The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

And now for something completely different

The conversation was harmless enough. Vague pleasantries drifted back and forth across the room like dust, dancing carefree on shards of golden afternoon light. Barely noticeable at first, but ever so slowly choking the air.

“How was your weekend?” asked the faceless voice.

“Pretty good. How was yours?” came the faceless reply.

Jenny had watched a movie. Stan had watched the footy. Brad had weeded his garden. I wondered out loud if that was a euphemism, but no one seemed to hear me. Sharon hadn’t said anything yet, which was a welcome change. But Sharon always had something to say. It was only a matter of time before she crashed into the conversation with an obliviously inane anecdote designed to bore us all into oblivion. I started to wish that Sharon had a mute button.

“Is everyone here?” asked Brad.

I didn’t know. And why would I? I didn’t even know why I was there, let alone who else was or wasn’t supposed to be there. No one else seemed to know either, as Brad’s gentle riposte was variously parried with feigned ignorance and furtive glances. The normally ebullient Sharon briefly promised a response, but turned meek in the moment, merely mouthing her reply and remaining silent.

“Well I guess we can wait a few minutes for the late comers,” said Brad.

And so we waited.

I looked around the room. Why was I here? Why were any of us here? Are we being held captive? Will we ever be free? Am I the only one to harbour such doubts? These questions and many more quietly invaded my thoughts. But the longer we waited, the stronger came the invasion, and wave after wave of indignant doubt pommeled my meagre defences.

At some point, I noticed that Brad had started talking. For how long, I know not. But he was in his element now. An audience rendered captive and unable to speak. They were scorched earth, and his words were the storm. Loud. Drenching. Unavoidable. And they accepted the torrent, not only because they had to, but because they knew it would pass.

But I did not.

To me the storm was unending. Infinite. Inescapable. And the more it raged the more my mind cried out for solace, and my body cried out for shelter, and my soul reached and grasped and clawed for the light of faintest hope.

And I realised I was alone.

Completely alone.

But then a whisper reached my ear, faint and feeble, but emphatic and fierce. “You are alone,” it said. “But you are strong.”

And finally, in that moment, I knew what I had to do.

I staggered to my feet, and drifted slowly into shadow. Had anyone seen me? I glanced quickly around the room and saw that all eyes remained steadfastly on Brad. And that bloviating storm rolled on, apparently unaware of my small rebellion, or his own insignificance. But I needed to be sure.

“Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,” I whispered unto the storm.

But the storm answered not. And in that moment, I knew I was free.

I ran for hope. I ran for life. I ran until my heart gave out and I reached the gilded sanctuary for which I yearned.

And I found my release.

And that’s the story of the time I did a poo on a work Zoom call.

You’re welcome.

– Tim

Yet another open letter to Margaret Court

Dear Margaret,

Long time no see! In fact, I haven’t seen you since you wrote that weird letter to Qantas saying that you probably maybe possibly wouldn’t fly with them unless you really had to because they supported marriage equality and you didn’t support marriage equality but because you were good at hitting a ball back and forth 60 years ago your half hearted boycott was something an independent corporate entity needed to care about, so I attended the Margaret Court Centre for Kids Who Can’t Write Letters Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too Like Play Tennis. I’m sure you remember me there. Good times, good times.

Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that, even though I still can’t play tennis for shït, I now write letters good so your course was a success and and I’m so grateful and I’m going to draw on everything you taught me to write this letter to you.

I’m sure you saw that Mardi Gras was on recently. Disgusting, eh? So many people flagrantly flaunting their right to be themselves without hurting anyone else. It’s almost like we live in a free society where weird religious beliefs don’t override the freedoms and protections of a secular society. Unlike in Burundi, where you’ve recently been doing some good work, and being gay can get you thrown in prison, or worse.

But the main thing I wanted to talk to you about, Margaret, is your half hearted boycott of Qantas. Firstly, how’s it going? Are you able to secure flights with any openly homophobic airlines, or have you just started walking between Perth and Melbourne?

And secondly, how are you coping after boycotting all the other companies that now support LGBTIQ rights? I mean… that’s gotta be tough, given that you now also have to boycott the ABC, Absolut, Amazon, Amnesty International, ANZ, the Australian Federal Police, Autism Australia, Carlton United Breweries, the City of Sydney, Coke, the Department of Defence, Facebook, Fire and Rescue NSW, Girl Guides, Google, Guide Dogs, Hush Puppies, Instagram, Jaguar, JCDecaux, KIIS 106.5, L’Oreal, MinterEllison, Myer, NSW Ambulance, the NSW Liberal Party, NSW Nurses, the RFS, the SES, People with Disability Australia, Powerhouse Museum, R U OK?, Salesforce, SBS, Scouts, St Vincent’s Hospital, Surf Life Saving Australia, Sydney Airport, the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Swans, The Star, Transport for NSW, University of Sydney, UTS, Vodafone, Wella, and Woolworths.

Then again, you probably don’t watch the ABC or drink Absolut or drive a Jaguar or wear L’Oreal or know how to use Google or have any chance at all of getting into UTS. But on the other hand, you sure as shït wear Hush Puppies, so on balance I think this whole boycott thing has to hurt like a muffuker.

Anyways Margaret, I just wanted to say that I hope you’re OK. Intellectual and moral consistency can be tough, and given your previous pronouncements, you must be in a world of pain.

After all, Hush Puppies are apparently very comfortable.

