The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

How We Stopped The Boats

Remember the good old days? That long lost time when kids could be kids, the West was top dog in the Middle East and the most important thing on the agenda was a pathetically small trickle of refugee boats? Where did those days go? How did so many months pass so quickly?

It’s a different world now. The pretend crisis of the boats has given way to the pretend crisis of Islamisation and anxiety over a war that is being fought thousands of miles away over territory that wouldn’t have anything to do with us if we hadn’t helped invade it. And let’s not forget the terrifying phenomenon of a tiny number of people flying off to places we’ve never heard of to die in this war that’s got nothing to do with us. So terrifying, in fact, that it seems we had to rush through legislation to outlaw some activities that were already illegal.

But what happened to the boats? Did we stop them? And if so, how? Of course, we don’t ask the question ‘why’ because that sort of thing is for limp-wristed intellectuals who live in ivory towers.

Well, basically, we’ve stopped the boats… from being an issue. In classic parlour magician style, our fearless leaders kept the boats issue in their left hand whilst frantically waving the right at a series of imaginary problems until, basically, we forgot about the boats altogether. In some ways this is good, seeing that the whole thing was a non-issue to begin with. But the fact that our collective xenophobia and ‘not-in-my-backyard-ism’ was stoked to such a fever pitch in order to win an election has created the ironic situation where the boats have become, in fact, a serious issue. The measures that were taken by both parties in the leadup to the last election have created a situation where we, as a nation, are routinely guilty of practices that are questionably legal and unequivocally cruel.

The Manus Island ‘solution’ is a nightmare. People are living in tents, in baking heat of up to 50 degrees in the daytime, with limited access to basic sanitation. And a good proportion of these people are children. Some of whom are being sexually abused. Self harm and suicide appear to be either daily or weekly events and, most horribly of all, the internees of Manus have been assured that the means of their arrival guarantees that their processing will take longer than the 5-7 years that is already the typical waiting time. All this suffering and death because we were gullible enough to believe that a tiny trickle of desperate families represented some kind of threat to our way of life.

I began this post with the intention of being funny and ironic, but I find now that I just don’t have it in me. This situation is disgusting. We, the people, have behaved disgustingly. We ‘stopped’ the boats by voting for a policy of treating people so cruelly that they would not wish to come to us for help in their most desperate hour. And then, when it didn’t work, we allowed our elected malefactors to distract us from the fact that the upshot of these policies is a daily perpetration of what can only be described as crimes against humanity. And for once it’s not the Abbott government that’s to blame – both sides of politics were behind this horrendous situation, which means that it must represent the will of the people, which means that the fault lies squarely with us.

We cannot let this lie. Whether you feel that you’ve been tricked into endorsing the effective torture of men, women and children, or if, like me, you’ve been screaming and railing against it from the start, make your feelings known. I don’t want to sound like a ’60s throwback, but write your MP. Take the 11 or 12 seconds to sign some slacktivist’s petition. Organise a protest. Talk endlessly about it to whoever is unable to escape. Let this government know that we do not accept this shameful stain on our national honour. That we deserve to live in a country whose actions we can be proud of. Like we have for most of the last 114 years.

Whatever it is you can think of, just do it. And if I get to know about it, I’ll try to help. Not because I’m a bleeding heart liberal or a red socialist, but because I’m an Australian Citizen, with all the privileges that go with being one and, more importantly, the responsibilities too.

Why Isn’t the World More Disney?

Children make us see the world differently, largely by ruthlessly hijacking our televisions and replacing our normal cultural input with talking animals and plucky, courageous teens doing unlikely things in garish colour and at great volume.

Despite this, watching children’s television is usually a fairly uplifting experience. The world is presented as an ultimately just place, with powerful people who stand up for ‘the little guy’, bullies getting their comeuppance and true love springing improbably up out of every corner. The values that we see displayed are unequivocal and absolute:






While all this can get a little sickly, there are good reasons to be in favour of it. The idea that these are the values that will inform the lives and moral attitudes of our children is a heartening one, and, within reasonable limits, it behoves us all to encourage this kind of ethical propaganda. It does, however, raise a few questions.

Why, if generations of children have been brought up with such excellent moral tutors, is the world such a greedy, unjust, selfish and violent place?

