The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Why you should vote “Yes”, even if you don’t want to

Well, the day is finally here. The High Court challenges have been struck down, the campaigns have been run, and now here I am, walking up the street to cast my vote, in the warming sun of spring-time Sydney.

As I approach the polling place, I cannot help but smile that the vote should take place in a church. How satisfying, to imagine god looking down upon me as I vote. I must remember to look up and wink at him, right when I mark my ballot paper. Not in a sexy way, mind. That would be a little hypocritical, given why I’m here. Just in a completely platonic “Hey buddy, I got this” kind of way. But anyway… what a sweet irony, that the democratic process of this lucky, prosperous, fair-go-for-all country should call on me to vote in god’s own house. And how fortunate, that that same democratic process is giving me an opportunity to have a say in how other people live their lives.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it. It’s not just a say in how they live their lives. It’s about how their lives affect me. Even they admit there aren’t many of them. What is it, like 8% at most? And yet they already affect every aspect of our lives, and, more importantly, the lives of our children. That’s what this is really about – a battle. A battle for the minds of the young. Because the future is forged in the minds of the young. And fart jokes. Fart jokes are also forged in the minds of the young. Their side has always known that. Probably not the bit about fart jokes, because they never appear to have a sense of humour. But definitely the bit about the future. And that’s what they’re trying to do here.

But even if they weren’t trying to convert our kids, I’d still vote “No”, because they’re wrong. As simple as that. They’re wrong and they want to drag the rest of us down with them. I can’t stand the thought of all the things they do and say behind those closed doors. It’s gross. And ridiculous. It’s… it’s… dammit. I was trying to combine “gross” and “ridiculous” into a word but I can’t, because I’m so angry and grodiculous.

These are the thoughts that consume me as I shuffle along in the queue, smiling at my own righteousness, and breathing in the delicious smell of sausage. In fact, all I can smell is sausage. Far out, now all I want to do is eat a sausage. Not in a sexy way, mind. That would be a little hypocritical, given why I’m here. It’s just a democracy sausage. I’m allowed to eat a democracy sausage.

Eventually I find myself completely alone in a small cardboard cubicle next to 30 other people completely alone in their own cardboard cubicles. I try and stifle the similarities with that weird night out in Hong Kong, and I look down to see a piece of paper, and a crappy pencil, and a simple question. But no sausages.

And the question is beautiful. And just what I wanted. And I will vote “No”, because that’s what I believe, and that’s what they deserve. So I grab my crappy pencil, which is way too short and digs into my palm. And as I look down at my hand, and at the pencil digging into my palm, I am struck with both the simplicity and the power of it all. There’s no fighting in the streets, no storming of the palace gates. All it takes is me, armed with a simple pencil, and answering a simple question, and the lives of many are changed forever. And I imagine the hand of a “Yes” voter poised above the same ballot, possibly right next to me, and I grin as I imagine what she must be thinking. She’s also thinking about the simple question, and the simple pencil, and about how right now millions of her fellow citizens are grinning, just like me, at being able to have their say in how she lives her life. Her hand is probably shaking… with rage, or fear, or embarrassment, that something so dear to her, something so innate and precious, is being subjected to the whims of a bunch of complete strangers.

Wait, what? Where did those thoughts come from?

This isn’t about her! It’s about me, and my children, and what’s right. Right?

My pencil hovers above the “No” box. Now it’s my hand that is shaking. What am I doing? I look once more at the question before me, the question previously so simple and beautiful:

“Should we continue to allow the public practice of Christianity?”

I read it again, and again, and again. And suddenly everything is not as simple as I thought. Their faith is misplaced, and it does affect my life, and they do try and influence our children.

But it is precious to them. And sincere. And their right.

We’re all different, but we’re all in this together. And a part of our democracy would die if we were to take it away from them.

So I vote “Yes”. Not because I agree.

But because it’s right.

North Korea – Our Favourite Disneyworld Ride

North Korea

When I woke up the other day, I thought that either hell had frozen over, or that I’d been transported to an alternate universe. The reason for this was that every major news outlet, even the two remaining reputable ones, was reporting the DPRK’s test firing of an ICBM. DPRK is, of course, our favourite comedy villain, The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, and ICBM is Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile.

I’m very tempted, at this point, to launch into some highly abstruse alphabet soup, complete with missile designators, performance graphs, finely sliced shades of definition for ‘inter-continental’ and ‘ballistic’, and a semantic disambiguation of the ICBM trope from its actual technical meaning. Thing is, there’s quite a bit of this stuff publicly available right now, and since nobody, journalists included, seems to have read or understood it, I don’t really see why I should bother. Let’s instead boil it down to simple terms suited to what I am reluctantly forced to call the ‘discourse’ on this subject.

Question: Does North Korea currently possess, in the apocalyptic sense all of us Cold War babies understand the term, any ICBMs?

Answer: Almost certainly not.

And there in the answer is what I think is the essence of the problem. For those of us who are accustomed to having their statements listened to and acted upon, and who actually care about this beyond the action of clicking on an article (I’m looking at you, journalists), a flat yes or no on this question is almost impossible to issue. This is because the study of security, international relations, and other related fields, breeds a healthy and not entirely unjustified paranoia. Certainty is a luxury of the ignorant or un-involved. There is a chance, roughly equivalent to the chance that human civilisation was initially formed by fish-shaped aliens, that the DPRK does, in fact, have a functional arsenal of ICBMs. And the existence of this miniscule chance is enough to render it impossible for most of the security and intelligence establishment to say that they definitely don’t. And it is this miniscule gap which Trump, Kim Jong Un, and the world’s media in general has taken to with a crow bar.

