Respect for the enemy

I was watching Q&A the other night. It’s a show I watch rarely, but enjoy when I do. On the panel on this particular occasion were, along with others, Catherine Deveny and Archbishop Peter Jensen.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I agree with most of Catherine Deveny’s views on most social matters. She is in favour of gay marriage, she’s all for equal rights, feminism, and so on. And, of course, I disagree with virtually everything the Archbishop believes. God, the Bible, and all that goes with it.

So I was rather surprised to find myself respecting Jensen while getting very frustrated at Catherine while watching them ‘debate’ on Q&A. Jensen puts his views forward in an eloquent and dispassionate way, he says that he seeks out intelligent and unemotional discussion, he claims to want to know more facts about a great many contentious issues. He was also courteous towards the other panel members.

Catherine, on the other hand, laid on the sarcasm like it was going out of style, and employed rhetoric to a similar degree. She did not show herself willing to articulate her arguments, relying instead on mocking the points of others. She interrupted other speakers to push her agenda, and failed to keep her answers relevant to the questions. Despite holding very valid views, she utterly failed to articulate why she held them, or why anybody else should agree with her, which seems to me the entire point of a debate.

So, contrary as it might sound, I now have a great deal more respect for a prominent member of ‘the enemy’ than I do for a prominent person from ‘my side’. Fortunately I can see the difference between respect and like, so I don’t have a problem with this, but from comments I’ve read about the Q&A show and about these speakers specifically, other people see my stance as a sort of betrayal; it seems the public will not permit me to hold a positive view of one aspect of a person while maintaining a negative view of another aspect. Too bad, I say, that is how I feel!

Two more babies I’d have happily adopted…


This is Lindsay Lowe. She is charged with giving birth to twins and murdering both immediately. Apparently she hid the pregnancy from family and friends, never saw a doctor, and smothered both newborn boys within moments of their birth.

What the hell is wrong with people? Was this woman unaware of alternatives? If you find yourself pregnant accidentally and will not or cannot raise a child yourself:

a) take a “morning after” pill

b) have an abortion

c) have the child or children adopted.

Those concepts aren’t too difficult to grasp, are they? Didn’t she see Juno?

I can’t help wondering if Catholicism has something to do with this. Because we all know that killing a foetus is so evil and wrong (nb: I’m an Atheist and don’t actually believe that), but the murder of a person after their birth gets less public debate, so maybe it doesn’t seem so bad to some people?!

I simply can’t think of any other rationale for the way this woman has behaved. What possible reason can you have for this sort of decision? What was going on in her head? To be sure, it’s easy to panic and not think clearly at first, but you’ve got 40 weeks to figure it out! That’s nearly a year. Trust me, I know. It’s a long time to consider what to do with the babies.

I won’t wish unjust or overly severe punishments upon this woman. Clearly she’s already broken, and no doubt her censure will be universal already. But if I could change the past, I’d have called her a month ago and offered to take those babies for her.

Speed cameras

Every time speed cameras take a starring role in public debate, somebody (usually a great many somebodies) throws in the phrase ‘revenue raising’, often in relation to the placement of speed cameras but also their very existence and use. It is an attitude which never ceases to irritate me.

Speed cameras do no more than catch and fine people who are speeding. That is to say, you have to be breaking the law already for them to effect you in any way. It doesn’t matter where they are, everywhere has a speed limit in place which you should be adhering to. Whilst I don’t always feel that speed limits are appropriate, I more strongly object to people deliberately disobeying them and then complaining of the consequences.

By all means, pick and choose which laws you obey. But in doing so, you also pick and choose the results and punishments. Making the choice to speed is more than simply driving faster than mandated: it includes the choice to endanger yourself and others, and the choice to be fined or even imprisoned for it. The possible, and even probable, consequences of that act are hardly a secret.

In short, do not blame the speed cameras for your own illegal activity. Take responsibility for your actions. Drive slower, and you’ll never have to pay a fine again!

