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Category Archives: challenge

“Guest post” – Clover Moore

Thought I’d share the latest from our Lord Mayor’s newsletter. For updates on Copenhagen see ABC News.**

CITIES WILL ACT ON GLOBAL WARMING

The pivotal role of cities in fighting global warming has been acknowledged in drafts, but the fair, ambitious and binding deal needed from the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen is not yet assured.

I participated in the Copenhagen Mayors’ Summit this week with 80 city leaders from around the world to urge national leaders to commit to ambitious targets with the confidence that cities will deliver if supported. The deep cuts needed to avert dangerous global warming require low-carbon cities and action already underway can be accelerated.

The work needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will only get harder if we delay. Deep and fast cuts in the order of 25 to 40 per cent, as recommended by the UN IPCC, are needed to keep warming below 2 degrees. The growing scientific consensus suggests even this may be too little.

The hopes of the world rely on significant progress during the final day of COP15 negotiations. There are some signs of optimism that the 120 heads of state, the largest group gathered for these climate negotiations, may find the courage and political will to break the deadlock.

Our Mayors’ Summit communiqué, delivered on behalf of the 700 million city dwellers we represent, affirms that the battle against global warming will be won or lost in cities. Cities are home to over half the world’s population and responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

An inspiring Summit program has been provided by our host, Ritt Bjerregaard, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen. The centrepiece was city leaders reporting on innovative and practical action to reduce emissions, and I presented on our work creating and implementing Sustainable Sydney 2030. There is extraordinary consensus on what needs to be done.

We attended the high level opening of COP 15 at the Bella Centre,hearing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and COP15 President Connie Hedegaard. We met with Sir Nicholas Stern and were presented with new research supporting cities’ role addressing climate change. Our hosts launched the "Copenhagen Wheel", a hybrid bicycle that we hope to introduce to Sydney, and I drove an electric car in a parade of new models as part of our commitment to make this sustainable option a practical choice in Sydney. The opportunity to see practical solutions in action was inspiring, such as a site visit to the Western Harbour redevelopment in the Swedish city of Malmö, with a renewable energy system, district heating and cooling, and renewable biogas facility. Jan Gehl walked me around his home town to show me the practical results of his decades of work reclaiming Copenhagen for pedestrians and cyclists.The City of Copenhagen has set up a stage and huge illuminated globe in the city centre outside the Town Hall, with public art installations focused on climate change. The city has a celebratory feel with live outdoor concerts each night. Only in Copenhagen could you see thousands dancing outdoors in below zero temperatures with their bicycles parked nearby covered in snow!

At a magic Earth Hour in the Town Hall square on Wednesday evening, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and I addressed a crowd of around 6000 people amid swirling snow, surrounded by historic buildings. Earth Hour was launched in Sydney in 2007, the idea of WWF, supported by the City and Fairfax media group. In 2009, people from 88 countries and 4400 cities turned their lights off for one hour to send a powerful message to national leaders that they want action to address global warming.

As the week progressed, Community representatives have been increasingly locked out of the COP15 centre at a time when negotiations are stalling and delegates need to hear citizen’s voices. Community consultation initiated by the Danish Board of Technology, which was conducted simultaneously in 38 different countries with 4,400 randomly selected participants in September, found that 91% of people around the world want immediate and urgent action on climate change.

Despite the mounting tension and security difficulties, the sirens and the protests, it’s been inspiring to see thousands of cyclists braving the weather and commuting to work in the dark and the snow. Families on the streets with babies in prams mingle with the climate activists who’ve flocked here, many dressed as polar bears and pandas.

As the Mayor of Seattle reported, 1016 cities across the US committed to meet Kyoto protocol targets, going further than their federal government and paving the way for the their nation to go further. With or without binding national targets, the cities of the world will continue working to reduce emissions on a major scale.

Information: * Mayor’s Summit: www.kk.dk/climatesummitformayors.aspx.

** Update 11.30 am

Tim Flannery’s response to the Copenhagen deal.

Leading Australian environmental scientist Tim Flannery says he is happy with the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations.

World leaders failed to secure a binding agreement instead opting for a non-binding accord which relies on countries setting their own emissions targets.

Professor Flannery says while the current commitments are not enough to halt dangerous climate change, the outcome is an important first step.

"My overview would be in the absence of any shift in the American target we’re likely to be a few gigatonnes of carbon short of a satisfactory target for 2020," he said. "[It] doesn’t mean we won’t achieve it. The agreement as it looks at the moment is good, but not perfect."

The former Australian of the Year says that it will take a few days for the full implications of the accord to become apparent.

"I think that these sort of agreements in the details really only become more evident with time," he said. "Perhaps in the next few days we’ll get to see a little bit more of precisely what has been agreed, and what it means overall. [But] if I was to sum it up in a single phrase I’d say this has been a good, successful meeting. It’s only one step on the road but we are now really in the throes of tackling this very difficult problem and this meeting has been a very significant step forward. I wouldn’t like anyone to undersell what’s been achieved. I think it is very significant."

Professor Flannery said amid the commentary on whether or not the deal should have been binding, it was important not to lose sight of the gains made at the conference…

 

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“Guest Post” — Anthony Venn-Brown

Uganda – a wake-up call for US ‘ex-gay’ and Evangelical leaders

Have you been following the news about Uganda’s Anti-homosexual Bill will is currently being pushed through the parliament. If not, just Google Uganda Anti-homosexual Bill and you’ll get 102,000 pages.

