Sunday, 24 July 2016

Adjusting to the new reality that's quite like the old one, or maybe not

Classified as: reflections, updates, politics

So the election has not brought any apparent policy change in regard to equity, environmental sustainability and health. There also appear to be some worrying trends such as the election of Pauline Hanson and possibly some other One Nation representatives in the Senate. This is likely to mean continuing verbal attacks against Muslims, and probably against Ms Hanson's previous targets of Asians and Indigenous people. What this will lead to I'm not sure. Previously in Victoria, it seems One Nation was largely defeated by strong positive leadership on multiculturalism and non-violent civil action. I hope this can be repeated but it also needs to extend to other parts of Australia, and we need to understand what the appeal of One Nation is.

Similarly I would say we need to understand what is the appeal of boat turn backs and detention camps for asylum seekers, which are policies of both major parties, so they are not just appealing to fringe groups. I think advocates are doing a really good job of drawing attention to the inhumane nature of detention camps, and that is probably achieving some change of attitude. (Will try to reference this at a later time when I am not working on my mobile). However I think we also need a stronger discussion on why people support those policies and what the alternatives are - I'm sure that's happening but I'm not seeing much of it in the public arena, so it needs to be brought out somehow. I guess it's always an issue of defining the problem AND presenting solutions, for effective policy and political change.

The broader political front is also pretty depressing, not just because of constant news of violence such as the latest shooting in Munich, but because of political decisions like Brexit and the nomination of Trump as Republican presidential candidate in the USA. It seems clear that those movements reflect people's concern over inequality to some degree, but they also reflect fear of immigrants and the 'other'. Thinking about what is happening with inequality world wide (where approximately 64 people, the majority of them white men, hold half the world's wealth in monetary terms), the fear of immigrants and the turning to someone like Trump as a saviour is deeply, deeply midplaced if it is a reaction to inequality. However there must be some social meaning to this and I think it is important to understand it.

In the USA it seems pretty clear that Trump's appeal is related to old style white patriarchy - the feeling that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are illegitimate upstarts. That was pretty clear in Trump's convention speech, where he and his supporters were saying Hillary Clinton should be jailed, without any resort to due process (indeed one of them claimed she should be shot). Of course, this is also 'Strongman Dictatorship' of a classic type, that's not only directed against women or people of colour, but I think a key reason he can say these things without provoking more outrage is that many people do see women (in this case) as not being legitimate players and therefore not entitled to the protection of the normal rules of the game. The same was true when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister here, when very nasty verbal attacks, of the kind that are not usually made in Australian political life, were made against her (including sexualised attacks, remarks that she should be drowned or culled like an unwanted animal, and attacks on the occasion of her father's death).

In the UK however the reaction seems a bit different - with the election of Theresa May, it seems more as if people have turned to a woman to clean up the mess that men (largely - eg David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage) have created. That's certainly not an unheard of thing in politics though!

Both of these phenomena fit with my 'grand theory' about competitive, hierarchical patriarchy - that it has a dominant ideology of competition, inequality and reliance on violence, but that the underlying assumption of this is that someone is around to do the caring, the cleaning up, to keep things going no matter how violent and chaotic the world becomes. It is this assumption that climate change in particular calls into question.

Big leap there that I'll discuss later. This will be updated. Also my earlier post on Malcolm Turnbull and climate change will have to be updated because the speeches I analysed all seem to have disappeared from his website. To be continued ... 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Election wash-up - reflecting, musing, trying not to brood ...

Classified as: reflections - musings, feelings

I'm going to try to blog more frequently for the rest of this year/until I finish the PhD - whichever comes first. After that the blog may take different directions, or I may stop doing it, I don't know. It concerns me somewhat that I feel as if I can't say entirely what I think because this blog is linked to my research (of course!) but also to Monash. The university does have some control over what I say - in the obvious sense that is right, in that the things I say shouldn't be abusive or offensive. Yet at the same time it seems as if it is limiting my ability to be truthful, which I guess is what some people talk about when they talk about 'political correctness'.

Normally I take comments about 'political correctness' to be code for 'I want to make negative comments or judgements about women and minority groups, but I might get into trouble for it' and I don't have much sympathy for them. However I feel a sense that I am limited in two ways: one, not being able to express emotion, and two, having to appear politically 'impartial'. The first I think has a basis in that being emotional can turn into swearing and being abusive (my mother used to say 'swearing indicates a poor vocabulary' meaning you should be able to find other ways to express your feelings, but I don't know - it's pretty ubiquitous!). I think part of having an egalitarian society is definitely treating others with respect, but at the same time I think we should be able to express how we feel. The political impartiality thing I think is a mistake - researchers and teachers at university level should be able to express who they would vote for and why. It's a fine line - they shouldn't use their position to campaign for a party, because they do have a personal-emotional influence on students, as well as an intellectual one, but they should be able to say why they think particular policies are better for Austrslia, I suggest.

