs Aussie Rules team and stated that AFL is a “great game” and the AFL grand final is the “greatest show in Oz”.

Not only does the prime minister sport his Sharkies gear at home games, but even during his many photo opportunities and marketing videos broadcast to the Australian population.

Morrison only started publicly supporting Cronulla when he became the member for Cook. Sources have also suggested that Morrison only won Liberal preselection for the seat after News Limited ran a dirty smear campaign against long-standing Liberal member, and his opponent, Michael Towke.

Towke was also born in the east, but had lived in The Shire for many years, and was actively involved in many local organisations. Furthermore, Towke won the first preselection ballot in 2007, and polled 10 times as many votes as Morrison, 82 votes to 8. Morrison was eliminated in the first round. The Daily Telegraph then published four articles which heavily criticised Towke, even suggesting that he could be sent to jail.

Yet Sharks fans clap and cheer their famous fan as he cradles a beer in the stands at Shark Park.

A long and ugly defamation case ensued, and News Limited eventually settled with Towke out of court. The saga was revealed in the Sydney Morning Herald, and later in the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, and apparently News Limited offered The Leader a $110,000 payment to stop the story from going to print. It seems Rupert Murdoch wanted no bad marks against his selection for future prime minister.

A second preselection ballot was held, and Morrison was chosen to lead the Liberal party in The Shire. This is how Scott Morrison came to be the federal member for The Shire, and how he came to be the No.1 ticket holder for the Sharks.

Rupert Murdoch had chosen his man, and it was Morrison – not an Australian of Lebanese heritage. A few years later, Murdoch would send instructions for Malcolm Turnbull to be removed as leader of the Coalition, and replaced by Morrison.

But Sharks fans don’t see this, or don’t want to. The man they know as ScoMo drinks beer and wears the black, white and blue.

They cheer a man who marked International Women’s Day in 2019 by saying that women should not rise in society at the expense of men. The man who took a holiday in Hawaii while the country burned through horrific bushfires. The man who protects alleged rapists and has overseen scandals involving Sport Rorts, the destruction of the Murray-Darling basin and Robodebt. They also support a man who cut funding to aged care services while he was Treasurer. By the time today’s Sharks fans need aged care services, will Scott Morrison still be pretending to support the Sharks?

In fact, the strongest proof that Morrison may truly care about Sharks victories is his famous visit to Engadine Maccas after Cronulla won the grand final in 2016.

Image: http://www.sharks.com.au

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