123 The current law allows authorities to imprison suspected homosexuals and AIDS patients for up to 14 years. The new legislation would make the prison term a life sentence. The practice of "aggravated homosexuality" would allow the authorities to sentence homosexuals to death. Members of the public would be required to report acts of homosexuality within 24 hours of witnessing the act. If they fail to do so, they would also be imprisoned for a minimum of three years. The bill also states that the nation would be prepared to cut ties with other countries and stop any commitments they have with them to allow the new laws to be enforced.


How can such regressive and repressive legislation even be introduced?

Firstly it should be noted that colonialism has a lot to answer for. Outdated laws established by the empire builders still exist in many countries years after independence was gained. One of those laws is the so called ‘sodomy laws’ which made any sex, except for procreation, illegal and punishable by death. This can be seen in many parts of the world such as the Pacific, India, Caribbean, Bahamas and of course many parts of Africa. Australia was the last country in the British empire to hang a man for a homosexual act.

Secondly, we know there has been much anti-gay preaching by some ‘ex-gay’ leaders and evangelical preachers which has reinforced already negative beliefs about gay and lesbian people. Preachers and leaders from the US have purposely visited Uganda and other African countries to speak specifically on homosexuality. Their message? Homosexuals are sick, it is a choice and God can cure them. Funding and materials from the US have been given to promote this message.

So there we have it. If people continue to preach messages that promote outdated, ignorant beliefs about sexuality this is how far they can be pushed.

In the US, some leaders have realised how damaging their message can be and have issued statements about the evil nature of the proposed legislation in Uganda that is currently being pushed by many Christian groups.

Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International issued this statement. Of course this probably carries little weight when he, Randy Thomas and others sign the statement as supposedly ‘former homosexuals’. There is no such thing.

Ps Rick Warren of Saddleback issued this video

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has made his first public statement on the proposed anti-gay bill passing through Uganda’s parliament.

Even the Vatican has got in on the act.

One wonders whether this is all too late now the horse has bolted. If this bill is passed, and gay and lesbian people are imprisoned or die we know who are the guilty ones.

It’s time for those in the western Christian church, still living in the dark ages, to wake up and realise that homosexuality is not an illness, choice or sin; it’s an orientation. To preach anything else is not only ignorant, it’s dangerous.

Freedom 2 b[e]

 

So that’s where Clover is!

Sydney’s amazing Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is a very busy woman. (She is also my local representative in the NSW Parliament, and remarkably approachable, as I can testify from experience.)

Her latest email newsletter tells what she is up to now:

MAYORS CALL FOR LOW-CARBON CITIES

The deep greenhouse gas reductions needed to avert dangerous global warming will require low-carbon cities, with urban areas transformed by green technologies that will strengthen our economy, improve living standards and reduce energy costs.

This is the message that I will put to the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, together with Mayors from major cities across the globe.

We will tell our national leaders that they can and must go further, forging a binding agreement for emission reductions between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020, with greater reduction likely to be needed and supported by many people.

Cities are home to more than half the world’s population and are responsible for 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is in our cities that we can make the biggest difference. Our research shows that Australia’s capital cities could achieve half (41 per cent) of the Federal Government’s guaranteed emissions reduction target if environmental strategies comparable to Sustainable Sydney 2030 were implemented, and that assessment is based only on inner urban areas!

With the right tools and support from national and state governments, cities can go even further to contribute to national target reductions for greenhouse gas emissions.

Our City is implementing Sustainable Sydney 2030 to achieve an ambitious target of 70 per cent reductions on 2006 levels. Our action is focused on the three big causes of emissions in cities:

* Buildings: We promote sustainable design excellence for all new buildings; are reducing greenhouse gas emissions across our own property portfolio by 48 per cent by 2012; and our CitySwitch program enables commercial property owners to improve the energy efficiency

* Transport: We are spending $76 million over four years on a 200km cycle network safe enough for everyone to use; making our city more walkable; expanding car share; and advocating better public transport networks.

* Energy: Former CEO of the London Climate Change Agency, Allan Jones, is working with us on our green energy infrastructure plan that will create a local network of combined cooling, heat and power (trigeneration) and renewable energy, removing our reliance on coal-fired power generation.

At a roundtable discussion at the Copenhagen City Hall next Tuesday, I will join Mayors presenting practical examples from their cities. I will focus on our work to create and implement Sustainable Sydney 2030.

See also Clover’s Copenhagen Diary.

Surry Hills: the super-green Library and Community Centre 2009

I couldn’t help noting (while tearing my hair out) the abysmal comments on the YouTube; for example: “They have been planning to create a climate crisis and push it with the media so they can set up a one world government as a solution. It’s all a massive fraud.”

On the other hand see Worldwide Views on Global Warming and note the Sydney Morning Herald series Planet Earth’s Last Chance.

I’ll leave the last word, also from the Herald, to 17-year-old Christina Ora:

…In the Solomon Islands, my homeland, communities on low-lying atolls are already being displaced by rising sea levels. Communities have lived on these atolls for generations. Moving from one province to another in the Solomon Islands is not just like moving house. Your land is your identity. It is part of your culture. It is who you are.

