15 August, 2017

Who is to blame?

image by itsbruce
cc license
Who is to blame for the current (apparent) popularity in being a loud, proud, violent, racist, sexist, homophobe? I think I have it all worked out...

Unlike what some may be telling you, I don't think we can blame the Abbotts and Bernadis of this world. Arsehole politicians with outdated views on what other people should be doing are really nothing new. And, for the most part, the rest of the world just ignores them for a few years before accidentally voting them in again at the next election.
No, we can rule them out as the cause.
I put it to you that the real cause is HIPSTERS.
Yes, hipsters. Bearded, boutique-beer drinking, vinyl listening, bicycle riders.

Being a hipster might seem harmless, but as you reach back into the 20th century in order to locate more obscure things that you can like and know about before your friends do, it is only a matter of time before you bring back other things with you.
What things? Well, racism and homophobia are pretty retro. And it is surely a short step from being the sort of man who thinks that shaving with a straight razor might be fun, to being the sort of man who thinks that women are his to command. Were you into that before it was cool? Well it is still not cool, so stop it.

Image by Ryan Hayes
cc licensed
So, what is my solution? I think it is obvious, rather than looking to the past for our inspiration it is time to look to the future. And not the dystopian, 'the future will be awful' sort of stuff. Real imaginative science-fiction!
If you want: same sex marriage; to close the gender pay gap; to get racists off the streets again; to find a world where we welcome the alien among us, then read science fiction again.

07 February, 2017

Vote 1 The Gutless, spineless, gormless, direction-less, neurotic, underachieving, snivelling, cowardly pile of Smeg Party.

A rare photo of Cory NOT thinking about what gay men get up to.

The Cory B Bernardi Song
(with apologies to Arnold J Rimmer)

If you're in trouble he will save the day
He's brave and he's fearless and so not gay
Without him our nation would go astray
He's Cory, Cory, Cory Bernardi
Without him our progress would be less tardy
He's handsome, trim, and just changed party
He will see if that was quite foolhardy
He's Cory, Cory, Cory Bernardi
More rugged than rugby’s Scott Fardy
He's frequently been mistaken for a pharisee
He's very very worried about your sexuality
Goes and sits in church for his Sunday
His belief that he is right is uncanny
How come he's such a wanker? Don't ask me!
Ask Cory, Cory, Cory Bernardi
His head looks like a strange erection
And if you write your votes right
Then he just might be out of parliament next election.
He's Cory, Cory, Cory Bernardi
Thinking of him makes me scoll bacardi
We’ll decorate his election posters with a sharpie
And try and ignore his political bastardy

(with thanks to Adam for the title of the post)

05 August, 2016

I received an email today (I actually received hundreds, but that is another issue), this one was on the census and I include it here for context when you read my ensuing rant.

Subject: Be careful how you answer the Census next Tuesday night

Dear Friends, Next Tuesday night (9 August) is 2016 Census night – where we are required by law to answer all sorts of questions to help governments make decisions about such things as public transport, housing, education and hospitals. There has been little controversy – until now.
 This year, the religion question – and its implications for the funding of school chaplains and faith-based charities, as well as tax-exempt status for churches – is all important. The religion question is the only one that is not compulsory. It lists six Christian denominations and three non-Christian religions, with a space for “other” – but this year for the first time, “No religion” is the first option. That was the result of a quiet campaign by the Atheist Foundation of Australia three years ago. They hope that putting “No religion” at the top before any other option, they would win the “donkey vote” – and ultimately force governments to end any subsidy or recognition for the huge amount of public good done by faith-based community organisations. 
They have also mounted an advertising campaign in supermarket car parks and elsewhere, urging people to mark the “No religion” box. The problem is compounded by the fact that many non-denominational Christians mark “No religion” because they have faith in Christ, but don’t belong to a particular denomination. To them, “religion” means “denomination”.
What can we do? We can:
  • Make sure we answer the religion question – by marking one of the six boxes for Christian denominations, or writing “Christian” or something similar in the space provided for “other” religion.
  • Send this email to other friends and family, encouraging them to do the same.
  • Pray – that the atheist campaign will fail. May the Lord bless and guide you!
FamilyVoice Australia: a Christian voice for family, faith and freedom

To which I reply...
There are some interesting assumptions here. Amongst them: that no religion is on top of the list for nefarious reasons; that the tax status of churches & funding of chaplains is tied to census figures; and that atheists automatically oppose good work done by faith based charities.

