The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Nah, we’re not racist at all

Yesterday morning, as I was walking from Wynyard Station to Barangaroo, trying my hardest not to sweat and failing miserably, I saw a woman about 20 metres in front of me ask a man for directions. This was not a particularly noteworthy event in itself, except for the fact that the woman was brown-skinned and wearing a hajib, and the man was a tall, white dude dressed in skin-tight white pants, a pale blue polo shirt, a navy blue suit jacket, and suede loafers.

As I walked closer, the bright-eyed optimist in me couldn’t help but think, “Aww… good on ya’ Australia”. For, where once we had Stolen Generations and White Australia Policies and Cronulla Riots, we had now crafted a society where a brown Muslim woman felt comfortable enough to approach what appeared to be an utter douche-nozzle and ask for help.

My optimism was soon somewhat tempered by the fact that, as well as being completely devoid of socks, the man was also devoid of helpful directions. But, you know, at least he hadn’t just ignored her, and Sydney’s a big place, and no one knows everything, and we are still waiting for someone to invent some kind of device that has maps and helps you find things. So… partial credit.

I started to approach the woman myself to see if I could help, but an Asian man leapt into action before me. I was, however, now close enough to hear the woman’s request, and as I walked past I heard her ask the nice Asian gentleman if he knew the way to Barangaroo.

Yes, that’s right… Barangaroo.

This whole thing literally occurred on the walkway leading directly there. And as I saw the Asian man point 20m behind him and heard him say “It’s right there”, all I could think about was how the first man didn’t know the way to Barangaroo, despite knowing enough about its location to be in the process of leaving it.

Maybe he didn’t speak English. Or maybe he was in a rush. Or, given he was dumb enough to forget socks, maybe he really was dumb enough to not know the name of the suburb containing the three towering office blocks right behind him.

All I know is that it couldn’t possibly have been because he was a racist, entitled jerk, because this is Australia in the year 2018, and we’re all nice now.

Right?

Scott Morrison, Lilluputian Soldier Of God. And Strawberries.

scott morrison proves theory of evolution

Just now Scott Morrison has announced that he will kick off the new parliamentary year with a new religious freedom bill, based on the recommendations of the Ruddock Report, which has been deemed so uncontroversial and even handed that it’s not to be released until parliament ceases business. Both of these actions are, to my mind, equally courageous, and representative of just how representative this particular government has been in its long history of operation, stretching as it has over several weeks.

Now, I know the naysayers will dismiss Scott Morrison as a spineless, mindless populist, with a policy focus millimetres deep, but miles wide and covering everything in the path of this last hour’s prevailing political wind. Nasty satirists like Sean Micaleff have pointed out that Scott Morrison is routinely thrown to the ground and hopelessly pinioned when wrestling with the most basic of English sentences, and have made a string of cheap and unfunny jokes about this. I’ve included a link here, for your mature disapproval and censure. But I’m not one of those nay-sayers – I say nay to nay-saying, and in this kind of stance, I’m exactly like my role model, that admirable example of gratuitous Lilliputian aggression, Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

I personally believe that our prime minister is a man of deep integrity and courage. I mean, we only have to look at the strawberry tampering case to see a prime example of this. No sooner had some disgruntled farm worker begun secreting needles into fruit then Scomo leapt bravely into action, publicly eating a carefully chopped and searched strawberry, and then announcing admirably harsh penalties for food adulteration and tampering. Never mind that these offences were already illegal, or that no judge in their right mind would actually apply the new maximum sentence, given the already extant and well used options for escalation already within the criminal code. No, what matters is that our national leader stood fiercely up in the face of adversity and courageously created a single law which doubled up on a collection of laws already in existence, as a symbolic way of showing us exactly how effective he could be.

And as if that weren’t enough, the intrepid Captain Scott Mark II is up to his old acts of derring do once again. This time, he is leaping to the defence of that poor and underprivileged minority, those 94% of privately funded schools which are religious. Now, of course, not all religious private schools are mega-rich elite schools. And it’s nonsense to suggest that the ones which are have a Christian duty to help their poorer brethren instead of foisting their support off onto us, the taxpayer. As Scott Morrison says – we may be secular, but we’re not a godless country. And I heartily concur. I may be an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in god. The logic there is simply unassailable, and a fine example for the children and educators whose rights he intends to impinge upon for their own good. It’s very simple, really – being simultaneously secular and ‘not godless’ is a classic example of doublethink, a concept from Orwell’s 1984, and Scomo is leading the nation in highbrow literary references by example and not, as some critics say, simply incapable of understanding simple sentence logic. Or words.

And it’s these very critics whom Scotty is defying with his courageous courage in the face of the dire threat posed by people who insist on letting other people think what they like – a right, incidentally, which Scomo has never had a need to exercise, since this would involve that pernicious left wing practice of thinking. The fact is that the sneering liberal elites have directed a storm of utterly unjustified abuse at… well… Scott’s Liberal elites, for defying the will of the people and going against the broader values of the nation. How could our dear leader be a rank and spineless populist when he’s doing something so unpopular? And I agree. This is just like the great battle of the strawberry, fought so heroically in that distant epoch of seven minutes ago when another aggressive Lilliputian – I mean, Liberal – woke up to find himself in C-1 with his hands covered in his mate’s blood.