I am scared, and so too are the people from these atolls about what this means for our culture, our communities and our identity.

Because of climate change, I am uncertain about what is to come. How can I feel that my future is safe? How can I be sure that my home village won’t disappear in 10 years’ time? How can I be sure that my community won’t have to find a new home? How can I be sure that I will be able to raise my children in the same place that my mother and father raised me? I am not sure. I am scared and worried.

At the global negotiations, many nations, including Australia, have focused on avoiding 2 degrees of global warming. While this may not sound like much, it will threaten the survival of many small island nations.

Sea-level rise and unprecedented storm surges caused by climate change are already affecting communities across the Pacific and are expected to get significantly worse if climate change is not immediately and adequately tackled…

Solomon Islands, as a small island nation, is one of the smallest emitters of greenhouse gas in the world, and yet we are being hit the hardest and the fastest by climate change. I ask Australia, as our closest developed neighbour, to please help us: assist us financially in adapting to climate change and commit to strong mitigation targets to ensure the lowest temperature rise.

This conference has the power to transform the way the world responds to climate change, but only if all countries realise the true urgency of the problem and commit to an ambitious, fair and legally binding agreement now.

For my entire life, world leaders have been negotiating a climate agreement. They cannot tell me they need more time. There is no more time. I hope world leaders realise this week that my generation’s future is in the palm of their hands.

Not quite the last word after all!

Remember John Howard? Well here’s what was really happening in his time, at least until the 2007 election and Malcolm Turnbull brought some degree of sense to bear.

The Federal Government has said it will not pursue carbon trading at this stage. It accepts that global warming is real and poses a threat to the Australian environment, but does not support mandatory targets for reducing carbon emissions.

Dr Pearman, who headed the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research for 10 years until 2002, said he was admonished by his Canberra superiors for “making public expressions of what I believed were scientific views, on the basis that they were deemed to be political views”.

“In 33 years (with CSIRO), I don’t think I had ever felt I was political in that sense. I’ve worked with ministers and prime ministers from both parties over a long period of time, and in all cases I think I’ve tried to draw a line between fearless scientific advice about issues and actual policy development, which I think is in the realm of government,” he said.

Dr Pearman is one of three leading climate experts quoted on the ABC’s Four Corners tonight who say they have been repeatedly gagged in the public debate on greenhouse gas cuts.

Dr Barrie Pittock, who was awarded a Public Service Medal for his climate work, has told Four Corners he was instructed to remove politically sensitive material from a government publication on climate change.

And Barney Foran, a 30-year CSIRO veteran, cited a case in August when CSIRO managers told him they had fielded a call from the Prime Minister’s Department suggesting he should say nothing critical about ethanol as an alternative fuel…

Here is Dr Pearman 2009:



Last of four parts. See Resilient Futures Channel.

** Further to Jim Belshaw’s comment below see The Greenhouse Mafia for Pearman, and John Quiggin at that time. Later in 2006 Four Corners ran What Price Global Warming? which included an interview with John Howard.

You know what? I probably won’t be around to see the outcome of all this, but many of my readers will be. When Thomas, for example, is around the age I am now just how wrong or right we have been will have become indisputable.

 

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Not quite the promised climate change post

I need to pause before I attempt the summation I promised yesterday, so below I will list some additional resources.

But first some preliminary observations.

1. While “MAGIC PUDDING POLITICS” (Rudd on Brer Abbott) is not nearly as effective a mantra as “GREAT BIG TAX ON NEARLY EVERYTHING” (Brer Abbott on Rudd) the greater truth is in the Rudd mantra. The idea of a costless response to climate change is a sick joke. I do in fact believe that nuclear power should be in the mix, siding to that extent with Brer Abbott (and James Lovelock), but that has to be seen in a context too.

THE Opposition’s desire to embrace nuclear power in the absence of an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax would result in electricity price rises of between 10 per cent and 33 per cent, according to estimates by the Howard government’s nuclear energy expert, Ziggy Switkowski.

In a report for John Howard in 2006, Dr Switkowski found nuclear power would never be commercially viable unless fossil fuel-generated electricity was made more expensive using an ETS or carbon tax.

This resulted in Mr Howard embracing an emissions trading scheme as a way to reduce greenhouse gases while keeping open the nuclear option for the future.

In a dramatic departure from policy, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has abandoned support for any market-based mechanism, such as an ETS or a carbon tax, as part of the Coalition’s greenhouse strategy…

2. It is such a shame the whole issue has become politicised, but I suppose that is inevitable in a democracy. Fact is, however, that there are limits to what “debate” can actually achieve in the face of phenomena that really do not depend, in the long run, on our ideological positions or the wheelbarrows we choose to push.  Dithering is one of the less savoury outcomes of a democratic process, not that I prefer the alternative really – but a country like China is actually better placed to act decisively, for good or ill. Such a shame we are mere humans and not gods, isn’t it?