I would like to point out that (while this email isn't) there are also some doing the rounds proposing people mark Christian in order that 'Islam can't take over'.

I would like to propose that if any of you are taking part in a conversation about the census, the correct position for a Christian to take is that we want people to answer the question honestly. It doesn't serve the church to promote a dishonest answer regardless of whether our fear is of atheists, Muslims or our own declining influence on policy makers. I say "our fear" because I think that the driver for this (and emails like it) is fear, rather than reality and I don't believe that we (as Christians) should be operating out of a place of fear. This is especially true when the fear is a fear of waning political influence. Our call as The Church is not to legislate morality, nor to take over the government, it is to love the stranger among us and we don't do that through building upon the fear campaigns which are taking over western political discourse.

The last Census showed us that 13,150,673 people identified as Christian and a mere 476,291 identified as Islamic. Likewise 14,871,285 people identified as having a religion while only 4,796,785 gave the answer of no-religion. Neither Atheists nor Muslims look likely to be ousting Christianity from its place of significance in Australia. Not that I would be advocating a campaign to lie on the census, even if Christianity, Atheism and Islam were locked in a three way tie with political influence to the victor.

In a similar vein, the campaign to get people to mark 'no religion' is not about convincing me (or you) to mark that option, rather it is about people who were nominally 'born' to a religion but are not adherents. It is about accuracy of information. Information which we in the church can then use to find out who our community really are and how we can serve them & reach them.

The funding of school chaplains is a political matter, for the government of the day. Likewise the tax status of churches. Decisions will be made based on our votes, not our demographics. (And perhaps on the perception people have about those denominations which are making their preachers wealthy while providing little or nothing for their communities. Or on the quality of the work done by the chaplains).

The good work of faith based charities & their funding, is likewise unrelated to census figures. Rather, as long as they continue in their good work, they will be supported by the public. One only has to look at the public support for the salvos or, conversely, the public distaste for recent foreign-aid campaigns where the money was eaten up by 'admin costs'.

If you look at the old census question you may note that the option of 'no religion' is not obvious. In gathering data, this is likely to skew the results. This is the reason that the format of the question has been changed and while a campaign by an atheist organisation may have brought this to the attention of the Census, the decision was (as it always is in the Census) based on ensuring the accuracy of data collected.

As a librarian, historian & teacher I rely on accuracy of information and, as far as I see it, the census has tweaked this question in an attempt to get the most accurate data (which includes hoping the changes mean less people put Jedi as their religion).  
Image of question 19 from the 2011 Census
The real controversy in the current census, is actually about data retention and privacy, but that is a topic for another manifesto.

26 March, 2016

A letter to a brick, with eyes

The following is the text of a message I sent to Senator Glenn Lazurus. It is in relation to a wonderfully bogan discussion that was occurring on his facebook page, in relation to the lack of the word Easter on eggs. I was aware of the moral panic and hand-wringing of the faux 'war on Christmas' but was unaware that those who are paranoid that Halal will cause them to 'catch the Muslim' are also worried about the Muslim population's seditious plan to get hold of our Easter treats.
(we stole Easter from the Pagans fair and square and we're not going to let brown people steal it off us!)