All the best,

Tim

Religious freedom for all (the religions I like)

You may recall a little kerfuffle from a few years ago regarding marriage equality. On the one side, we had a bunch of loving people wanting to enjoy the same rights and protections as everyone else, and on the other we had Tony Abbott and Lyle Shelton and Miranda Devine warning us that life as we knew it was doomed if a bunch of loving people enjoyed the same rights and protections as everyone else.

But they weren’t the only ones. For into the fray stepped Israel Folau, formerly one of the few Wallabies who was good at rugby, but currently just another of the many Wallabies good at no longer being a Wallaby. And while he started as a lowly highly paid sports star with a huge public platform who just wanted everyone on Twitter to know he didn’t like gays, he eventually discovered Instagram and the joys of telling gays they’re going to burn for all eternity. Which was amazing, because it led to his transformation into the brave-hearted hero of the greatest battle for Christian rights since the First Crusade. And the next eight Crusades. And the Spanish Inquisition, which no one expected.

Australia played only a minor role in those noble causes, as we didn’t have any Christians at the time and our Indigenous forebears just sat here looking after the environment and not killing each other over whose imaginary god was better. So it’s no exaggeration to say that our current fight for religious freedom is up there with the most difficult tests this country has ever faced. More difficult even than the Edgbaston Test in 2005, or that actuarial exam I sat in 2015 when I forgot to take my calculator.

With stakes this high, it’s no surprise that almost everyone has an opinion, and in my opinion anyone with an opinion wants to tell you their opinion and also their opinion of your opinion. And with so many opinions floating around, it can become quite hard to sift through all the rubbish opinions, and get to the actual facts at the heart of it all. Luckily for you, Good Bad Asinine is here to help. And so, without further ado, here are four case studies that will hopefully make everything clearer.

Case Study 1

The Story – The year is 2014. Barack Obama is in the White House. Tony Abbott is in the Lodge, somehow. It’s the International Year of Family Farming, which is weird because I didn’t know you could farm families. Over in England, meanwhile, all is not well. A customer of Marks & Spencer took some champagne and pork to a checkout. Unfortunately for them, the checkout was staffed by a Muslim, and while the Muslim was very apologetic, they advised that their faith prevented them from handling champagne or pork, and they requested that the customer use another checkout.

The Analysis – Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably now absolutely outraged, because pinot gris goes better with pork. But also, how dare a Muslim request that a customer walk three metres to another aisle to accommodate her deeply-held religious convictions.

The Verdict – Muslims bad.

Case Study 2

The Story – Of all the places you’d expect to stumble into a Culture Wars battlefield, a Berkshire B&B would have to be up there with the least likely. And yet that’s exactly what Michael and John did when they tried to book a room at Francis and Susanne’s apparently gay-free Christian hotel.

They were told there was no room at the inn, and promptly turned away. Of course, in true British style, all parties agreed that everything went down with the utmost politeness. Apart from the blatant homophobia, I mean.

The Analysis – Well look, Francis and Susanne were obviously very uncomfortable with being forced to imagine what two strangers were getting up to behind closed doors. Apart from pedophile priests, I mean. And that’s their right as Christians. So why shouldn’t they be allowed to live according to their deeply held religious convictions and stop two consenting adult men sleeping in a room together?

Also, if Michael and John had really wanted to stay at a Christian B&B, they would have had the sense to become lesbians instead.

The Verdict – Christians good.

Case Study 3

The Story – Cyrill Callister invents a brown yeast paste which sounds disgusting but ends up becoming an Australian breakfast staple. Many years later, Vegemite receives kosher and vegan certification to the delight of many. Everyone loses their shït, however, when it goes halal.

The Analysis – Everyone knows we’re a Christian country, and that makes Vegemite a Christian yeast spread. And just because the new halal version is absolutely identical to the old version doesn’t mean it doesn’t infringe my right to spread Christian yeast all over my toast, which would be otherwise impossible given the prohibitions against premarital sex

The Verdict – Muslims bad.

Case Study 4

The Story – Terrence works in a clothing store, but his religion teaches that almost all clothes are an abomination, and the only acceptable garments are lime green spandex mankinis. His manager, Sparkle, is a disabled virtue-signalling leftie trans lesbian social justice warrior. She lets him walk around in a lime green spandex mankini because she’s woke af and doesn’t want to discriminate against his deeply held religious beliefs and also because it saves her money on uniforms.

The Analysis – This is a pretty easy one. Since Terrence is trans, he’s actually a woman, and if she is wearing a mankini then not only could we see her nipples, but it’s also cross-dressing, and girl nipples and cross-dressing are both forbidden by my Christian faith. So there.

The Verdict – Disabled virtue-signalling leftie trans lesbian social justice warriors bad.

___

So… I hope that clears things up. Religious freedom is obviously all about protecting Christians, and demonising gays and Muslims and disabled virtue-signalling leftie trans lesbian social justice warriors. And why shouldn’t it be? In the words of good ole Bill Meuhlehelehnberg:

The truth is, not all religions are the same. One religion says ‘love your enemies’ while the other one says ‘slay your enemies wherever you find them’. Thus we are 100 per cent right to champion a real religion of peace (Christianity), while warning about a tyrannical political ideology (Islam).

Of course, the other option is for us all to stop giving undue deference to a bunch of ambiguous bronze age texts, and instead start acting with a little kindness, empathy, and common sense.

Or is that too much to ask?