3. Given the abysmal level of much of our dithering both here and overseas, and given the importance of the issue, nothing is to be gained by censorship of the kind that apparently has happened at the CSIRO or by fudging data, as apparently happened at the East Anglia CRU. While we would all do well to forget unlikely scenarios like the movie The Day After Tomorrow and must all concede that Al Gore oversimplified in An Inconvenient Truth, we should also realise that what happened at the CSIRO or East Anglia does not invalidate the overall truth of the IPCC reports. The IPCC does not engage in research; all it does is weigh the research and gather together the implications of that research for our consideration. There was much more input to its reports than East Anglia.

Hence comments like this on the latest offering (for climate change action I hasten to add) of Sojourners, a “left evangelical” site, really are tragic.

I think it is useing a lie to push their ideas. there is no man made global warming. yes take care of the environment, being a christian this should be second nature, shouldnt need to push for eco-prophets. nature changes all the time. thats life. honesty is important and there isnt much of that in this environment "emergency" that is being pushed. The other point is that the UN has no concern for the poor. they people they have chosen to make us believe in global warming are liars. and the proposals they want to accomplish will Not help the poor but make it harder for them. If you cant see that then you have blinders on.

There are so many prejudices running through that comment one hardly knows where to start.

4. Check some recent stories in the Sydney Morning Herald.

5. Realise that there are left as well as right-wing critiques of “market strategies” like cap and trade or carbon tax.

The Same Boat

Imagine 10 rabbits lost at sea, in a boat carved out of a giant carrot.

The carrot is their only source of food, so they all keep nibbling at it. The boat is shrinking rapidly – but none of them wants to be the first to stop, because then they’ll be the first to starve. There’s no point in any of them stopping unless everyone stops – if even one rabbit carries on eating, the boat will sink.

This is the international climate crisis in a (Beatrix Potter-flavoured) nutshell: action by individual nations achieves little unless we all act together. Of course, reality is a little more complex. While it’s easy to imagine the rabbits reaching a simple agreement where they all learn to dredge for seaweed instead, our situation involves massive global inequalities, differing levels of responsibility, and a history of exploitation and broken international promises.

Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be too surprised that the international climate negotiations – which began in earnest in 1990 with the talks that created the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – have not yet got us a workable global solution. The best we’ve managed so far has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, under which industrialized nations (known as ‘Annex 1’ countries) pledged to cut their CO emissions by a completely inadequate 5.2 per cent by 2012. The US famously pulled out of the deal, and most of those who remained in are unlikely to achieve even these small cuts…

Down with Kyoto

We shouldn’t get too hung up on Copenhagen – we’re far more likely to create lasting change by building powerful national and international movements than by pouring all our energy into specific summit meetings. But it’s hard to deny that we need some sort of international framework for tackling this global issue. Despite its flaws, the UNFCCC is the only one we’ve got, and the urgency of the climate issue requires us to work with it.

However, the Kyoto Protocol has been a dismal failure. Should we demand that governments scrap it completely and start again from scratch? It’s tempting, but would be unlikely to gain the crucial support of Southern negotiators, who fear that a brand new deal would see them lose their hard-won ‘differentiated responsibility’.

A better approach might be to create space within the existing talks for alternative, fairer systems and ideas – such as GDRs, Kyoto2, community-led solutions, indigenous rights, strings-free clean development assistance, patent-free technology transfer – to get a hearing. Currently emissions trading, private financing and market-based mechanisms are seen as the only route to greenhouse gas reductions, and are crowding everything else out of the debate.

This suggests a simple, effective starting point for developing a successful – and just – global agreement: we need to get rid of carbon trading…

Confused yet? One tip though: if anyone has all their ideas on the subject from Quadrant or Ms Devine or Mr Bolt they aren’t worth taking too seriously. The entries immediately above, on the other hand, are predicated on an anti “free market” perspective. They are putting their faith in sustainables as the answer. I don’t really see either as being much practical help, though more is to be said for the New Internationalist stance than Quadrant’s.

OK, I’ll try again later on…

See also: entries here tagged “environment".

 

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I find this case odd and disturbing. Do you?

I usually avoid “celebrity posts” but I am intrigued by the recent Roman Polanski extradition story. This article makes some strong points, I feel.

Polanski, who was then aged 44, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, spent 42 days in prison in Chino, California, and was due to be sentenced to time served when it became clear that the deal his lawyers had negotiated with the prosecution was not to be honoured – and he would have had to spend much more time in jail than had been agreed. He fled the United States in 1978 and has never returned.

Seven years ago, after Polanski had won an Oscar for his film The Pianist, the case came again under scrutiny in the US. Gailey was tracked down to her home in Hawaii where she had settled with her family.

In a television interview, she did not exonerate Polanski for taking advantage of her – ”what he did to me was wrong” – but said she had felt more damaged by the media’s subsequent handling of her case.

”He did something really gross to me but it was the media that ruined my life,” she said. As to what punishment she felt Polanski should now suffer, she said: ”He made a terrible mistake, but he’s paid for it.” …

The real victim in this case has called for compassion. But compassion is unfashionable at the moment. The desire to exact punishment, regardless of how the actual victim is affected by it, and to justify that punishment with some grandstanding rhetoric, is the fashion of the moment.

Child sex, like the Middle East, is a subject where the normal conventions of debate degenerate very swiftly into name-calling and deliberate misinterpretation. There is no reason to believe this case will be any different. But the victim still has a right to be heard, even if what she says does not satisfy those seeking vengeance.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2009 in challenge, current affairs

 

Reading several books at once may do your head in…

… or it may set up a rather interesting and unexpected harmonic.