Welfare and its sudden removal

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has expressed support for the eviction of and withdrawal of social benefits from London rioters. The general viewpoint seems to be that these people have abused and disregarded the system that has supported them, and so that privilege should be removed.

I can see that point of view, and frankly to a certain extent I agree. However I cannot help but consider the consequences of such an act.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re a lazy, uneducated, apathetic person aged between 18 and 25. You’ve been supported by the state in the form of welfare payments, and given every expectation that said support will continue for the rest of your life. As such, you’ve never given much thought to education, qualifications, gathering work experiences, or in any way behaving like a responsible adult or even preparing to. Got it?

Now imagine your welfare is cut off overnight and you’re evicted from your government housing.

Holy shit. Your only means of existence is gone, and you hadn’t planned for anything else. What do you do?

You steal stuff. Even if you hadn’t exactly been a criminal before, you will be now! What other choice remains to you? Nobody will hire you as you are, and you don’t really have time to get your literacy skills up to scratch and get into university and study for a career now, do you?

In short, the sudden withdrawal of state support for people already shown to have criminal tendencies can only increase those tendencies and result in more and worse crime.

It is my long-held view that the very concept of long-term or permanently available welfare (for able-bodied, non-handicapped people) was a bad idea from the beginning. If, right from the start, you’d known that the state would only support you for a given timeframe – say, seven or eight years, enough to go to uni and/or raise a couple of babies – you’d have been less likely to take it for granted and you might have taken steps to ensure that you could provide for yourself after your welfare expires.

There was a time, in Australia at least, when being on the dole was an embarrassing thing, something you strove to avoid and didn’t really want to admit to. Working, holding a job, supporting a family, that was the proud and dignified thing to do. Somewhere along the line that attitude has changed, and now kids (and adults!) are proud of doing nothing and being paid for it. It’s become a lifestyle, or even a career choice. It can even be quite tactical: How can I convince the government that I’m actively looking for work this fortnight? 

The result, which can hardly have been unexpected, is a sub-culture entirely and permanently dependant on welfare. It is growing, and breeding, and it cannot be supported by the taxpayer forever.

David Cameron is right in one respect at least: it is time to impose far more limitations on welfare, and even penalties for the abuse of the system. But the limitations and penalties need to have been publicised in advance; you can’t just rip welfare away from people and expect them to reform overnight to become exemplary citizens.

Bert and Ernie to marry?

A gay rights group is currently collecting signatures on a petition that requests Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie tie the knot!

From the outset, I want to make it clear that I completely support the right of gay couples to marry and have full equality with heterosexual couples.

But marrying Bert and Ernie? I’m not even sure where to start in listing my problems with this.

For starters, B & E have never exhibited any overt signs of being gay. Their behaviour and interactions lead some to believe they’re best friends, some believe they’re brothers, and others think they’re just house-mates. It might be different if they had ever been shown sharing a bed, or holding hands, or partaking in any of the usual behaviours of pre-marital couples. But they haven’t.

Secondly, if they did get married, it would be for all the wrong reasons. As outlined above, there’s no evidence that they are in love, and so the wedding would be a politically-motivated statement rather than a genuine celebration of a dedicated life-long partnership. That’s not a great example for the kids.

Thirdly, why take a long-standing arrangement which is obviously working (for B & E, for the viewers, for the ratings) and change it? Marrying B & E would change their entire vibe, changing Sesame Street itself, not necessarily for the better. It could easily make long-term viewers, who haven’t previously seen B & E as being gay, feel uncomfortable – even those in favour of gay marriage in general.

A more effective move, I feel, would be to introduce new characters on the Street who are already a gay couple. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, and can be dealt with subtly and effectively in a similar manner to what Playschool did a while back. Admittedly that stirred up some controversy, but I’m pretty sure that was mostly media-driven to sell more papers.

And so I say, leave Bert and Ernie alone! They are innocent victims of an over-zealous socio-political movement which, if successful, may even alienate more people than it wins over. Let them continue to live in harmony (or lack thereof, their conflicts being the basis of most skits) as besties, roomies, or brothers.