– Tim

I really don’t get people

As of right now, a very large proportion of our very large population has access to almost every bit of information our species has ever discovered. At the push of a button, you can, if you choose, learn almost everything there is to know. From the advance to heliocentrism, to why we no longer suffer from smallpox or polio, to the many and varied ways we know that the Earth is around 4.5 billion years old, and that mankind evolved from apes. It’s even possible to find out why Kim Kardashian is famous, although I admit to that knowledge being currently beyond my grasp.

And yet…

We also live in an age where an increasing number of people believe that the Earth is a flat disk, with the North Pole as its centre and a giant wall of Antarctic ice as its circumference. Yes, seriously. Lots of people also believe that vaccines cause autism, or that man was created 5,400 years ago out of a ball of mud, or that the recent bushfires were lit by the Greens, or that 5G technology is going to destroy us all. Oh, and a large number of us apparently also believe that anthropomorphic climate change is a worldwide scientific hoax designed to either turn climate scientists into billionaires (somehow), or create a gay trans commie green socialist utopia where you’ll suffer the indignity of universal healthcare and free education and fewer catastrophic weather events. Which would be awful, obviously.

Like I said, sometimes I really don’t get people.

___

I first discovered that flat-earthers (still) exist when my brother recommended I watch the Netflix documentary Behind the Curve. The two-part series follows a few of the movement’s leading lights as they attempt to free the rest of us from the debilitating burden of curvature. It is best summarised by the opening scene, in which a man named Mark Sargent looks out across a bay towards Seattle and says, “See? It looks flat”.

No, I am not joking.

How is it that in the year 2020, some 2,600 years after Pythagoras discovered that the Earth is a sphere, and 2,200 years after Eratosthenes calculated its circumference, do we have a large number of ostensibly intelligent people with access to almost limitless information concluding that we live on a flat disk? It is almost completely unfathomable, except that we can see with our very own eyes that Mark Sargent and his fellow flat earthers have somehow managed to fathom the crap out of it.

If you listen to Mark himself, he will tell you you’re a sucker. But he will also tell you that he read a few books and thought about it for a while and worked out that there is a huge worldwide conspiracy to trick us all into believing we live on an oblate spheroid. The first thing to note is that “oblate spheroid” is a great term, and we should all use it more often. The second things to note are that:

  1. As far as conspiracies go, the oblate spheroid hoax would have to be up there with the worst ever, being neither clever, funny, nor financially exploitable; and
  2. Despite humans exploring this flat disk for tens of thousands of years, no one has ever managed to find the edge.

There are, of course, a multitude of other reasons why Mark is comically incorrect. And yet, like most people, I have never personally investigated the matter for myself. I haven’t looked into how Pythagoras managed to work out that we live on a sphere, or how Eratosthenes calculated its circumference. In fact, besides being mildly surprised that Pythagoras hadn’t concluded we live on a right-angled triangle, I hadn’t even heard of Eratosthenes when I started writing this blog, and I’m guessing you hadn’t either. Can any of us really be said to know that the Earth is spherical, if we haven’t actually investigated and concluded the matter for ourselves?

Thankfully, there is a simple answer to that question, and it begins and ends with a huge “Hell yes”.

___

As I mentioned above, this phenomenon isn’t just limited to the nuffies running around in the flat earth movement. Almost everything humans have ever done or discovered is buffeted by a raging sea of disbelief, from the space cadets who believe the moon landing was faked, to the outright wänkers who have similar beliefs about the Holocaust. Of course, if you don’t know enough facts to deny any, you can always just make shït up, which is why we have Mormons.

The really scary thing, however, is that this phenomenon seems to be getting worse. What on flat earth is going on?

To be honest, I really don’t know. But in true actuarial fashion, I can still throw out three different possibilities without making a definitive conclusion.

Hypothesis 1 – People are stupid

Stupid people have been around since people were invented. It’s likely that they’ll be around forever, too, because you have to be a little bit smart to open a condom. It’s possible, then, that we have the same number of stupid people we’ve always had, but we just hear about them more now because they’ve somehow learned to use the internet.

But here’s the thing. Mark Sargent gives the strong impression of not being stupid. Renowned Holocaust-denier David Irving apparently went to school and seems to be an OK speller. Tony Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar. I know a very intelligent Young Earth Creationist who believes the earth is 5,400 years old and Noah’s Ark was a real thing. Andrew Wakefield, the amazing young man that pretended the MMR vaccine causes autism, was a medical doctor until the General Medical Council kicked him out for pretending the MMR vaccine causes autism. And speaking of vaccines, apparently most anti-vaxers are “college-educated white women making decent money”.

So stupidity doesn’t seem to be the problem.

Hypothesis 2 – It’s all the Internet’s fault

As I said at the beginning, we now have access to more knowledge than in the entire history of mankind, which is an amazing thing. Unfortunately, the same can be said for our access to an unlimited supply of boneheaded, asinine nuffery.

Have a slight inkling that a moon landing would have been quite difficult in 1960? Have a google and be amazed to discover that people with absolutely no idea what they’re talking about think it was faked. Think white people are superior in every way? Say hello to The Bell Curve, and be sure to not read any opposing views. Slightly worried that anthropomorphic climate change is real and potentially disastrous? Andrew Bolt will make you feel better. Have any kind of undeniably stupid opinion that you haven’t thought about and aren’t even remotely qualified to offer? Help is on its way!

At first glance, I thought this hypothesis had some merit. But when I thought about it, I realised that moon landing and holocaust deniers, white supremacists, and climate change sceptics all existed long before the internet.