The three books in question are:

All three are well worth reading. 

I give Armstrong five stars more as a history than as a work that is entirely convincing theologically – it is if you agree with her, which I am inclined to do, but even so I still take the Axial Age hypothesis with a grain or two of salt. What is good in this wide-ranging work is the fresh insight it has afforded me into unexpected and often hitherto unexplored parallels in the thinkers and prophets of the ancient world in Greece, India, the Middle East and China. Armstrong is no fundamentalist; her very respectable scepticism on the historicity of much of the Bible as “fact” bears witness to that. On the other hand, her opposition of mythos and logos will not appeal to everyone, even if I think there is much to be said for it so long as one realises it has the weakness of all such dichotomies. Religion to Armstrong is not well served by being treated as logos. Paradoxically that is what fundamentalists tend to do. Mythos reminds me more than anything of John Keats and “negative capability.”

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.

More on Armstrong: Heavy-hitter stands up for God and religion; Richard Dawkins vs. Karen Armstrong: "Where Does Evolution Leave God?"; Man vs. God – the Armstrong/Dawkins “debate” which was reprinted in The Australian this weekend: it mostly shows two contrasting sensibilities, in my opinion.

I repeat: Armstrong is an excellent historian of ideas.

D Michael Lindsay is an excellent ethnologist of religion. I very much agree with this review.

Summary: This author spoke with more than 300 leaders in politics, business, academia, media and entertainment between 2003 and 2006. All were self-identified evangelicals, a category Lindsay defines as "someone who believes (1) the Bible is the supreme authority for religious belief and practice, (2) that he or she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and (3) that one should take a transforming activist approach to faith." His intent was to study the historical events and social forces that have facilitated the movement of evangelicals into prominent mainstream positions and roles during the past forty or fifty years. He focuses on four broad sectors reflective of modern life in America – politics, higher education, entertainment and business. How did evangelical influences come to wield any kind of power in this democracy, given the small percentage of adherents relative to that of the greater population of more casual believers?

Lindsay’s essential answer is that evangelicals have chosen to actively apply themselves (through both their labor and their not inconsiderable resources) to the job of ensuring that their understanding of Christian behavior and values seed the future direction of American culture and government. In his view, the various groups have accomplished a tremendous amount in politics and education but have had far less impact on the media and entertainment industries. In the corporate environment, he notes that influential business executives seem to put more emphasis on leveraging their faith at levels that don’t necessarily include local churches or parishes tending instead to focus on the parachurch. [Note: I had to look this word up; it refers to bodies that operate outside of and across denominational churches to accomplish specific goals. I gather the word tends to be used chiefly in evangelical circles.]

One of the great strengths of Lindsay’s documentation is that he makes it clear that evangelicals are far from being a monolithic group. Whether talking about specific individuals or evangelical organizations, he makes clear that they are diverse and sometimes accomplish their goals by aligning with clearly different belief sectors, such as the Roman Catholic Church, when necessary to achieve an end. Such alliances don’t always last, for obvious reasons, but the evangelicals have built social relationships and networks that foster the desired end result…

It is “thick description” – far more subtle than the standard rant pro or con religion in US politics. I found it fascinating.

SONY DSC                     Timothy Clack is far younger than I thought! He is “[St Peter’s] College [Oxford] Lecturer in Archaeology and Director of Studies in Archaeology and Anthropology. Tim is an anthropological archaeologist with diverse research and teaching interests. Themes with which he is currently engaged include: archaeology of experience, archaeological mediation, syncretism and religious fusion, anthropology of conflict, and memory and cultural landscapes. He has been fortunate in being able to conduct archaeological and anthropological research in the UK, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Borneo. Timothy is an elected fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute. He is also holds associate membership of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.”

He has, however, not been well served by proof-readers – there are quite a few clangers in Ancestral Roots. For example, I am sure Dr Clack knows that T H Huxley is not the same as Aldous Huxley, though they are related.

The book is in the evolutionary biology genre, but ranges much more widely than most. According to Alan Bilsborough in The Times Educational Supplement: “Overall, Ancestral Roots is a fluent and wide-ranging account of the human condition viewed from an evolutionary perspective, although the author’s preaching sometimes obtrudes to interrupt the flow. The text suffers from the selectivity of all such eclectic accounts, and there are sufficient errors of detail in the bits I think I know something about to make me wonder as to the accuracy of those I don’t. In other words, read this book as a stimulating and engaging survey, but don’t take it too seriously as a definitive diagnosis of our current predicament.”  I didn’t mind the preaching, personally. Loved what he says about ethnocentrism, religion, and co-operation – just to name a few areas.

 

A tale of two gay men

Fascinating column by South Australian conservative and former John Howard speech writer Christopher Pearson in Saturday’s Australian. Full marks to him for frankness, but he encapsulates a syndrome I have seen in some others, including a noted Sydney literary academic and another very vocal supporter of the monarchy and the High Church.