Nay-sayers may say what they like (presumably, it’ll be ‘nay’), but what Scomo is doing here is identical in terms of political courage, importance, and relevance to the population at large. In a nation where there is no specific prohibition on the provision of religious instruction in private schools, where each state has radically different views on religious instruction in public schools but not a single one bans anything short of single faith proselytisation, and where the law is sufficiently vague and undefined (NSW law, for example, doesn’t really even define ‘education’) that it’s very difficult to see how anything other than the religious protections already implied in the constitution could apply – it is in such a nation that our very own high priest of happy clappy tongue-speaking is proposing a bill to cover the freedoms that religious institutions already hold by de facto.

Now, while this might seem like a waste of time, I assure you it isn’t. You see, under the current system, the school and/or state is deemed to be in partnership with the parents (the children don’t really get a look in here) in the provision of education, with the state being the senior partner. Should a parent object or be dissatisfied with something like, oh, I don’t know, the teaching of young Earth creationism in the face of all reason, evidence, and sanity, then they can either remove their child or have their objection tested in court. This is obviously a gross injustice, and by formalising religious exemptions at a federal level, what Scott Morrison is doing is enshrining the right of any educational institution to program hapless children to think that dinosaurs were planted as a trick by angels, or that gay people will burn in hell forever. And for this, he is certainly a hero worthy of the kind of adulation people in that part of the religious spectrum reserve for great leaders like… well, I can’t actually think of anyone who’s done anything on this small and redundant a scale, so let’s just call him a trailblazer. Scott Morrison should be lauded for burning this path back to the fourteenth century, and I for one am astonished to live under leadership of this stature.

On The Sudden Love Of Bush

(AP Photo/Dennis Cook) 

This is not an article about the demise of the Brazilian, but rather of the sudden outpouring of bipartisan love for George H W Bush. Now I’m definitely not saying that this is completely inexplicable. Former President Bush was an undoubtedly moral man, and an important one. The Bush family belong, though in a very different part of the spectrum, in the same space as the Kennedy clan when it comes to great American dynasties. And Bush’s life after office was arguably exemplary, with friendships that reached across the aisle, across class boundaries, and which he leveraged for various altruistic and civic causes. And when it comes to his flaws, his affection for political expediency when it came to negative campaigning and dog whistling, his antediluvian attitudes to race relations, drugs, and foreign policy, these are certainly being remembered as well. One of my enduring memories of Bush is of him waving a bag of crack at a camera in the oval office, Bush having mobilised the Secret Service to buy him an astonishing quantity in Lafayette Park. I remember wondering if those agents actually believed Bush’s explanation of why he wanted the stuff, and also, given how quickly and easily they made the purchase, how often they’d had to do this in the past.

Bush’s war on drugs was an utter catastrophe, and as far as that goes, his legacy is people who went to jail in his administration and are still there for crimes like possession, and an appalling body count. And then there’s the natural targets of any war on drugs in that region. It’s really not too difficult to draw a straight line from US interventionism in the cartel homelands to the caravan pressing up against the US/Mexico border today. Quite a few people are also pointing out his attitudes to abortion, birth control, gender equality, LGBTI rights, AIDS, and a raft of other issues which are hot button topics today. Actually, I can’t just let the AIDS thing go as a casual mention. Bush’s response to the AIDS epidemic was classically inept and moralising, and it’s very easy to describe his do-nothing prudishness as lethal to a great many people. But context needs to come into play. Bush’s attitudes on these issues were not actually that far from the median for the time. It’s an unpalatable truth, but for those of us who were alive and sentient in those days, it’s not too hard to remember that our current and highly laudable embrace of all things minority was, in fact, far from being a mainstream or median belief at the time.

And here we come to the nub of all this affection for his memory. Whatever else he was, George H W Bush was a gentleman, in the patrician sense of the word, and as such, while it was always possible to disagree with him, it was never really feasible to dismiss him as an insane bigot. For me, his service record, both military and civilian, softens the lens through which I remember him. His publicly known attitudes to what relationship there should be between a president and the state, a president and their government, and a president and their citizens, were highly admirable. This is a man who very clearly did the best he could to serve his country and his people according to his own lights, however dim or bright we might consider those lights to be. So it is definitely by contrast that we surround him with the halo he currently enjoys.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? In contrast to the current POTUS, even Dubya’s starting to look good. To be completely honest, a faeces-coated burning sofa on a garbage pile looks statesmanlike and intelligent next to President Trump. But I really don’t think this should take away from the essence or core of this outpouring of feeling for the last of the warrior statesman presidents of the USA. I personally deplored George H W Bush’s politics, and disagreed, often vehemently, with almost every one of his broad policy positions. Such is the right and prerogative of everyone resident in the western world, given that every one of us is directly impacted by the direction and character of any POTUS. But George H W Bush never once gave the impression that he’d forgotten or didn’t care about this. He operated with integrity, courtesy, and an earnest desire to serve something other than (or as well as) himself. And what this does is present a stark and deeply depressing counterpoint to the current ‘leader of the free world’. So yes, I’m happy to go with the love for Bush, because what it really signifies is my profound disapproval of Trump.