So there must be something else.

Hypothesis 3 – Arrogance

Suppose you were a world-renowned heart surgeon, and you diagnosed a patient with acute aortic stenosis. What would you call it if they told you they had googled their symptoms in the waiting room and had decided it was gas?

Idiocy? False confidence? Hubris? Idiocy? Arrogance? Idiocy?

I don’t know because I’m not world-renowned a heart surgeon, but I’m sure you’d call them something. Karen, perhaps.

Anyway, the point is that this patient apparently thinks that their pretend research overrides the actual research and collective knowledge of the thousands of anatomists, scientists, doctors and heart surgeons whose combined knowledge has led to the conclusion that the acute aortic stenosis is definitely not just gas.

Yeah, I’d call that arrogance.

___

So there you have it folks. For some reason unknown to most of us, certain people think that their limited understanding of a multitude of subjects overrides the collective knowledge of thousands of people past and present who have studied those things for a living.

And if that’s you, you really need to stop.

Or get your oblate spheroid examined.

That time I gave Rupert Murdoch a dollar

Rupert Murdoch is many things. Former Australian. Hacker of celebrity phones. Probable lizard-person. He’s also a billionaire. So why would I give him a dollar?

Well, last week I saw that NewsCorp journalist Andrew Bolt had a column up claiming to have tricked a bunch of lefty climate journalists into getting outraged about something or other. I suspected the column in question was the one where he claimed that warming was good for us, so I went to have a look, only to be confounded by the Herald Sun’s paywall. Being an enterprising sort of fellow, though, I thought “Stuff it”, and paid a single dollar for 28 days of access, with the plan to cancel at the end of that period.

After reading a few of his columns, including his hot take on the recent High Court decision about deporting Aborigines, I started to feel a little sick. Not just because this man is given a platform to spew his specious garbage to my fellow Australians, but also because he would get some of my dollar. So after being a Herald Sun subscriber for around 15 minutes, I decided to just cancel then and there. And that’s where the fun started.

I first went into my online account, thinking I could cancel from there, but, alas, that was not an option. Instead there was only a single line advising that if I wanted to find out about cancellation requirements, I should refer to the terms and conditions. So I did. The conditions run to 2,400 words, and cancellation is helpfully the very last condition, and it was there I discovered the joyous news that I would have to call 1300 MY NEWS to cancel. Now, I normally avoid calling call centres at all costs. But I was apparently out of options. So I called.

After navigating through to the cancellation section, I was then greeted with a rather odd recorded message.

“If you are calling due to our editorial content on climate change, please press 1.”

“Oooh that sounds like fun,” I thought. So I pressed 1. I thought I’d get to talk to Rupert or Lachlan or something, but I instead got another recorded message.

“Our commitment is to report the stories that matter to you and your community. That has never changed.

“Contrary to what some critics have argued, NewsCorp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat. However, we do report a variety of views and opinions on this and many other issues that are important to the public debate. If you would still like to talk to one of our operators, please stay on the line.”

I gotta say, it was kind of nice to subscribe to a NewsCorp publication for the sole purpose of reading about how warming is good for us, and to then ring up to cancel and be told via recorded message that NewsCorp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat. Pure gold.

Anyway, I still wanted to cancel, so I had to stay on the line. After 15 minutes on hold, I finally got through.

Me: Oh hi there, I’d like to cancel my subscription.

Operator: Oh I’m sorry to hear that. May I have your subscriber number?

Me: 265529035.

Operator: Thanks for that, I’m just bringing up your account. While I’m doing that, may I ask the reason for your cancellation?

Me: Andrew Bolt.

Operator: Oh… OK. What is it about Andrew don’t you like?

Me: Everything.

Operator: Well, he’s not actually one of our main opinion writers. We have many other journalists that provide a range of views.

Me: Yeah nah him being there really ruins it for me.

Operator: OK. I’m sorry to hear that. [pause] Oh, I see here that you just subscribed today?

Me: That’s right.

Operator: Did you want to at least keep your subscription for a few more weeks to see some more of our content? We have so many great articles.

Me: Nah that’s OK.

Operator: [pause] Fine. [hangs up]

And thus ended my NewsCorp subscription.

So, Rupert, you may have my dollar. But as long as you continue to give a voice to racist peddlers of climate dishonesty, you will never have my respect. And that’s worth a lot more than a dollar.

$1.50, at least.

The best reason for moving Australia Day

Remember when women weren’t allowed to vote and then they asked if they could vote and everyone kicked up a huge stink and said women were ridiculous for wanting to vote because women shouldn’t be allowed to vote so we all fought tooth and nail to not let women vote? But they kept on asking and after many years of struggle we finally let them vote and even though we said that letting women vote would be the worst thing ever after a couple of weeks we all forgot about it and since then no one has ever suggested that women shouldn’t vote? Remember?

Remember when black people in America didn’t want to be slaves anymore and so they asked if they could not be slaves anymore and the people with slaves said “Yeah nah we like you being slaves” and so they kept them as slaves? But black people kept on asking not to be slaves and then eventually the entire USA went to war about it and after 600,000 people had died it was decided that black people shouldn’t be slaves and even though the slave-owners said it would be the worst thing ever if black people weren’t slaves no one has ever suggested that black people should be slaves again? Remember?