At the time friends reminded me of how, in 1982, British author Malcolm Muggeridge had described his conversion as "a rat swimming towards a sinking ship", prompting a telegram from B.A. Santamaria: "Welcome aboard."…

Despite my apprehensions that Catholicism wasn’t going to be a bed of roses, it was clear to me that if I wanted to return to the practice of the faith, there was nowhere else to go. I could never have been happy as a gay Christian — with or without a rainbow sash — because it always seemed to me a contradiction in terms.

There was no getting around the fact the New Testament said we were all meant to be chaste or monogamously married and I had reluctantly concluded that St Paul was right about homosexual sex.

In any case, prudence in the plague years meant I gradually became all but sexually inactive from the mid-1980s and no longer saw much point in defining my identity primarily in terms of sexual preference…

Some of my friends said at the time that I must have crossed the Tiber for the sake of beautiful music and ceremony. But as Gerard Manley Hopkins told his family in reply to similar charges, if it had simply been a matter of aesthetic preferences, the Church of England would always have been far more congenial. Hopkins deplored the kitsch that mostly characterised Catholic devotional life in England then. Heaven only knows what he would have made of the banality of the present-day English liturgy.

What I most wanted was not beauty, crucial though it is, but certainty: immutable doctrine and valid sacraments. As an Anglican, the closest I had come to "the peace which passes all understanding" had been through the sacraments: in the confessional and at the altar rail. By my late 40s it felt like time to come back to them…

Ah, the chimera of certainty! So much has been and is being wrought in this world by that particular phantasm! Had Christopher been born in a Muslim country, heaven knows where that drive may have led him – different outcome, perhaps, but the drive to abnegation is identical.

Compare a young man of note.

470matthewmitcham,0

That is in today’s Sun-Herald. Yes, it is diver Matthew Mitcham, Australia’s pride at the Beijing Olympics.

In the seats high above the Sydney Aquatic Centre dive pool, Matthew Mitcham is wearing a printed white T-shirt and blue jeans, his blond hair neatly cut, and is pondering life beyond elite sport, with the caveat his ambitions are subject to revision week by week.

“I’d like to discover new things, help to change the world,” he says.

Chlorine blankets the air and a coach’s booming voice echoes from the adjacent swimming lanes, the water jets gushing and splashing. Mitcham’s talking about a career in medicine, maybe, whenever he stops diving: “I think everyone deep down wants to do that; leave their mark.”

Ah, but a year ago at the glowing blue Water Cube at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Brisbane-born, Sydney-based Mitcham left an indelible mark. He achieved the highest diving score in Olympic history with his back two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists in the pike position.

Then, in the spectator stands before the world’s media, he briefly kissed his Sydney-born partner, marketing strategist Lachlan Fletcher, and gave him his bouquet. No sweat.

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” declared his diminutive, beaming mother, Vivienne, who was also by his side as her boy earned a perfect score of 10, “I don’t know who cried more, him or me.”

Six months later he danced on the lead float as chief of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. At the time, the throng that turned out to line Oxford Street must have pondered that there were few secrets in the life of Matt Mitcham, now 21…

Does Mitcham, more than a year later, see his coming out as brave? “I don’t see sexuality as influencing my beliefs or opinions or perceptions of anybody. Whether they’re gay, straight, bi, trans, experimental, I don’t care. I see it as a very uninfluential factor.”…

Whose attitude is healthier, do you think? Pearson’s or Mitcham’s?

 

Some reading matter for you

1. South Sydney Herald

The August issue has been out for a week or so. I have been slack about uploading you copy, but it is a good issue. As usual there are plenty of articles that transcend the parochial, but the parochial may also be interesting. Inner Sydney/Redfern is an interesting place.

August 09 SSH — PDF

2. More from Colin Chapman.

I gave Chapman’s Whose Holy City? the thumbs up in Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible? Today I give you a couple of substitutes for those without access to the book.

A Biblical Perspective on Israel/Palestine from the Arizona publication EMEU goes into some depth about a more balanced evangelical perspective on the matter. It is for the theologically inclined, more so than the book. EMEU is Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding – and further from John Hagee and company it can hardly be, but it is an evangelical Christian site, remember.

‘Islamic Terrorism’ and the Palestine-Israel Conflict: Christian Response is a special issue of Encounters, a Christian mission e-zine from the USA. Not by Chapman is an article I strongly recommend as it is not too far removed from my own thoughts on the subject: Muslims – Friends or Enemies. (Dr Jonathan Ingleby, 1548 words) – a PDF file. I have added here the abridged version of Chapman’s ‘Islamic Terrorism’:  How should Christians & the West respond?

Chapman PDF

 

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Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible?

One does despair. The nearest I have read to an objective account is an ageing book called The Palestine-Israeli Conflict by Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Dawoud El-Alami (Oxford, Oneworld 2001) – and that achieves “objectivity” by placing side by side a Jew and a Palestinian with space at the end for “addresses in reply”.  It seems you can buy a used copy from Amazon for one cent!

So I was surprised to find an evangelical writer – albeit what I would call an “informed evangelical” – veering very close to objectivity on the question of who “owns” Jerusalem. While the opening chapters of Whose Holy City? (Lion 2004) treat the accounts of Genesis through to Judges less critically than I would – for example I don’t believe the stories of Abraham, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, are strictly in the realm of history – or no more or less so than tales of the Trojan War, Colin Chapman becomes a very reliable guide to what happened from the reign of Constantine to close to the present day. He does concede that the Book of Daniel was written some four centuries after its apparent date, and further that it is reading against the grain to use it as any kind of road-map of the future.

