The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

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

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.

Why Some Christians Won’t Suffer The Little Greta

Swedish Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that a religion that has so much to do with children would be pleased to find that Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is making waves on the international stage. Actually, children is probably a bit of a sore point for various churches right now, but what I’m actually talking about is images like this:

And famous quotes like “suffer the little children”, which even people who’ve never read the bible (and we know for a fact that most Pentecostals and Evangelicals haven’t) will be able to trot out on command and more or less understand.

So why is it, then, that Pentecostals like Scomo and Trump’s Evangelical base have been so toxic in their vilification of someone who, regardless of what you think of her means and methods, is essentially on a mission to save the world? Why are we watching conservative Christians pile in on her looks, her voice, her age, her figure, or her parents in what can only be called cyber bullying? The answer, as you might have guessed, is slightly complicated.

I know quite a few members of what I and many others consider to be churches at the insanity end of the spectrum. For the most part, they’re lovely people. Always up for a chat, heavily involved in volunteer and community work, and the picture of sanity and reason when you, say, can’t help but point out the insanity of Christian fundamentalism at a dinner party in a house you’re absolutely certain you will now never be invited to again. For the most part, these people are not just model citizens, they’re model people. So why is it, then, that these same people so frequently and so vehemently plop themselves down on the wrong side of debates such as marriage equality, LGBTQI rights, and climate change?

“So why is it, then, that these same people so frequently and so vehemently plop themselves down on the wrong side of debates such as marriage equality, LGBTQI rights, and climate change?”

The cheap and easy answer is ‘religious dogma’. The narrative which I most frequently see in both the media and in discourse between private citizens is that these people, having elected to believe in a ‘Bronze Age Fairy Tale’, are simply incapable of rational thought so what the hell are you surprised about?

This doesn’t work. It’s probably going to be controversial for me to say this here, but the simple fact is that cognitive dissonance is not the especial reserve of the faithful. We’re all more or less as stupid and irrational as each other – it’s just a question of what flavour of idiocy we prefer. Which means that a belief in God doesn’t actually warrant an assumption of mental and moral incapacity – if it did, we would most of us have to discount any and all beliefs held by our pre-atheist selves. All of them.

It’s not all that relevant to my argument – I just found this uplifting and thought you might too

No. Where the answer lies is in the far more worrying intersection of religion/culture/politics. And especially identity politics. The relevant narrative here is one of victimhood. Many conservative Christians of all denominations see themselves as heroically holding the line on a kind of cultural Alamo. The loss of practising or church-directed Christianity’s grip on our culture and norms is something churches, established and fringe alike, naturally find deeply worrying. And the 101 playbook for churches for millennia has been to mobilise the base when under threat.

Many conservative Christians of all denominations see themselves as heroically holding the line on a kind of cultural Alamo.

So this is how we arrive at a situation where a biblical literalist like Scomo, who supposedly must believe that stewardship of the planet is a sacred duty handed down to him by Yahweh, can deny climate science, promote coal, and attack a sixteen year old girl for speaking her mind. And what’s worse, for capturing the attention and imaginations of the untold masses in a way that he could never dream of achieving.

For a Christian of Scomo’s ilk, ‘globalists’ (which is now a blanket term of abuse for anyone who attempts to be an intellectual and believes in the international system) are godless technocrats who want to dissolve all national and moral borders and create a kind of Huxley-esque Brave New World. What makes this vision of the world so compelling for so many is that it’s half right. ‘Globalists’ do see the second order effect of hard sovereignty and nationalism as catastrophic war, so they want to erode it a little. They do want to create a set of universal norms that are emphatically free of any single religious ideology. I mean, that’d actually be the definition of ‘universal norm’. And ‘globalists’ do definitely want to destroy the Christendom that so many Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox, etc. created over millennia of hatred, bloodshed, exploitation, and forced conversion.

The reason they want to do this is because they understand that as miraculous as the west’s achievements have been, they have been intermixed with shameful atrocities to a morally unacceptable level. That the only way forward is to create a world which is like the one where the west was the best, only with room for ‘the rest’. To move past the old gods and old ways which helped to get us here, in the same way that most societies tend to prefer their veterans and their past leaders to live quietly on a farm somewhere instead of remaining obnoxiously visible.

Church leaders have sold this narrative of secular attack so successfully that not only have their faithful bought it, but so have secular progressives.