Senator Lazarus,

I know that you do not share my (lefty libertarian) political bent, and I suspect you do not share my brand of progressive Christianity. However, I have an Easter request for you. You are offended you tell us, about the lack of the word Easter on Cadbury rabbits.
Now, as a Christian, I don't feel that the word Easter (or lack thereof) on a purple box is really deleterious to the practice of my chosen faith.
As an Australian I know we don't have a state religion, nor do I believe we should.
As a lefty, I don't believe that comments about Muslims "taking over" and "breading like rabbits" should be let go without remark. And, that remark would be to point out that I remember the same fears existed over "wogs and slopes". Yet now, few of us would wish to go back and undo the multicultural Gordian Knot which has resulted in a richer culture for my children (and better coffee for me).
As someone with a libertarian bent, I don't believe the comments of those who fear 'Muslim cultural creep' should be censored. Rather that they should be debated honestly in the public sphere. So, I find it upsetting that I am now unable to comment on your facebook page because (it would appear) my stance is more offensive than some of the vile racism and juvenile name calling in that discussion?
I am aware that it is unlikely that you administer your own social media, so would like you to be aware that this debate exists and that whomever holds the password to this aspect of your public face appears to be censoring the debate in one particular direction.


[edit, shortly after sending this message my ability to post reappeared. I am not sure if I was reinstated or if I had initially been caught by some sort of SPAM filter? However, it seems my comments have not reappeared and I am not militant enough to go through the 2000 posts in order to find the ones I commented on and rewrite my comments. Suffice it to say, dear reader, they were droll, but while demonstrating breathtaking political, spiritual and ideological genius].
(second edit, no it seems that while the comment button momentarily reappeared as I read the comments, I am unable to click on it).

14 October, 2014

'straya knuts

If you don't love it, LEAVE Australia, if you don't love it leave! Simple enough statement and one which (it seems) a lot of people think is perfectly innocent when worn on a t-shirt. "Political correctness gone mad" I hear people say, when it is suggested a major chain might like to rethink selling said shirt.
I have read "If you don't love your job leave, if you don't love your relationship leave" Not awful advice, but perhaps not your only option. If you don't love your job, quit and go on the dole? Or is their benefit in working a job you don't like because you are working towards a better one?
Don't like your relationship? Sure give up, but there might also be a benefit in working to make it better. You know, a bit of counselling and that sort of thing. Might not work, but perhaps you won't take your same flaws to the next relationship without some awareness.

So, I could leave this post with the final thought "Australia, love it or work within the system to improve it" (and then co to cafe-press and start selling a t-shirt with that slogan on it).
But that is not the whole story, because like it or not there is underlying racism in the idea. What?
Noooo, not racism in Australia, I hear you say.
Sorry, but yep. Because more often than not the " 'staya, love it of fuck off" is tied to the "go back where you came from" sentiment. Now, I know that YOU reading this are not like that, but stay with me here...

There are plenty of people with legitimate complaints about Australian society. If (like me) you are lucky enough to be pale of complexion and capable of speaking strine, then no one questions your love of the country. If I decide I am going to start a fast food franchise and I will replace the meat with tofu, people might call me a wanker. But, if I am opening my store in an area where the customers are all ironic vegan hipsters it might be a good business decision. But if I were brown and my store was to be in Lakemba and I decided that rather than tofu I was going to use halal meat... Then I might hear "if you don't like it, leave" (although, given what I have been reading I think I would hear a lot worse than that).

To this debate, let me add to your thinking that there are many in our indigenous community who have things to say about our society which might indicate they do not always love this nation the way blokes with flag capes and southern-cross tattoos might demand.

What is that? Free speech, I hear you cry! Sure, free speech it is. But doesn't free speech include the freedom to point out the things which are wrong? Doesn't free speech include to right of people to say "dear Woolies, your shirts suck, you suck and if you keep sucking so hard I might forgive coles for their stupid down down ads"?
Likewise, the same free speech which lets you wear that shirt, includes the freedom for me to express the belief that, if you do you are a racist bogan.

Australia, you were either lucky enough to be born here or lucky enough to have come here. Either way, you didn't create this society, so if you want to be proud of something...
be proud of the fact that you are not unquestioningly jingoistic
be proud of the fact that you have worked to change things which you think are wrong
be proud of the fact that you are working to maintain a society which allows those "who come across the seas" to put their stamp on our society (sure, if you want you are free to continue with meat and three veg while drinking international roast, but you are missing out).