A former Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, Chapman well understands the claims of all parties to the “Holy City”. His solution is, unfortunately, not one the current Israeli government is likely to countenance.

One very useful contribution Chapman makes – just one of many – is to unmask the currently fashionable “rapture/Christian Zionist theology” as, well, heterodox in the extreme, a Johnny-come-lately in Christian history and, frankly, a parodic interpretation of the Bible. On that see too this page of quotes and reviews of another book, Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism, Inter-Varsity Press (an evangelical publisher) 2004. I haven’t read it.

Related too is the Joint declaration by Christian Leaders on Israel’s 60th Anniversary, signed by, among many others, our own Tim Costello.

We, the undersigned, church leaders and representatives of our different denominations and organisations, join together on the 60th anniversary of the Israeli state to offer a contribution to that which makes for peace.

We recognise that today, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel (Yom Ha’atzmaut). For many, this landmark powerfully symbolises the Jewish people’s ability to defy the power of hatred so destructively embodied in the Nazi Holocaust. Additionally, it is an opportunity to celebrate the wealth of cultural, economic and scientific achievements of Israeli society, in all its vitality and diversity.

We also recognise that this same day, millions of Palestinians living inside Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the worldwide diaspora, will mourn 60 years since over 700,000 of them were uprooted from their homes and forbidden from returning, while more than 400 villages were destroyed (al-Nakba). For them, this day is not just about the remembrance of a past catastrophic dispossession, dispersal, and loss; it is also a reminder that their struggle for self-determination and restitution is ongoing.

To hold both of these responses together in balanced tension is not easy. But it is vital if a peaceful way forward is to be forged, and is central to the Biblical call to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14). We acknowledge with sorrow that for the last 60 years, while extending empathy and support to the Israeli narrative of independence and struggle, many of us in the church worldwide have denied the same solidarity to the Palestinians, deaf to their cries of pain and distress.

To acknowledge and respect these dual histories is not, by itself, sufficient, but does offer a paradigm for building a peaceful future. Many lives have been lost, and there has been much suffering. The weak are exploited by the strong, while fear and bitterness stunt the imagination and cripple the capacity for forgiveness.

We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.

See also Changing Sides in the Middle East: Zionist and Palestinian Exchange Opinions about Jerusalem.

 

Norm, Ahmed, Shafana, Aunt Sarrinah, radicalisation and Australia

The first of the Things to look forward to is now done. It was the world premiere of Alana Valentine’s Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah and a revival of Alex Buzo’s 1969 classic Norm and Ahmed.

pakistanirestaurant shafana-0026-aunt-sarrinah-8low

Left: “Ahmed” takes “Norm” to a Pakistani Restaurant

Right: the opening scene of Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah

Pics from the Alex Buzo Company blog linked above.

Of her new play Alana Valentine writes:

I hope Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah will surprise audiences with its portrait of Afghani Muslim women, who are articulate, highly educated, deeply spiritual and enraged by the way Australian and global media paint them as oppressed, meek and silent. To be part of a project where Buzo’s theme and concerns might be reignited through a new work…is genuinely exciting. In effect, it allows the ‘conversation’ to move into a third dimension: not just Buzo speaking anew to the 21st Century, but Buzo reflected and responded to through the voice of a contemporary playwright. It’s a vision of Australian theatre as a historical continuum…

Alana’s plays are always grounded in in depth research and interviews with the groups she is representing; that depth came through in last night’s performance which both Sirdan and I found very thought-provoking. The issue is whether or not Shafana should wear hijab. She eventually decides she will, even if Aunt Sarrinah, whom she dearly loves, is somewhat appalled by that decision. The play takes us beyond our often mind-numbingly dreadful understanding (if that is the right word) of the issues Australian Muslim women face and that we face in our response to them. A valuable exercise well dramatised, if, I thought, just a bit slow off the mark at the beginning.

As for Norm and Ahmed I agree with the woman sitting next to me in the theatre: “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  Sirdan was born in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) but could well relate to Norm and Ahmed – for him it was, unlike for me, as new as Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah. He agreed that the contemporary relevance of this forty-year-old play was quite amazing.

A thoroughly good night out.

By coincidence, my mind still on Alana’s play especially, I read a truly excellent article in this morning’s Australian: From a human to a terrorist by Sally Neighbour.

… The perplexing question is: Why? How does a seemingly ordinary young man come to embrace violent extremism? Its corollary, the question that confounds counter-terrorism experts worldwide, is: how can we stop them?

The rapidly morphing nature of global terrorism demands an evolving response. Since 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida has diminished but its ideology has flourished, spawning hundreds of like-minded groups and cells across the world. US terrorism specialist Marc Sageman describes this new phenomenon as a "violent Islamist born-again social movement" straddling the globe. Its fragmented and anarchic nature makes it arguably a bigger threat than al-Qa’ida, according to Britain’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, unveiled in March this year. Unlike the once highly centralised al-Qa’ida, the new grassroots terrorism cannot be fought with border protection measures or military strikes, but must be tackled at its roots.