Remember when gay people wanted to get married but we didn’t want them to get married so we said they couldn’t get married? And then after years of struggle we spent $120m on a national vote to decide on the private lives of complete strangers and we ended up allowing gay people to marry and even though the people against marriage equality said it would be the worst thing ever now that gay people are getting married there’s no one out there in the streets campaigning for gay people to stop getting married? Remember?

Remember when someone suggested moving to the decimal system and everyone complained but we did it anyway and now no one cares? Remember when Facebook changed the format of your news feed and everyone complained and now no one cares? Remember when Coles and Woollies decided to ban single use plastic bags and everyone had a fit and now no one cares? Remember when countless other changes happened and everyone freaked out because people love freaking out about things before realising they don’t really care? Remember?

Remember when Indigenous Australians asked really nicely if we could celebrate our great nation on a day that didn’t also happen to be the anniversary of the day we invaded? And then everyone had a hissy fit and we said no but they kept on asking and after having the same argument 20 years in a row we eventually just moved it and now no one freaking cares? Remember?

Me either. Because it hasn’t happened yet. But it will.

So why don’t we just save ourselves some time and money and Sky News diatribes and just move the damn day. The people who want it moved will be grateful. And the people who don’t… well… pretty soon they just won’t care.

Which isn’t surprising. Because they never really did.

An open letter to Alan Jones

Dear Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan!

Well mate, you’ve done it again. You gathered up all the facts, cut through all the bullshït, and told it like it is. And what do you get in return? A bloody crap-storm, that’s what. All because you got a few words wrong. And it’s not fair, Alan. It’s just not fair.

I get words wrong all the time. Just the other day I told one of my colleagues to go fück themselves, when obviously I meant to say “Let me know when you’ve finished with the printer, Sharon”. And yeah OK she was a little upset at first, but after explaining to HR what I meant to say it was all fine. But it wouldn’t have been a problem at all if Sharon wasn’t so sensitive.

That’s the problem with people these days, Alan. You can’t even make slightly veiled threats against people without them getting their panties in a bunch. Whether it’s throwing them into the sea in a bag, or shoving a sock down their throat, there’s no denying that people are just way too sensitive these days. But chin up, Alan. Things may be a little tough at the moment, but remember – all’s well that ends your career. Oh sorry, I meant all’s well that ends well.

Dammit, I did it again. Words really are hard, Alan. And I don’t even use words for a living. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for someone like you, who’s had to use words for their job for 40 years. You just want to say what the rest of us are thinking, but everyone else wants to beat you off around the bushes (sorry I mean beat around the bush). And I don’t know about you, but I find it really tiring, and it makes me want to hit your sack (sorry I mean hit the sack).

You’re not even the only person who does it. Lots of other people do it, too. And as Muhammad said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone at an uppity woman (sorry I mean Jesus, and cast the first stone at whoever happens to be a sinner and not necessarily a woman). Speaking of uppity women, that Jacinda Adern is a piece of work, eh? She seems curious to learn about climate change, which is admirable I suppose, but you know what they say, curiosity killed the New Zealand Prime Minister (sorry I mean cat). But curiosity doesn’t stop you from being wrong, and when you criticised her I think you really hit a nail on her head (sorry I mean nail on the head). She won’t listen of course, so there’s no point telling her again. That would be like flogging a dead woman (sorry I mean horse). But hopefully you can can make her eat a bullet (sorry I mean bite the bullet) and admit she was wrong. If she doesn’t though, you have enough support to ensure we make sure her comments cost her both arms and a head (sorry I mean an arm and a leg).

But are we being too harsh? If women don’t want to tell the truth, should we just let sleeping bitches lie? (sorry I mean sleeping dogs lie)

The answer is no, Alan, we shouldn’t.We’re all proud of you, and you should keep fighting the good fight. After all, just because you can’t master basic English and human decency doesn’t mean you can’t kill two birds with one stone (sorry I mean two women with lots of stones).

So keep it up, Alan. We’re with you.

Yours sincerely (sorry I mean cynically),

Tim

Why I am an atheist – The third bit

The story so far: Young impressionable boy attends very wacky Catholic school then moves to less wacky Catholic school but ends up deciding that just because something is less wacky doesn’t mean it isn’t wacky.

___

I was walking through Sydney airport. I can’t remember the exact date, and I can’t remember where I was going, but I was definitely walking because my feet were moving alternately in a forwards direction, and it was definitely Sydney airport because it was Sydney and I had paid too much for parking and there were planes everywhere. I also remember that I decided to pop into the book shop, and a book with a bright red and white cover caught my attention. It had “The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins” plastered across the front cover, almost certainly because that was the book’s title and author.

“That looks interesting,” I thought. So I picked up a copy, opened it to a random page, and started reading.

Now, it doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then you discover something so profound, so Earth-shattering, that it shakes you to your very core. One minute you’re sitting there thinking you’ve got it all figured out, and then BAM! A feint breath of knowledge has left you breathless, or a truth has suddenly rendered everything a lie, and all of a sudden you know nothing, Jon Snow. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling you had when you first saw the end of The Sixth Sense (OMG he’s the dead person!), or the opening credits of Renegade (OMG he was a cop and good at his job!), or when your parents told you that Santa Claus isn’t real (OMG they were the ones secretly judging me all year!). And as I was standing there in the airport bookshop reading those random pages, I realised I was right in the middle of one of those moments. Yes, my friends, in that one, single instant, I was struck by an immediate, sublime realisation.