So of course the Christians cannot suffer Greta Thunberg. She is the figurehead of a movement that they see as aggressively and deliberately sidelining them. The tragedy of it all is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no actual corollary between climate activism and disdain for the religious, in the same way that there is no necessary contradiction between religiously-based social activism and inclusion of secular ethicism. It’s just another case of The Establishment vs The People. Church leaders have sold this narrative of secular attack so successfully that not only have their faithful bought it, but so have secular progressives. We’re now in a situation where both sides of this argument think the other beyond redemption/reason.

Which is a kind of genius, really, as it’s the only way I can think of for nervous power elites to create a situation in which we all fragment to the point of ineffectuality, thus helping them to maintain the particular status quo in which they remain on top.

Religious Freedom – Scomo’s Biggest Meta-Achievement

scott-morrison

Scott Morrison can always be relied upon to fearlessly create change by legislating things which already exist. Take the food adulteration laws he so bravely championed, whereby he created a separate offence for something which already existed as an offence in the criminal code, and then whacked a sentence on it which nobody in their right minds would ever apply. Sure, it’s a double up on an extant law, and sure, its value is purely symbolic, but that’s the beauty of Scomo. He can create reform without the messiness arising from actual change. Scomo is the master of what I like to call meta-achievement. Or to put it in the words of one of my favourite poems/satirical political programs:

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

The Hollow Men, T S Eliot

It probably makes more sense if we remember that our fearless PM’s core discipline is marketing. For Scott Morrison, appearance is reality. Gesture is motion, and shape is the same as form. Or, to put that on a level more commensurate with his actual world view, looking like you’re doing stuff is, like, the same as doing stuff.

And this is why I’m pretty relaxed about Scomo’s push to introduce religious freedom legislation. By all accounts (by which I mean his), this legislation will mirror existing anti-discrimination legislation. The same legislation which, when combined with the constitution, actually provides comprehensive protections for religious freedom. Which is the exact thing he’s so keen to appear to achieve. Because in the universe particular to Scomo and the weirdly angry culture warriors who sing his praises, appearing to achieve something is the same as actually achieving something. You can tell this belief is sincere by the way he says publicly, and without irony, that he intends to introduce an anti-discrimination law which mirrors current anti-discrimination laws. He’s not even lying to us – he’s just incapable of living in a world where symbols aren’t the things in themselves. Because, and I emphasise this point in case I’ve been too subtle about it, he is essentially a hollow man.

Of course, there are functional aspects to this action. Scomo is famously and unashamedly a Pentecostal Christian, a faith position which I and every other sane observer feels to be weirdly at odds with having a Bachelor of Science. But then, B Sci grads I’ve spoken too are unanimous in their opinion that that particular undergraduate degree has about as much substance as a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, which is basically best when it’s three ply, soft and absorbent.

You see, Scomo has a rank and file of Christian soldiers in his cabinet and his backrooms, and more importantly, in his support base. He needs must create a symbol of intention in order to ensure that he’s not knifed like the bloke that he himself knifed. And seeing that they’re all happy clappy Christian types, he knows that they’ll be happy with a symbolic gesture which may or may not have actually happened. Given that this is really the stock in trade of the fundamentalist loony… sorry – I mean sincere and dedicated Pentecostal.

So perhaps we should just sit back and enjoy the light show. I mean, it’s not as if anything is actually being achieved – it’s just meta-achievement in the classic Scomo vein.

“Or perhaps we should get on the same page as Scomo on symbols. Because on a level which has nothing to do with his elaborate simulations of leadership, symbolic actions do change reality.”

Or perhaps we should get on the same page as Scomo on symbols. Because on a level which has nothing to do with his elaborate simulations of leadership, symbolic actions do change reality. This one, for example, has the power to change us from a secular and sane country into a cut-down version of evangelical America. From a certain point of view, it might be considered our duty as non-crazy, non-fundamentalist citizens to make it very clear to our symbolically sensitive meta-leader that this particular meta-achievement is offensive to our existing liberties and to the idea of effective and meaningful government.

At the risk of sounding American, we should tell our MPs what we think of this. No, really. Sure, they’ll ignore one or a dozen of us, but they can’t ignore all of us. Or, if a more direct approach appeals, there’s always the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s contact form here: https://www.pmc.gov.au/contact-us

Because as Scomo himself says, he’s listening, and hearing, and if he’s listening, he’s doing.