Respect versus Interest

I don’t often ask a lot of personal questions. I generally assume that if somebody wants me to know something, they’ll tell me. I have tended to regard this as a form of respect and politeness, and I never wanted to appear nosey or insensitive. But the end result is negative, and twofold:

1) I now I have some quite close friends whom I really know very little about.

2) I sometimes get the feeling people think I’m not interested in them, and that perceived lack of interest is reciprocated.

My problem is that I still feel awkward asking what I regard as personal questions, and my definition of that is quite broad. I might not ask a near-stranger about things like: their health problems, their relationship, their family, their financial situation, their religious views, their political leanings… and so on. That means I’m often stuck with general conversation like “How are you?” and then I… stop.

And because I don’t delve right into those issues, the friendship may progress for quite a while based on trivialities, and eventually there comes a point in time where it becomes silly to start asking those personal questions.

“So, I’ve known you for three years, and now I’m going to ask what your partner does for a living. You do have a partner, right?”

No. Silly.

So, I suppose I must work on my social skills, and learn to stretch my funny little boundaries. Don’t be surprised if I start asking weird questions in the near future. Things you might assume I know already, just because we’re friends, but which in truth I never quite got around to asking about.

I just hope you don’t think I’m being rude…


This picture has no relevance to the post. It's just nice.

This picture has no relevance to the post. It's just nice.

Today’s post may be rambling and disjointed, coming as it does from the keyboard of somebody tired and sore. However, I have been thinking a lot lately about opinions.

Pretty much everybody has an opinion on something. Whether it be a hotly contested current issue (such as climate change and the carbon tax) or something that ticks along in the background all the time (such as vegetarianism), you’d be hard pressed to find someone who believes in nothing. And given the right trigger, people are happy to share their opinions.

Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion – no matter what it is. You’re entitled to your views just as I am entitled to mine. However there are a couple of things which strongly-opinionated people often do which annoy me no end, and these must stop!

The first thing is accosting people with their opinions, bombarding them, insisting that their opinion is fact or as good as the word of God and must not be contradicted. These people will not accept debate, regardless of how much evidence may be presented by the defence. Dammitall, they have a view, and it is right; dare to disagree and you are wrong and maybe even stupid or evil!

Didn’t breastfeed your baby? Your child will be sickly and stupid! Drive a large car? Oh my God, it’s people like you who are killing this planet!

These opinionated people know no tolerance or tact, there is no middle ground, you can have no possible extenuating circumstances to justify your differing view. They cause offence wherever they go, and then wonder why nobody seems to like them much.

The second thing is bringing up their opinion when it is irrelevant, or just barely relevant. These people will interrupt a discussion about milk prices to talk about fluoride in the water. They will hijack a conversation about a holiday to push their anti-airline agenda. They will wax lyrical on the evils of corporate America when you’re talking about having your kid’s birthday party at McDonalds. They will take any and every opportunity to inform you of their paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories. These ones can usually be easily dismissed as crazies.

A concept I would like to introduce to both (or all) types of opinionated people is tact, or politeness. By all means, hold your opinion. By all means, live your life according to your principles. But for goodness sake, don’t push it where it isn’t wanted. Sure, mention it. But do so nicely, with consideration for the certain fact that not all of your audience will be inclined to agree.

Here are a couple of simple examples:

Wrong: “Bottle feeding is wrong, and your baby is going to suffer for it!”
Right: “I preferred to breastfeed my babies, and I would be interested to hear why you chose not to.”

Wrong: “Never buy processed chicken, it’s full of hormones and they do horrible things to you!”
Right: “I feel uncomfortable eating chicken after all those unsubstantiated rumours from a few years ago.”

Wrong: “Vaccinations cause autism! How could you do that to your child?”
Right: “Oh, I had heard that vaccinations can cause some health problems so I chose not to.”

Good luck tactifying yourself, campers!