“This book is crap,” I thought.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t judge a book by its cover and a few random pages you read at the airport.” And OK, fine, that’s a well-known and common expression when it comes to books. But then again, I was able to conclude that Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey were crap after reading a few random pages at the airport, and we all know how they turned out. Well I don’t because I concluded they were crap and didn’t read them. But the point is that I’m really good at deciding that a book is crap after reading a few random pages at the airport, and my brief encounter with The God Delusion hadn’t done much to make me doubt the awesomeness of my crap detecting abilities.

Perhaps that surprises you. It definitely surprised me. I mean I expected Twilight and 50 Shades to be crap, since there’s only so much quality you can muster if you’re a barely literate moron writing about emotionally-stunted haemophiles who sparkle outdoors, or nauseatingly bland soulless billionaires with mummy issues. But Dawkins was a well-respected evolutionary biologist with a fancy accent and a dozen best-selling books to his name. And he was writing about one of the oldest and most important questions mankind has ever pondered. Surely he could manage to avoid being crap while I read a few random pages at the airport.

Surely.

___

If you’re going to argue against one of the oldest and most important questions that mankind has ever pondered, you’re probably a little boring and don’t have any friends. But also, you should at least have the decency to consider the best arguments mankind has to offer. For Dawkins, this apparently amounted to something called the “five proofs of Thomas Aquinas”.

For those that don’t know, Aquinas is something of a rock star in the Catholic Church, and would definitely be lead guitarist if Jesus ever started a band, which would obviously be called Nine Inch Nailed and have hit songs like “There’s something about Virgin Mary”, “Judas is a jerk”, and “I died on the cross for you, you selfish bastards”. Anyway, while not writing hit singles with his Lord and Saviour, Thomas apparently liked to spend a bit of time thinking about some of the most important questions mankind has ever pondered. So as well as being a little boring and not having any friends, he also thought about the existence of God, and came up with what he believed were five indisputable facts that proved His existence. I say “His” existence, because if God does exist then he’s obviously a man, since, you know, childbirth. And mansplaining morality on inconveniently phallic stone tablets.

Anyway, this was all news to me while I was standing there in the airport bookshop. In 12 years of Catholic schooling I had never seen or read anyone trying to prove God’s existence before, let alone someone as revered as Thomas Aquinas. After all, what’s the point of proving something so obvious?

Aquinas attempted it anyway, apparently, and concluded that yes, there is a God. This was probably a good thing for Thomas, given the consequences for concluding otherwise at the time, but I digress. The point is that Aquinas’ arguments as presented by Dawkins seemed to be if not outright asinine, then at least very, very silly. Now don’t get me wrong. Aquinas is one of the all-time intellectual titans of the Church, and probably knew Latin and how to spell “transubstantiation” and the difference between the immaculate conception and the Virgin birth. But there was no escaping the fact that his arguments were, in a word, crap. The conclusion for me was obvious. Dawkins was a massive jerk who’d deliberately left out all the good arguments for God’s existence, and just included the crap ones.

“Screw you, Dawkins,” I thought. “I’ll read the in-flight magazine instead.”

And I did. It had an article about two Instagram influencers from the Gold Coast who tried cupping in Canggu. It was called “Two Girls One Cupping”, and it was not crap.

___

Several years later, the red and white book that I had disgustedly discarded in an airport bookshop had sold three million copies, spawned a multitude of books in reply, and kick-started the New Atheist movement. The in-flight magazine I had chosen instead had achieved none of those things. It was time, then, to give “The God Delusion” another go.

Perhaps it was the intervening years of ever-dwindling faith, or the fact that I wasn’t reading a random chapter at the airport, but upon reading it properly for the first time, it didn’t immediately strike me as crap. In fact, it was so not crap that by the time I was a few chapters in I was actually starting to think that maybe Dawkins kind of had a point.

Books being what they are, I was of course destined to eventually reach the bit about the five proofs of Thomas Aquinas. You know, the bit that I had read at the airport and decided was crap. And by turning the pages in a sequential fashion, which is how my mum taught me to read books, I did indeed reach that bit. Here they are, paraphrased by me, in all their glory:

  1. Stuff moves, but can only move if moved by something else. So, like an awkward first date, someone had to make the first move.
  2. Stuff is caused, but nothing can cause itself. So there must be someone to blame for all this shït.
  3. Stuff exists, but nothing can bring about its own existence. So all this shït had to come from somewhere.
  4. Stuff can be good, but goodness is relative, so there must be something reeeeeeeeally supremely good against which we measure stuff’s goodness.
  5. Everything looks designed, including us. So there must be a designer.

So there you go.

The good news is that they appeared to be pretty much as I remembered them, which admittedly doesn’t happen very often, what with my memory being a bit rubbish. The good news, however, was that… oh wait, I’ve said the good news already, dammit. The bad news was that they still appeared to be crap. Proofs 1 to 3 are basically the same, and just scream intellectual laziness. “I can’t think of any other way this might have happened, so… God!”. Proof 4 is one of the most ridiculously see-through non sequiturs in the history of mankind. Goodness is relative so there must be something that is infinitely good? On what planet does that make sense? The only one that maybe had a chance was Proof 5. But that was hardly decisive, especially given the idiocy of the other four.

I read them again, slowly, and then I read them once more. And try as I might I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something had to be missing. Surely the ultimate question of life the universe and everything didn’t boil down to three identical platitudes, a play on words, and ignorance of evolution.

Surely.