Which is all a long winded way of saying that I am angry and disappointed about what has happened in the federal election. I am angry at Mr Turnbull for being dishonest about climate change (see previous post) and disappointed and a bit angry that just over half of Australian voters supported his government nonetheless. I am disappointed that even though most Australians apparently think our society should be more equal, they won't vote for that (presumably because they are worried about 'the economy', that identifiable 'thing' we are all supposed to fear and venerate).

Let me be clear - I am not saying people shouldn't worry about losing their jobs and not having enough money - of course they do. But 'the economy' is simply the sum total of our work, trade and exchange, and how we look after our environment and each other. If we want to have a society that is fairer and more sustainable, we should be able to do, but people seem scared to try. I think the fear is essentially, that one, we (ordinary people) don't have the capacity to do so, we will stuff it up somehow, and two, rich and powerful people will punish us if we try (of which two is probably more realistic).

As I am getting towards the end of this thesis, I am strongly convinced that we need major social change to create societies that are fairer and more sustainable, but I am becoming depressed about the possibility, not just because of what's happened in our election, but because of what's happening in the world (like what's happening now in Turkey or the massacre in France, to name just two recent events). I'm depressed, to be frank, not seriously depressed I suppose, but just flat - finding it hard to get motivated in any way. I still get delight in my family and my grandkids and the natural world, but so much else seems misguided. There are so many people, mainly women, but also some men, particularly those who aren't in the full time paid workforce, in this project who are working quietly at community level for fairer and more sustainable communities - yet when I look at the national or international political level, it's just not reaching there.

I'm writing this on my mobile, so it's a bit difficult, and I think I'll stop there. It's probably not entirely clear what I mean either, but perhaps I can expand or explain in later posts. I'm not giving up, and I hope others aren't either, but it is a weary path at present. There are therapeutic group sessions being offered in Melbourne for climate activists at present, I think I might try to get to one. Anyone else who is interested, please contact me for details through my Monash email address (see side panel of blog).

Friday, 1 July 2016

Overwhelming consensus: LNP Fail, Labor Could do Better, Greens Good on climate change

Party leaders have been talking a lot about health in the last days of the election, but climate change and health has hardly been mentioned - yet unchecked climate change is the biggest global threat to our lives, health, homes and livelihoods, as well as other species.

A wide range of groups have recently released score cards on the political parties on climate change. The consensus is overwhelming: it can be summarised as LNP Fail, Labor Could do Better, Greens Good.

I really hope people think about this before theyvote.

More score cards below:

Australian Conservation Foundation

World Wildlife Foundation

Turnbull, "Terrible lies" and climate change

I think that some politicians tell terrible lies
(Malcolm Turnbull, 30 June 2016)

Climate change is the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of Australians and people worldwide. Unchecked climate change has the capacity to destroy the lives, homes and livelihood of millions of people, as well as other species. Australians want action on climate change.

Malcolm Turnbull has made approximately 110 speeches and verbal statements in this election campaign. It's an impressive total, but what has he said about climate change? Practically nothing.

In all those thousands of words, he has made only four brief statements about climate change. 

About eight interviewers have also asked him questions about climate change, though only one, Amanda Keller, really tried to pin him down.

Mr Turnbull says he is committed to action on climate change, but  insists that Australia's current actions and targets are adequate - or even outstanding - even though climate experts have clearly said they are inadequate. 

Mr Turnbull claims credit for initiatives funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) although the LNP government tried to get rid of the CEFC, and was only prevented by Labor, Greens, Independents and minor parties in the Senate - the same people Mr Turnbull claims are a threat to good government.

Labor and the Greens both call for much higher targets for emissions reduction. Mr Turnbull acknowledges that higher targets are likely to be necessary following the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change - yet at the same time he scare-mongers about higher targets. On several occasions he insisted they would lead to higher electricity prices, in an obvious attempt to raise community fears.

Mr Turnbull said on 30th June 2016 "I think that some politicians tell terrible lies". Yet I have to ask, what is the difference between lying and pretending? If you say that you care about climate change, while pretending that clearly inadequate measures will make a difference, taking credit for measures like the CEFC that your opponents introduced, and scare mongering about meaningful targets, is that any different than "terrible lies"?


Australians' views on climate change
Australians' attitudes to climate change
100+ speeches and verbal statements by Malcolm Turnbull
Expert views on climate change targets

Friday, 8 January 2016

Happy 2016

Classified as - update, progress report

Seasons' greetings to all.

Here's a beautiful image from the Sydney New Years Eve to start the year.

Indigenous people could be understandably cynical about images like this, but let's hope it stands for something. I find it an inspiring message. It's always been a theme of this project, right from the first workshop back in 2011, that we can learn from Indigenous people and a culture that has survived for 60,000 years.

I've just come back to Monash after my break, to find that ethics approval for the final stage of this research project has been granted.

I've recently completed a draft 40,000 word report on the project. I would like to present the key points from this to participants before completing my thesis in 2016.

I'm hoping to hold a workshop in each of the three research areas. This will be an opportunity to get final feedback from participants, and also an opportunity to say thank you and celebrate the work that participants have been doing, as there will be lunch or afternoon tea provided.

I will be in touch with participants soon regarding possible dates and times for the workshops.