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

Latest Vatican Research Findings: Boys Have Penises

The Vatican or, more specifically, The Congregation for Catholic Education, has just released a document regarding the teaching of gender theory. As part of the GBA service, I have read this document so that you don’t have to waste the precious moments of your life doing so.

Plenty of other press organisations have covered the provocative timing of this release, as well as the reliably dissident Jesuit response, but there’s been little to no engagement with the actual arguments as yet, mostly owing to that tried and true journalistic practice of never reading more than the abstract and conclusion of anything, no matter what it is. I, however, believe that there should be little to no engagement with the actual arguments because they’re either not actually arguments, or they are arguments, but they’re stupid.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, beyond the usual guff about love and doctrine, and that curiously unique Vatican style – all technical sounding multi-syllables interspersed, seemingly at random, with sudden bursts of mediaeval English and Latin. I knew that it would basically be a combination of rebuttal book and conversation starter: a set of things teachers can say when confronted with non-Catholic or, as I like to put it, sane views of an issue, as well as a call for academics and whatnot to engage with their position. This kind of polarity is also typical of the Vatican – an open-hearted and sincere wish to listen, combined with a greasy bag of low-down sophistry designed to maintain, at all costs, their doctrinaire view of the world and of themselves. Like an obese contortionist covered in food waste, official Vatican thinking has a tendency to be simultaneously compellingly beautiful, impressively agile, and deeply repugnant.

I knew, basically, that it would be very like other Vatican documents from this department. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how dim-witted it would be. Its attempts to define and answer gender theory reminded me of nothing so much as an octogenarian attempting to use Snapchat. The little tour of ‘gender theory’ the authors take us on is so befuddled, so obviously confused and intellectually outpaced, that it’s almost charming. One of their more risible contentions is the idea that the body, the sex, of an individual is a primary determiner of gender. This isn’t amusing or insane in and of itself, of course – what’s laughable about it is their assumption that gender theorists don’t agree with this. They do. For the same reason that most academics agree that rocks are made of stuff that forms rocks.

And then there’s their central contention – that gender theorists believe that gender is solely down to “human choice”. Now, I’m undecided on whether this is disingenuous or dim-witted, but the strong implication of the language is that this means an individual human’s choice. This is emphatically not an accurate summation of gender theory. Most theories of gender performativity, etc., emphasise the role of social and cultural constructs in the formation of gender. The radical bit is pointing out that these are artificial, and that the individual can and often does have significant agency in determining whether or not to conform to them. Which is actually a near identical position to the one adopted by the Congregation. Which would obviously be inconvenient and embarrassing, so I guess I’m going to opt for ‘disingenuous’ as the word which best describes the logical core of the argument.

Another charmingly oblivious aspect of the paper is its consistent use of the term ‘ideological’ to describe what they term to be the ‘radical’ end of gender theory. In the same paragraph – often the same sentence – as a call for the rejection of “ideologically based” theories, is a call for teachers to promote “doctrine”. One man’s ideology is another man’s doctrine, I guess. But this seemingly genuine lack of self awareness is another example of unexpected charm. It’s like Basil Fawlty – so flawed he can’t see his own flaws which, in certain contexts, is counter-intuitively endearing. The whole Catholic Church is a bit like that, and this comes through very clearly in this pretzel-like grab bag of random half-truths and invalid arguments.

Of course, when once we get past the impressive sounding ‘philosophical’ language, and the big-hearted rhetoric of universal love, the charm starts to wear off. Actual analysis of this document reveals that its entire position is based on a straw man and a false dichotomy. The egregious misunderstandings of gender theory are revealed as not so much befuddled as they are wilfully, shamefully dishonest and misleading. And the notion that only the most radical aspects of gender theory are being taught in schools, and that this represents a cultural crisis, is in actual fact on the same level of sanity as Alex Jones or David Icke. It does not represent reality in any way, and this isn’t because it’s a bunch of doddering confused old men doing the thinking. It’s because the Church is pulling an extremely nasty trick – the same one they’ve been pulling for about 1800 years. “We love you, whoever you are,” this document says, “so please come and talk to us so we can explain to you why you’re not allowed to own who you are.”

The Jesuit priest James Martin hit the nail exactly on the head. Or, to be more Catholic about it, rem acu tetistigi-ed. “Sadly, …[this document]… will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn’t even exist.” He’s right – it will be. Primarily because that is exactly what it was made to be.

Don’t Take (non-excisable) Drugs

When white middle class kids start dying, we can generally be pretty confident that there will be calls for change.