The fact is, the DPRK’s last successful missile test was surprising for most analysts. Right up to the point where they’d had enough time to actually analyse the data and come to the conclusion that this wasn’t, in fact, a new missile, but rather a clever mashup of some old ones. And that this test represented not a re-write, but a slight adjustment in the rogue nation’s nuclear timetable. The idea that the DPRK was heading towards developing nuclear tipped missiles capable of inter-continental range is not a new one, and nor is the idea that they’re getting closer. So why the sudden hysteria? The answer can’t be technical – the simple fact is that the projections haven’t actually changed that much. Certainly not enough to justify all this extra noise in both camps. So what is, in fact, the cause?

The answer isn’t as bloodcurdling as many would like it to be, but it is depressing, if that’s any comfort. The fact of the matter is that the drastic increase in chilling DPRK disaster porn is almost certainly being driven by politics (there’s that ‘almost’ again – I can’t help myself). Idiot in Chief President Trump has made up what must by courtesy be called his ‘mind’ to ‘solve’ the diplomatic tangle surrounding the DPRK. In doing so, he has sent a clear message to Kim Jong Un that acting out like a toddler having a tantrum in a supermarket is once again a policy which will generate diplomatic returns, and to the rest of the world that he’s a goddamned idiot. What opening this dialogue does for both leaders is create opportunities to meet and negotiate, while simultaneously pumping out enough rhetoric and propaganda to satisfy their own domestic requirements.

It should be noted that Trump and Kim have key similarities. They both rely heavily on a kind of personality cult to legitimate their power. They both have a requirement to look and act like crazy people in order to satisfy their political bases. And they both have access to a voting public capable of believing they’re on the brink of war in spite of zero pre-positioning or additional mobilisation taking place. So far, so comical.

What isn’t comical, however, is the very real potential for the world to stumble over its feet into an actual armed confrontation by joining in with the hysterical fantasies of megalomaniacs and clickbait generators. There’s ample precedent for this kind of nonsense, and it’s all gut-bustingly hilarious until the coffins start coming home. So while I do understand that the North Korea ride is definitely one of the most emotionally satisfying, I’d urge everyone to please, for the love of all that’s good in the world, just click a few more times. To read more than just headlines. To treat all of Trump’s statements as seriously as we treat Kim Jong Un’s haircuts. And, most important of all, to get off this stupid ride before we all nose it off the rails with our shouty groupthink silliness. We’ve had our thrills and spills, and it’s time to stop before somebody really gets hurt.

Marriage Equality And Our Captains Courageous

Marriage Equality

I’m a bit sick of the marriage equality/same sex marriage/marry a donkey or a cat/won’t somebody think of the Christians/children/God’s apparently delicate feelings ‘debate’. One of the reasons I’m sick of it is because it’s never really been anything worthy of the name ‘debate’. Depressingly successful attempts to reduce the issue to a semantic dispute, inflate it into some sort of moral existential crisis, or otherwise obfuscate a very clear-cut issue with rank silliness, have left me deeply unwilling to participate in any way. Except for one, of course. If our Captains Courageous are successful in their bid to abrogate their moral and legal leadership and shift it back on to us, I will emphatically vote in favour of marriage equality, even if I have to use the experimental archaeology skills involved in doing this by ‘post’. Whatever that is.

Sure, there’s a few problems with this. There’s the problem of religious protections, for example. Now, religious protections are crucially important for a free society. They’re the same protections which allow me to suggest that fundamentalist Christians should be de-registered as humans because nothing with a cognitive ability that low should be given either a vote or a seat in parliament. I’m looking at you, Magic Mike Baird and the right faction of the Liberal Party. And I suppose it’s important that the poor beleaguered minority of Christian cake makers, eking out an existence in the majority religion of the nation, shouldn’t be bullied by horrible militant gays or suchlike. Actually, it probably isn’t. But the preservation of real and actual religious pluralism is definitely top priority if I’m not to lose my right to say that belief in an anthropomorphic interventionist god should be classified by the UN as a disability. Leaving aside the fact that it’s got four fifths of diddly squat to do with marriage equality, in the abstract, it’s an important principle.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of this whole postal plebiscite/survey/waste of time/display of moral cowardice/popular vote thing. If I were to display the same kind of moral rigour as a Cato the Elder, or either of the Brutii, I’d probably be required to treat this whole debacle with Olympian detachment and abstain. The grounds for this would be that voting to change back a piece of legislation which was more or less arbitrarily changed by a befuddled reactionary thirteen years ago simply isn’t my job. It’s parliament’s. And that actual equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of orientation or creed, is not a question of popular will, but of moral and legal necessity. And that this is not so much a bid to gauge the (entirely irrelevant in this case) popular will, but rather a pathetically transparent delaying tactic designed to appease the government’s conservative Catholic base. Leaving all that aside, my personal belief is that it’s incumbent on us to rise above the nonsense and gently but firmly show the government the bloody obvious, rather like a new dog owner pushing a puppy’s snout into the mess it’s just made on the carpet.

So, regardless of what happens in various courts, or in the morally mendacious lower house and its mentally deficient cousin, the upper, I’d say the order of priority would run as follows:

  1. Vote ‘yes’ on marriage equality
  2. Demand parliamentarians do their actual jobs
  3. Marry a cat

That last one’s basically designed to keep Corey Bernardi happy. Because when he’s not happy, he talks about stuff, which is almost as bad as having a government who actually has to ask the general public whether or not it should continue to actively deprive sections of the population of their basic statutory and human rights.