26 March, 2014

Christianity is a poor excuse for homophobia

My FB feed has been going 'ping' a bit recently on the subject of homosexuality in the Christian Church. Things like the recent decision by World Vision in the US to accept Gay Marriage, when hiring people in US states where Gay Marriage is recognised (and the resulting evangelical backlash of "if you employ the gays, then we won't feed the world's poor because we think that is what Jesus wants") and the recent death of Fred Phelps have got all sorts of Church, non-Church, ex-church and un-church folk musing on the topic. The trouble I am having is that there is a lack of rational thinking in the debate. Well, no thinking nor love or compassion from so many of my fellow pew dwellers (like the evangelicals who think Jesus would rather poor kids starve than a Christian have to work with a homosexual). So, I thought I would add my own views on the topic to my own little corner of the web as my own attempt to shout into the void that not everyone who still gets up on a Sunday morning is so completely homophobic, nor so completely literal that we believe the bible can be understood by reading it once in English (or, by having it read to you by some guy in a white suit on the telly box).

The words I am about to paste into this post are the words I was invited to say from the pulpit of my local Anglican Church for a conversation on the Church's response to Gay Marriage...

The question for Christians has to come down to the simplest command of Jesus. Love one another as I have loved you. And to me, the simple denial of equality on the basis of sexuality is failing to show love. Some people may say that 'we love the sinner but hate the sin'. Quite a popular phrase in this discussion. I don’t believe we can do that very well and certainly I can see that a lot of what Christians think of as hating the sin is seen just as hate. If we are seen as hateful, how do we show Jesus to the world?

But, I want to look at the verses some Christians use to condemn homosexuality.
Firstly the story of Sodom (Genisis 19:1-3). There is nothing in this story which comes close to being about gay marriage. It is a story of the breaking of hospitality laws and the use of rape as a tool of dominance. The same is true of the story in Judges 19, the point of the story is not that the house-guest was wanting to get out and enjoy the night life of the city.
Plus, on a personal note, I would ask. Are you going to take your moral bearings from a story where the ‘correct’ thing to do was to send out your virgin daughters to be raped by a mob? Why is this verse being used as evidence of homosexuality? If the mob were homosexual the daughters and concubines would have been perfectly safe, no this is a morality tale about power and dominance.

The (possibly, but not really) clearer verses are Leviticus 18:21-22, Leviticus 20:13. However, the first refers to child sacrifices to Molech and the homosexuality mentioned may be part of the same idolatrous pagan worship. The section in verse 20 also begins as a discussion of idolatrous behaviour. Plus, it is part of a long list and if we want to keep this part of the old testament law, can we choose just this verse or do we need to keep the whole chapter (or the whole book). Because we allow people who curse their parents to marry, but it is on the same list. We do not, as a church, condemn sexual activity during menses, yet there it is on the same list.

Remember, our bible is not the Old testament list of rules, the law has been set aside for it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God (Hebrews 7). It is the much, much harder call to fulfil the whole law by loving your neighbour as yourself. It is a call to love and relationship with God and we do not bring anyone into a relationship with God by imposing our favourite of the Old Testament laws on them and claiming it is love. 

So, onto the new testament...
Romans 1:26 Is not a prohibition against homosexuality but a warning about what will happen to you if you exchange God for idolatry (verse23-24). It may well refer to sexual acts as a part of worship in some pagan temples.
The word that is presently translated as homosexual in the new testament (in 1 Corinthians 6 & 1 Timothy 1) is arsenokoites. But this is a very recent (1946) translation of the word and is by no means a clear one. Paul’s use of the word arsenokoites is the first recorded use and he does not define it. In fact, in all of classical literature there are fewer than 80 uses of the word. The word literally means ‘Man Bed’ and during the reformation because the word was man and not men, scholars translated it as masturbators. While to our modern ears, man bed may seem obvious, the Greeks already had a word for two men having intercourse (androkoites) so one must wonder why Paul felt the need to coin a new word if that was what he wanted to say.