One disadvantage of this excellent system, however, is that the initial conversation tends to be made up of people who have decided to weigh in on an issue after decades of failing to take any active interest in it. Issues of pill testing, and the looming elephant in the room – prohibition – are no exception. A lot of genuine and laudable emotion is being aired and expended on both sides of what we must laughingly term ‘the debate’, but there is a big – a bloody enormous – gap in all of this. And this comes with the failure to ask a single simple question: “Is there a good reason for the prohibition of narcotic substances?”

Despite the fact that almost everybody assumes that there is, it’s actually far from being uncontested. The origins of prohibition trace back to surprisingly stupid roots. Global substance control has its origins in the US Temperance Movement, a movement which, by today’s standards, is actually quite extremist. It was arguably pretty whacky in its own day too. There’s lots of history on the subject, and it’s actually unusually unanimous when it comes to how and why prohibition came about. Put simply, the discovery of the process for extracting vegetable alkaloids was a major revolution in humanity’s unceasing quest to find ways to both enhance and inebriate consciousness. There followed a period generally known as ‘The Great Binge’, in which cocaine and heroin were found in pharmaceutical, beauty, and fad products, and seemingly everyone in the western world was off their trolley all the time. In the wake of the big world wars, necessary re-definitions of the contract between citizen and state impacted the types of laws being proposed and accepted by most western nations. It’s in these periods we find stuff we’re still very much in step with today. Laws about workers’ rights and safety, grand social security mechanisms, our current attitudes to education rights and suffrage, and also the attempted prohibition of alcohol, and the successful prohibition of most of what we today classify as narcotics. It’s generally agreed that the substances which came under most fire fell into the following categories:

  • Popular with ethnic minorities and the poor
  • Not one of the USA’s biggest exports (tobacco)
  • Largely imported from non-western countries

It’s the first point which needs to be stressed. The prevailing belief at the time was that the poor and ill-educated were helpless children, incapable of stewarding their own lives, and that they also needed their souls saved from the damnation inherent in self-indulgence. So they could get to Christian heaven. It’s arguable, but it’s probably reasonable to assume that a combination of organisational inertia, mission creep, and the kind of amnesia pretty well unique to western cultures is what has resulted in these motives not only remaining unquestioned, but being actually forgotten.

Drugs kill people, certainly. I’d be willing to bet that the chilling statistics around overdose deaths and whatnot are actually true. Pretty well as true as those same (and much larger) numbers that we associate with alcohol and tobacco. But whereas with alcohol it was recognised that its prohibition had resulted in the sudden creation of a murderous and obscenely wealthy new criminal class without causing any appreciable drop in its consumption or its harms to individuals and society, no such thought process has occurred with relation to narcotics. But the facts speak for themselves. Taking only a single case – the Mexican and Colombian cartels – drug prohibition has created a situation in which addiction and usage rates have dropped 0% (and this is using the lowball figures we get from activities that are illegal), and criminal organisations large enough to represent existential threats to actual modern states are running global, multi-billion dollar businesses, with side enterprises in sex trafficking and contract murder. No matter how much we might deplore big pharma’s practices, it’s unlikely that legalisation would lead to, say, Pink Pharmaceutical running hookers from Guatemala, for example. Or killing thousands of people in gang firefights before stringing the dismembered corpses up on telegraph poles.

Put very simply, our current global drug policy is three things:

  • Utterly ineffective
  • Deeply irrational
  • Actively harmful

And you don’t have to take my word for any of that: https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/prelaunch/WDR18_Booklet_1_EXSUM.pdf

But it’s interesting – very interesting – to note that despite a multi-volume report outlining the manifold failures of prohibition, there is little to no mention of legalisation. It’s all coded into the US friendly phrase ‘harm reduction’. Which is ludicrous.

All this brings me back to our fearless Premier as a case in point. She is, in fact, representative of the people in this case, in that she has a knee jerk, deontological response predicated by personal morality, and an ingrained refusal to think about its actual origins. The thing is, personal morality really doesn’t trump half a million deaths per year world wide. It doesn’t automatically negate the need to think in broad policy terms for a person who’s ultimately responsible for the welfare and safety of a whole state. And, in my opinion (and this is the only actual personal opinion contained in this piece), is like all other personal beliefs, opinions and prejudices, in that it’s a citizen duty to think past and beyond them when discussing matters of state and national import.

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?