Wednesday, 11 June 2014

"I am not the problem", plus threats to renewable energy, health cuts ..

Classified as: reflective journal - Indigenous perspectives, discourse, politics

 "I am not the problem"

A wonderful moment from Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, talking on the ABC's Q and A program on Monday 9 June 2014

I am not the problem

I have copied her words below because they are so wonderful, but it is even better to watch her in person (the link above has the video excerpt)

"You know, I have a culture. I am a cultured person. (Speaking Arrernte) I’m talking another language. And my language is alive. I am not something that fell out of the sky for the pleasure of somebody putting another culture into this cultured being. John [Pilger*] shows what is an ongoing denial of me. I am not an Aboriginal or, indeed, Indigenous. I am Arrernte, Alyawarre, First Nations person, a sovereign person from this country. (Speaking Arrernte) This is the country I came out from. I didn’t come from overseas. I came from here. My language, in spite of whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem. I have never left my country nor have I ceded any part of it. Nobody has entered into a treaty or talked to me about who I am. I am Arrernte Alyawarre female elder from this country. Please remember that. I am not the problem."

This is such an important point - the people who experience or suffer from oppression, are not the problem - the problem is the oppression and the people who practise it or benefit from it. All white people in Australia have benefited from this oppression one way or another (as I've noted in a previous post). We need to acknowledge this.


Another thing I saw on the ABC news last night was a piece about the possible impact on Hepburn Wind if the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is removed by the Abbott government. I've discussed in a previous post how Hepburn Wind is a model for community energy projects, and how after years of work it has just come close to breaking even.

There is more information about the RET review and the possible impact on renewable energy and community energy projects from the Coalition for Community Energy.

I looked at some of the submissions on the RET review, including one from my energy provider, Origin. Origin is calling for the RET to be lowered - and I am thinking about whether I should change my energy provider! At least they are not calling for it to be abolished, but even lowering it is a foolish step backwards.

One thing that makes me quite angry about the position of Origin and also that of the Electricity Suppliers Association of Australia, is that they talk a lot about the costs of renewable energy to the general public, through the RET and the carbon price, but there are two things they don't seem to mention:
  • People on low to average incomes in Australia were in general over-compensated for the costs of the carbon price - they received more in payments from the government than the costs that the carbon price was estimated to cause households.
  • Energy companies make a profit from current household solar. Early Feed-in Tarriffs (FITs), which are the price the energy companies pay people for the electricity that they feed in to the main grid from their solar panels, were quite high, to encourage take up of solar panels. However, they have now been reduced,  and electricity companies now sell the electricity for more than they pay for it. For example, Origin pays me 8c per Kilowatt hour (KwH) for energy from my solar panels, and sells it to other people for 22c per KwH.
 It seems to me that they are not being entirely honest.

Final quick point - I'm sure everyone knows, in general terms, about the huge cuts to health that are proposed in the federal budget, plus the co-payments for doctor visits and medications. It is also worth noting that health promotion has particularly been targeted. The Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA) are advocating on these issues. See advocacy information and letters here.

I would like to write more about the impact of the budget on health promotion soon, but in the meantime I urge everyone to support the work of the AHPA.


* John Pilger, maker of the documentary Utopia, which was being discussed.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Thought about getting your degree tattooed on your forehead, ladies?

When you act like you’re ignorant, people assume you’re ignorant. Your degrees aren’t tattooed onto your forehead.

Classified as: reflective journal - discourse, feminism, gender.

Quick update on a few things happening lately. I've mainly been reading more theory, for my data analysis as mentioned in the last post, and in my spare time reading Thomas Piketty Capital in the Twenty First Century (an important new book about inequality for anyone who hadn't heard about it yet). I've also been reading what others have said about Piketty online.

The comment above was made by a male (I believe) commenter to me during an online discussion, which I had started by questioning a statement by Piketty that sustained population growth in the 18th century was unprecedented (p 3). The commenter, and another man in the same discussion, were convinced that I didn't understand the concept of exponential growth, and that they had to explain it to me.

Didn't matter that I said, yes, I do get it, I do understand the concept - they were convinced I didn't, and they had to keep lecturing me about it. In the end I got so sick of it that I pointed out to the second guy that, while I hadn't studied general maths since I left school, I have studied biostatistics and epidemiology at postgrad level, got high distinctions for both, and won an award for epi. So the idea that I didn't understand a concept like exponential growth was unlikely.

In response to which, he said that I "sounded like" I was dumb at maths, and he couldn't be expected to know better, given that I didn't have my degrees tattooed on my forehead (not that that would have been much use online, anyway). I suppose the possibility of believing me when I said I understood it, hadn't occurred to him.

I'm not linking to the site, because it's a good blog and shouldn't be typecast by a couple of misguided individuals (in fact the first guy got reprimanded by other commenters, one of whom said he was behaving like a "dick".) However this whole episode reminds me of Rebecca Solnit's work Men Explain Things to Me. I've read the famous first essay, the one that led to the concept of "mansplaining" (although Solnit didn't use that term), but I'd like to read the whole book.

The episode also reminds me of another incident last year, when a male sustainability officer tried to explain to me why I was wrong about electricity prices going up. I'd been talking about peak demand, infrastructure, privatisation and service charges, and why all this had an unfair impact on low income groups. He interrupted me to tell me I was wrong, and then proceeded to explain it all using slightly different terminology. It took me several tries, and again having to insist that I wasn't stupid, before I managed to make him see that we were saying the same thing using different words.

Maybe it's particularly in the maths and technology area that some men think women are dumb. Anyway what about this idea of having our degrees tattooed on our foreheads? Will it work? Will it solve the problem? Or is the responsibility on these men to stop assuming we're dumb? Hard question (not).

But more seriously, how much does this keep women from participating in discussions about these issues? Because as I've mentioned before, not many seem to, at least online, and this is an important gap.