Some people suggest that Paul was talking about shrine prostitution or about sexual relationships between a teacher and pupil (certainly, until recently pederast is how the 1 Corinthians verse was translated).  Others suggest that (like the old testament verses I mentioned earlier) it refers to the use of sexual domination as a way of showing superiority and power. Perhaps a master and his slave, or to update the verse somewhat in light of the current Royal Commission a priest and a congregant?

So, am I saying that Paul wasn’t talking about homosexuality? I doubt he was, but I can’t be sure. However what I am sure of is that Jesus' message can be condensed into whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). So I feel no need to invent reasons to discriminate against people or deny them the same rights I have, nor do I feel the need to bring back the old testament strictures, otherwise I am guilty of crimes enough to see me stoned to death every few days for the rest of time.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

16 December, 2013

Fighting against reality is pointless

The article (which I won't link to, as it is not the point) was actually about gun deaths in the US, but it was the title which struck me "Parents Should Never Outlive Their Children. Can We All Agree On That, At Least?" It struck me, because it is reflective of the disconnect between our lives and the reality of being a fragile bag of skin full of squishy organs in a world full of: sharp, heavy, bitey, zappy, fast.... 'stuff' capable of rendering the 'me' part of me unfindable.
  • 2 days ago a friend's 5 year old decided to crash tackle a moving hilux. 
  • Another old friend's 30-something daughter is currently in an induced coma after a brain bleed. 
  • A month or so ago, I was standing alongside a lot of my senior students at the funeral of a former classmate, listening to his parents talk about his life. 
  • Earlier this year I failed to save the life of a co-worker who had a massive heart attack in a library full of students. 
  • A few weeks later a 15 year old student decided to have a heart attack too and we were told the chances of him surviving were slim. 
Yet, this isn't really much to deal with. I live in a country where death has been taken away. Not just away from the front room and into hospital, but away from the front of our thinking. For most people, in most of the world, throughout most of our history the idea that parents should never outlive their children would be patently absurd. Life is not something you can hold onto by arguing with it, there is no Pratchettesque grim reaper willing to listen to you as you rage against the injustice, like a 13 year old girl who has been told to stop talking in class and refuses to accept any sanction unless EVERY girl in the class who has EVER talked in this or any other class, but has not been caught, get an equal sanction...

Parents should never outlive their children? Why not? Tell that to the parents of Kandahar whose children have been collateral damage. How about the people of Iraq, whose mortality rates for the under 5s is two and a half times higher than it was before we brought them the gift of freedom. Yeah, it is OK, I'm not going all lefty today. It isn't just about the wars, it is about the deaths from famine and disease in so many countries.

Mmm, perhaps we will all

29 August, 2013

I plan, you plan, we all plan for NAPLAN part II

And, a closer inspection of my coursework tells me all my earlier fears have been realised. I am pointed towards the maths NAPLAN too…
Well, I did manage an advanced B in year 10 and then passed accountancy for my (as yet incomplete) Masters in Management. So year 7 should be a doddle, right?

Well, to a degree yes. Like my rant on the language test, my own way of approaching things is a bit off kilter. In the case of Maths, I am a whiz kid for special reasoning (what is the next shaded nonagon in the series, which side of the cube will be opposite side ‘c’) and I am more than capable of working out how to calculate most any equation short of the introduction of Greek letters, so the calculator section is fine. What kills me is a processing inability, I am incapable of holding numbers in my head for more than an instant and I am (genetically? physiologically?) incapable of learning my times tables. This leaves me in a very difficult place for the calculator free test, counting on your fingers may be frowned upon for a year 7 student. It is certainly frowned upon when you are standing in front of a year 10 geography class teaching them how to manage the statistics and graphing data they need for their fieldwork report.

Really, like my earlier post, this one is just going to suggest that it is important that I (and you, dear reader) ensure that we don’t assume that a lack of ability in one area (or several) points to a generic lack of ability or the presence of stupidity. Like the ‘Idiot Savant’ (an evocative, if somewhat inaccurate term) I would posit the existence of the ‘Savant Idiot’. Savant idiots are those of us who despite our obvious intellect across most fields of endeavour, manage to have an area (or two) where our failures are spectacular and no amount of effort seems able to displace our natural deficit.