Does the moral education provided by entertainment have any effect at all?

If these lessons are being taught to children literally from the cradle, why do so many of us grow up to be such unconscionable pricks?

I’m afraid that there is only one possible answer, and it isn’t a comfortable one. The only logical explanation for the distance between ‘Disney’ and reality is that children learn far more about morality and the world from actual adults than they do from the television. We can expose them to as much media and entertainment as we like, but the real conditioning of their behaviour is achieved by imitation. It is to be expected, therefore, that when it comes to imitation, children are going to choose real people for their subjects, as much as their fantasy lives might indicate that they are, deep down, destined to become Dora the Explorer.

So, why is the world such a greedy, unjust, selfish and violent place?

It’s because we generally behave as if this is perfectly acceptable.

I’m sure that the vast majority of people, on an individual level, are wonderful. Okay – nice, then. Tolerable? Let’s go with tolerable. In any case, very few parents that I have observed directly teach their children to be selfish little bastards – for one thing, most children need no instruction whatsoever in that regard. So what is it that perpetuates the disgusting state of affairs that we now live in? It is the example of acceptance that we set. Whatever we may say, do, or consent to watch, children are freakishly good at picking up on certain truths, and the one that they seem to be picking up most from us is that we’re okay with things as they are.

Sure, we have our daily two-minutes’ hate whenever we read the Telegraph or watch current affairs programs. Sure, we complain and rail against the state of just about everything and everyone that hoves into view. But, most importantly, we most of us don’t appear to do a damn thing about any of it. It is this that informs our children, more reliably than anything else, that no matter how bad things are in the world at large, there is neither a duty nor a need to try in any way to fix them.

So long as we have the mortgage paid, food on the table and inexhaustible reserves of inane conversation, our responsibility to civilisation and the planet has been more or less fulfilled. I can guarantee that this attitude is keenly perceived and absorbed by the forming minds around us, our example overriding any more didactic attempts at ethical instruction.

I hear you say: “That’s all very well, but how do you propose we fix it? And, more importantly, do you seriously think the average parent has time for activism? What kind of feckless idiot are you?” Which would be fair enough. What I would suggest, though, is that we just try to maintain an awareness of the following two questions:

Am I living my values?

Are those values such that I would like to pass them on to my (or anyone else’s) children?

If we can all remain conscious of these two things as we go about our daily lives, we may actually be able to achieve an incremental gain in the direction of a better world.




Reclaim Australia

Depending on who you talk to, either:

a) Some stern and reasonable patriots held 16 rallies across the country in order to make themselves heard on an important issue, or;

b) A small group of mindless troglodytes gathered together in order to shout at Moslems for no reason at all.

Now, considering that the group in question is called ‘Reclaim Australia’, combined with the fact that its guest speakers included Pauline Hanson and Danny Nalliah, option b actually looks pretty good. It looks even better when you look at what Pauline and Danny had to say, always assuming our translation from Stupid to English has been accurate.

Pauline’s barely comprehensible rant about Halal and terrorism, combined with Danny’s immediate plunge into a ‘Hitler Argument’ make it temptingly easy to look at this phenomenon, shrug, giggle, and then simply dismiss it. I like to call it ‘The Bill Shorten Approach’.

But this would be wrong.

While there is no valid set of arguments to support what Reclaim Australia laughably calls a ‘viewpoint’, the fact remains that enough people are sufficiently anxious about Islam in Australia to warrant 16 rallies round the country. The fact that none of these people appear capable of formulating coherent statements makes it more, not less important that we try to understand where this idiocy is coming from.

A good clue to the answer to this question can be found in what they are pleased to call their ‘arguments’. Leaving aside elementary mistakes in logic, which are to be expected when people talk about their feelings (I wish they’d stop, but there you have it), what we mainly have is a critical lack of understanding and knowledge of the things that they are talking about. These people don’t know a damn thing about Islam or Islamism. Or, more accurately, they each seem to know one or two things, without context or understanding, These one or two facts are then crow-barred into a confused narrative about a type of xenophobia that is as old as the nation itself.

We have to ask two fairly obvious questions:

  • Are these concerns valid?