Luckily for me, I was at home and had access to Google. So I googled “the fuve proobes of thomas aquians”, and after Google helpfully corrected my typing I soon discovered something incredible. Dawkins had, in fact, fairly and accurately presented the five proofs of Thomas Aquinas, and these were, in fact, the best arguments for God going around. People were still using them today, some 800 years later. Needless to say, this came as quite a shock. And so instead of wondering whether Dawkins was a massive jerk, I found myself wondering something else.

“Hang on… is this all we’ve got?”

And so began a big personal voyage of discovery. But you’ll have to wait for Part 4, so there.

– Tim

An open letter to Israel Folau

Izzyyyyyy! Maaaaaaaaaate!

How’s it going, champ? I guess that’s a silly question though eh mate. It wasn’t that long ago that you were raking in the big bucks and you were loved by everyone and you’d helped us lose our 16th Bledisloe Cup in a row. Then a few short months later you’re out on your arse and only liked by Christians and Andrew Bolt and you’re reduced to begging for money and you probably won’t get to help us lose our 17th Bledisloe Cup in a row. I feel for you mate. That really sucks. What do you think has sucked the most?

I reckon it would have to be not being able to play for your country any more. They say there’s nothing quite like pulling on that Qantas Wallabies jersey and losing a Bledisloe Cup for your country. I wouldn’t know cos I never got the chance to lose for the Wallabies. Not because I wasn’t capable, mind you. I reckon I could lose a game of rugby like nobody’s business. No, I never played for the Wallabies cos my mum wouldn’t let me cos I don’t have any muscles and I’m a bit of a sook. She was right, of course, but it still hurt.

I would have loved to represent my country. Imagine being able to represent the country of ANZACs and Dame Nellie Melba and Cathy Freeman and Russell Crowe. How proud must you be to be given the opportunity to go into battle for us, your fellow Australians, who were one of the first people to give women the vote and decriminalised homosexuality and recently had over 60% of the population vote for marriage equality, despite religious opposition to all three of them. Oh I guess it also sucks to lose a $4 million contract.

Or maybe the worst thing was having to choose between representing your country and telling atheists and adulterers and drunks and gay people they’re going to hell. That’s gotta be a tough choice. I mean, not many people like the pious judgement of people they don’t know, but that’s not your fault, Izzy. And people need to know these things.

That’s why I told the new Jewish guy at work that his people killed Jesus and he’s probably going to burn in Hell for all eternity. Shimon got all butt-hurt about it, of course, but Shimon loves getting butt-hurt, and I was just stating facts. What am I meant to do? Keep my opinion to myself? How would he know he was going to Hell? It was all fine though. The next day he came to me and told me that he’d thought about it and he’d completely renounced his Judaism, accepted Baby Jebus as his Lord and Saviour, and regrown his foreskin. So I guess I did the right thing.

Then there was that time that I told the CEO of my company that he’d lied about our projected profits. He tried to say it was just an unexpected experience deviation, but that just made things worse. “Try telling that to Jesus!”, I said with a chuckle. Yes we were at the Christmas Party but a lie is a lie no matter what time of year it is. Then I took his drink off him because he’d had two already and Jesus doesn’t like drunks.

Anyway, Izzy, the point is that you’re amazing. Just imagine how many liars have stopped lying and drunks have stopped drinking and rimmers have stopped rimming because of your Instagram posts. I only saved two people from Hell, but you’ve probably saved millions.

That’s all for now mate. I lost my job at the last Christmas party so I gotta go finish my resume. Good luck with the fundraising, and don’t lose hope. You’ll be back losing games for the Wallabies in no time.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

Let’s talk about… gaslighting

OK, I’ll admit it. As embarrassing as it is, I am a huge fan of Married at First Sight. Yes, yes, I know. It’s so low-brow it’s basically a moustache, and it’s probably making us all dumberer, and it’s about as genuine as a Praba handbag. But that, my friends, is exactly what makes it so damn good. For as much as we normal people are prone to doubting our own intelligence, both general and emotional, watching shows like MAFS is a glorious adventure in self-affirmation. That is to say, whatever we may be, we can at least find comfort in not being a fame hungry, emotionally unstable, botox obsessed, entitled sack of narcissistic underachievement. And that’s just the men.

But as much as the show makes me feel good about myself, this most recent season was a little different. Because in amongst all the affirmations of my apparently amazing intelligence and emotional maturity, there was a landmark event in the history of white, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class Australian men.

I felt triggered.

Now, I am the first to admit that I can be a little facetious. Yes, I will probably send a look-a-like stripper to my own burial (you’ve been warned), but don’t let that fool you into thinking I can’t appreciate the… graveness… of a situation. So even though I just made a joke about being triggered (and stripping by proxy at my burial), it did indeed actually happen, and it really wasn’t fun. One minute, I was watching a bunch of morons embarrass themselves on national television, and basking in a joyous uplift of self-worth. Nek minute, I was suddenly wondering whether I was one of those morons.

You see, shortly after the fake-marriage of ex-human Ines and ex-stripper Bronson, each had started to doubt that the commercial TV producers obsessed with drama and ratings had taken a genuine interest in delivering them into the arms of their one true love. Before that realisation could completely run its course, however, they were put on a bus to Terrigal for their honeymoon, and were promptly sent parasailing. Once there, it quickly became apparent that ex-stripper Bronson was very keen for parasailing… and ex-human Ines was not.