Well, no, but what they are is very understandable. It’s very easy for us to sit smugly in our white enclaves in Sydney’s North and East and airily dismiss any such fears as groundless, but we don’t live in suburbs like Auburn or Lakemba, from any point of which golden minarets are visible. The fact of a neighbourhood filling up with mosques and halal restaurants is just that – a fact. When people become concerned about this, we can’t just pooh-pooh them for being ignorant plebs, or revile them as racists – these people are worried about their homes, their families and the futures of their children. We can’t just laugh at them or call them names – we have to listen to what they’re saying and then point them back toward reality.

It’s a process I like to call ‘Discussion’. I believe there are some precedents for its utility in past cases.

  • Why has this latched onto Moslems?

Well, we all know the answers to this one – irresponsible media and irresponsible government. Between the two, the Islamic community here and elsewhere have been laid open to vilification and scape-goating on a monstrous scale. But why does it persist? Well, I’m afraid that a large part of the blame rests with those of us who camp out on the liberal-humanist left. We see that the ideas circulated about Islam are beneath contempt, and we simply dismiss them. By doing this, however, we forget that there are human beings out there who truly believe in them, and our contempt looks remarkably like contempt for them as individuals. So, these individuals do what everyone does when they are not being listened to: they start shouting. Usually, soon after this, they start swinging.

Which leads us to an uncomfortable, but I’m afraid inevitable conclusion. The reason that groups like Reclaim Australia are stinking up our political dialogue is ignorance. But it’s not just their ignorance – it’s ours. Our deliberate refusal to hear or even consider certain opinions. Our fanatical adherence to a particular orthodoxy of tolerance. We are losing the ability to talk to each other as our politics and ideologies become ever more polarised by our mutual refusal to engage with each other’s ideas.

Reclaim Australia? Nope – nobody has taken it from us.

What needs to be reclaimed is something far more valuable – our ability to talk to each other as a nation.


What’s A Few Hundred Years Between Friends?

Lions For Lambs was a fairly unmemorable, if well-intentioned, film dealing with some aspects of the war in Afghanistan. In it there is a scene in which Tom Cruise, playing a hawkish US Senator, tries to sell the broader motivation behind the war. At one point, he talks about the absolute necessity of fighting “crazy Islamists who want to turn the clock back 500 years”.

I mention this because it’s a common idea – it’s stated and implied in the media and in the more right of centre academic discussions of Islam, Islamism and the threat represented by elements of the Moslem world. The basic thesis is that the Islamic world is stuck in the mediaeval period, having chosen to regress there, and wishes to drag us all back there with them.

There are two blindingly arrogant assumptions required to underpin such a world view.

  1. The development of the world should be measured solely along the timeline of Western history.
  2. Western Civilisation represents the current apogee of human development.

There is, however, one key problem with both of these assumptions, and that problem is a matter of approximately 600 years. The simple fact of the matter is that the Islamic world as we know it today began its development five or six centuries after what we used to call Christendom and now, thankfully, label “The Western World”.

So, as an exercise, let’s take a look at some basic timelines for the Umma and Christendom, each starting from its respective ‘year dot’.

Christendom Islam
Year Zero(ish) 

A woman from an outpost of the Roman Empire falls inconveniently and/or inexplicably pregnant. She claims to have been impregnated by a golden shower and told about it by the Archangel Gabriel, who, as we go on, would appear to have been a very busy person.


A man who sells holy souvenirs claims to have been visited by the Archangel Gabriel who, for some reason, dictates to him a book of verse containing some fairly vague guidance about life, the universe and everything.


After a snappy three hundred odd years of proselytization, the Roman Empire becomes Christian. Sort of. Depends how you define it, really, but, officially, it’s Christian. Which means so is most of the Western World, whether it likes it or not.


At the time, it was largely ‘not’.


The extended family of Gabriel’s impromptu amanuenses spend their time invading Sham, North Africa, Turkey, Syria and, finally, Spain, thus collecting pretty much all the regions that the previous collapsed empires either couldn’t or couldn’t be bothered holding on to. They officially make these places Moslem but, unlike the Empires of Christendom, penalise non-Moslems by adding taxes rather than removing limbs.


This period is a little bit dark and vague. Essentially, most of Europe spends an inordinate period of time invading its neighbours and infighting in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, they are too busy doing this to keep good or detailed records of a lot of it, which is probably why Merovingians and others from this period are so favoured by conspiracy theorists.


Eventually, several hero-kings emerge to re-unite the European regions that we spent the previous few hundred years tearing apart. The most prominent of these was Charlemagne, who advanced the interests of the Church and the culture of the West, often using nothing more complicated than fire and the sword.


This period is a little bit dark but not at all vague. Essentially, most of the near East spends this period invading its neighbours and infighting in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ummayad dynasty. Fortunately, the various peoples and factions kept excellent records of this. This is probably why they were able to preserve a lot of the knowledge that the West was busily washing away with blood and fire.


Eventually, this culminates in the formation of the Ottoman Empire, which advances the influence of the Umma and Near-Eastern civilisation using fire, the sword, education and health care. And fire and the sword.


Early on in this period, having sorted out who’s who in the zoo internally, the Christian Empires start looking abroad to see who they can beat the crap out of. This results in four Crusades. Some of these are in response to aggressive Moslem expansion, some because ‘Empire’.


A small island kingdom drafts a document intended to guarantee the freedom of all people who are not slaves, but, for the most part, this is the period where Christendom invades, enslaves and slaughters because God has told them to rid the holy lands of infidels.


Having finally sorted out who’s in charge of the Caliphate, the Moslem states spend these centuries fighting people who aren’t Moslem. Some of this is in response to Asian and Eurasian aggressive expansionism, but a fair amount of it is because ‘Empire’.


Finally, in 1916, the long-running collision with Christendom culminates in the collapse of the Caliphate and the carving up of its territories. All over the Moslem world, groups and nations fight tooth and nail against the Russians and the West because God has told them to rid the holy lands of infidels.

As we can see, there are some eerie parallels. Okay, admittedly, there are a lot of not so eerie ones too, largely due to the fact that the story of Islam and Christendom has often been a story or collision. The point is, though, that the Islamic world today is at almost exactly the same point as the Christian world was at a similar stage of development. Make of this what you will, but it does invalidate the specious and somewhat dimwitted idea that the central aim of the Islamic world is to turn back the clock.

A media release from the Australian Christian Lobby

For immediate release

The Australian Christian Lobby has questioned the wisdom of a campaign by some Australian corporations supporting a change to the definition of marriage.

“I just wonder if they have thought about how legislating a family structure which causes children to miss out on one of their parents is fair,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.

In order to keep his position internally consistent, Mr Shelton then also called for legislation to force married couples to have children, and to ban marriage for couples who don’t want children or who have children from previous marriages, and to ban unmarried couples from having children, and to force married couples without children to get divorced, and to ban divorce. When asked how he would both ban and require divorce, Mr Shelton shouted “OMG THAT TREE LOOKS LIKE JESUS!”, and ran from the room.

When he returned, Mr Shelton went on to say, “This debate needs to move beyond politically correct ideology to a mature and open debate. Men have pee-pees and women have hoo-has, and that’s all there is to it. Furthermore, you’re all poopy-heads, and I will now close my eyes and stick my fingers in my ears until you leave”.

Noting that the Football Federal of Australia had also backed the campaign, Mr Shelton wondered where this left the tens of thousands of Australians who play soccer but also believe a child should be raised by their mother and father. “I wonder where this leaves the tens of thousands of Australians who play soccer but also believe a child should be raised by their mother and father,” he wondered. “Mexico? Aruba? That place where all the refugees come from? Even if it leaves them exactly where they were before, playing soccer and believing a child should be raised by their mother and father, I’m pretty sure they all stand around during games thinking about children not being raised by their mothers and fathers instead of thinking about whether they’re in an off-side position, and it will make them sad to think that the governing body wants to change the definition of marriage, and much sadder than the thousands of gay, trans and intersex players who stay in the closet because they think the governing body and society in general won’t accept them. I just really feel for them.”

“The corporates involved in this latest campaign really are not showing very much tolerance to those in the community who have a different view about marriage and the rights of children,” Mr Shelton said. “Of course, if the FFA came out in support of my own personal view of marriage, that would be fine.”

When asked whether he understood the meaning of irony, and whether it was intolerant to be intolerant of intolerance, Mr Shelton yelled “POOPY-HEADS!” and ran from the room.