As I watched ex-human Ines and ex-stripper Bronson discuss their respective views on parasailing, I suddenly felt a very strange sense of deja vu. This was followed by noticing a slight sheen of nervous sweat on my forehead, and a growing sense of queasiness. Being completely unexpected, these feelings were a little unsettling. But not as unsettling as the slow realisation that my queasiness had nothing to do with the three-day-old pizza I’d been eating, or remembering that the slight sheen of sweat had been there for the last 40 years (goddammit). No, what was unsettling was the fact that what was unfolding on screen was just a little too familiar.

Ex-human Ines, as I said, did not want to go parasailing. Which was fine, since people like different things. What wasn’t particularly fine was how she expressed her reluctance. It was difficult to tell with the amount of dialogue beeped out, but it was fairly obvious she wasn’t saying “Oh my darling Bronson, do you mind if I give this a miss?”. Instead, I got the distinct impression she was just telling ex-stripper Bronson to “SHUT THE FÜCK UP” a bunch of times, probably because that’s exactly what she was doing. And therein lay the trigger.

I knew what it felt like to be Bronson.

Apart from the whole ex-stripper thing, I mean. And the muscles and tattoos. And being fake-married on TV. But other than that, I had been in that exact situation. Apart from the parasailing.

The point is that I knew what Bronson was feeling in that moment, as I had been there. And the longer I watched and the more I thought about it, the more I realised just how many times I had been there. There are far too many examples to share, but there is one particular story that is unique in its utter ridiculousness, and may, therefore, prove instructive.

This story is, I admit, a little different to the one above. For starters, I and my partner at the time (let’s call her Doris) hadn’t been through the horrifyingly arduous spectacle of being fake-married by fake-experts to a complete stranger on national television. We had instead had the luxury of meeting and choosing to be together in real life. And we weren’t about to experience the stress of having a bogan tow us through the air in a boat. We were just having my friend over for dinner, whose name is also Tim, and who is so laid back that he would have been happy if we’d served up a single baked bean in a pair of used undies. It was, in short, about as benign a situation as you could get.

Which of course makes it all the more perplexing why the reaction from ex-girlfriend Doris made ex-human Ines look like ex-Mother Theresa. Like that moment when I walked into the kitchen to ask if she needed any help, and was met with a fairly high-volume “WILL YOU JUST FÜCK OFF”.

Look, I get it. Everyone is different, and what is basically benign to me can be massively malignant to someone else. So although Doris never explained her apparently significant apprehensions, I can see how it could be stressful to have two Tims at dinner. I mean, every request for “Tim” to pass the salt would be met by mass confusion and possibly even twice as much salt as you wanted. Unless your name was actually Tim, of course, in which case you would get just as much salt as you wanted, since there was only one other Tim. Except if your name was Tim and you passed the salt to yourself, in which case there was no need to ask for salt in the first place. Anyway, the point is that I can see that under such emotionally fraught conditions, two hours of verbal abuse can be a perfectly reasonable response to having a laid back dinner with a friend called Tim.

But this is the thing. As difficult as it was to be treated that way by someone I cared about, I actually do understand that people handle situations differently, and being flawed, emotional beings, all of us are prone to a little over-reaction on occasion. By which I mean to say, the problem wasn’t so much the actual behaviour, as bad as that was. It was what followed.

___

When we first met fake-husband Mike, he seemed like the unlucky-in-love, good looking larrikin with not much hair but plenty of heart. Happily for him, his fake-wife Heidi also seemed like a winner. She was basically like Mike, but smarter and funnier and nicer and more successful and better looking and with a better personality and with more hair. They hit it off immediately, and each seemed very happy with the ability of the fake-experts to pick fake-spouses for a fake-TV-show. Life was good.

That was until one day later, when Heidi opened up about her difficult childhood, and Mike responded by telling her he wanted to go for a swim.

And this is where the gaslighting comes in.

For those that don’t know, gaslighting is shït. It’s also the deliberate and calculated manipulation of someone into doubting their own reality. To wit, even though everyone watching could see that Mike was being a massive jerk, by the Power of Gas Light Mike was able to make Heidi feel like a crazy person for talking about her childhood when he wanted to go for a swim. “I’m not your therapist,” he explained tersely. “This isn’t therapy.”

Sadly, the most unbelievable thing about this story is not that Mike was a massive jerk. People are massive jerks all the time. No, the really unbelievable thing is that this shït actually works. Watching along in our lounge rooms with friends, it’s easy to imagine ourselves telling Mike to go fluff himself. But that’s the thing about gaslighting. It is invariably deployed in private, by narcissists, against those that are maybe a little self-doubting, and a little vulnerable. And that’s what makes it so effective. Mike’s confidence in his position, together with the lack of emotional support from friends, results in a normally strong woman like Heidi issuing Mike an embarrassed apology, instead of a swift kick to the jelly beans.

___

In my case, delivering Doris a swift kick to the jelly beans wasn’t really an option. Not only because I’ve never committed violence against anyone (let alone a woman), but Doris doesn’t even have jelly beans. Oh, and also because Doris didn’t do anything wrong, and it was apparently me that was the crazy person.

“I was just expressing how I feel,” Doris later explained. “Am I not allowed to express how I feel?”

“Of course you are, Doris” I replied. “Of course you are.”

And so, I came to learn that it’s actually perfectly reasonable for someone to respond with “WILL YOU JUST FÜCK OFF” when their partner asks if they need help because a very laid back friend called Tim is coming over for dinner to eat a single baked bean served in a pair of used undies. A valuable lesson that I will treasure always.

Like I said. Gaslighting is shït.

– Tim