This reality has spawned a new buzzword in the anti-terrorism fraternity: counter-radicalisation. Its aim, in Sageman’s words, is to "stop the process of radicalisation before it reaches its violent end"…

Sageman, the pre-eminent expert on radicalisation theory, is a former CIA mujaheddin handler in Pakistan, now a psychologist and author of two books, Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad. After studying 165 jihadists, Sageman is adamant that terrorists are not born but made. There is no psychological profile of a terrorist and Sageman believes "root causes" such as socioeconomic deprivation are overrated. The most common factor in the making of a terrorist is alienation. Of the jihadists Sageman studied, he found that "a remarkable 78 per cent were cut off from their cultural and social origins". He concludes "this absence of connection is a necessary condition for a network of people to join the global jihad"…

Sageman adds they are not violent psychopaths but "generally idealistic young people seeking dreams of glory fighting for justice and fairness"…

Much better in its analysis that most of the rants you see. The dynamics of that alienation, though not in a form likely to lead to terrorism, are also seen in Alana Valentine’s play.

Oh – and a footnote. I have always thought taking the French path and “outlawing” the hijab in Australia would be really stupid. Fortunately both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have not been tempted.

* Special thanks to Emma Buzo. 🙂

Update

See the The Australian Stage review.

[On Alana’s play] …This is a powerful night at theatre and a welcome, bold, essential addition to the culturally homogeneous theatre one can expect to see in some of the larger venues around town. I believe this to be an extraordinarily brave and bold double bill containing four very fine performers. Actors who embrace the challenge of new work, with new perspectives are worth their weight in effusive praise and I feel compelled to mention the spectacular performances by Camilla Ah Kin and Sheridan Harbridge who confront this subject with tenderness, fierceness and great compassion – to the extent that I felt stunned and broken by the time the lights dimmed.

 

Last night on ABC and this morning’s news…

… had a mix of the bizarre and the tragic. You wouldn’t read about it, would you? Hollywood couldn’t invent stuff like this.

Let’s begin with the tragic.

Terror in Mumbai (originally on UK Channel Four) was last night’s offering from Four Corners.

…Their first target was the Leopold Cafe where they killed 11 people. From there they planted bombs inside taxis as the moved across the city. Terror in Mumbai follows the young men every step of the way using telephone calls made between the raid’s masterminds in Pakistan and the gunmen in Mumbai. Those calls combine with the testimony of the captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab, to create an extra-ordinary chronology of the attacks.

The calls reveal how the young men are continually reminded they must kill as many people as possible, making sure that whatever happens they must not be taken alive.

Ajmal Kasab, speaking from his hospital bed tells how he and another man attacked the city’s train station slaughtering more than 50 people…

As the film progresses the relationship between the attackers and their controllers at the other end of the phone comes into clearer focus.

At times the young men appear utterly ruthless, at other times they break away from their conditioning and register their wonder at the hotel they have taken over. They talk of computers and expensive furniture as if in a wonderland.

As the film progresses the terrorists are told to kill as many people as they can in the Taj Hotel, and then to start a fire. The purpose? To let the world know a symbol of India and the decadent west is being destroyed.

As the phone calls continue it becomes clear the young men are not always willing to kill on command. In one chilling episode one gunman is told to kill a hostage. He stalls for time. Then an hour later he is ordered to shoot. A gunshot is heard…

It was riveting and incredibly sad. The Svengali on the other end of the phone gives new manifestation to the concept of pure evil. The psychology of the perpetrators, one of whom was “sold” — according to the program and his own testimony – to Lashkar e Toiba by his own father so that his siblings could afford to marry, reminded me so much of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. The father was a poor street yoghurt seller.

… The 10 gunmen had sneaked ashore in Mumbai around 9pm on 26 November, having sailed from Pakistan in a hijacked Indian trawler.

Less than an hour later, during a killing spree across the city which included the main railway station, four gunmen entered the luxury Taj Hotel. Young Pakistanis from villages in the Punjab, who had never set foot in a modern hotel before, let alone the vast suites on the upper floors of the Taj, they could not contain their amazement. The first few hours of intercepts at the Taj show them struggling to keep their minds on the task of burning down the hotel.

‘There are so many lights… and so many buttons. And lots of computers with 22 and 30-inch screens…’ says one.

The other chilling piece of evidence we obtained during the making of this film, was told by one of the gunmen, Kasab, who was taken alive by Indian police and his questioning recorded.

‘What’s your gang called? Your team?’ asks one policeman.

Kasab seems not to understand.

‘Your organization, your gang, your team?’, some of the other officers round the hospital bed chime in.

‘Oh… It’s Lashkar e Toiba.’ …

It is as well – again – to remind ourselves that it is not all of Islam we are looking at here, but a perversion. Jim Belshaw has also taken up that theme: For Tikno – selection, perception, bias and the MUI Fatwa. The comments from Tikno in Indonesia and Ramana in India enhance Jim’s wisdom on this. You may also listen to this: “Young Indonesians have made use of social networking sites to protest against terrorism.” The India-Pakistan situation has complicating strands of history involved – the mess of the Partition and the unsolved dilemma of Kashmir. (I studied Indian History at university and have ever since taken an interest.) Further, in relation to Ramana’s comment, there is no single body that can speak for Islam. To a degree everyone is his or her own mufti, and the result is amazing diversity. This can be good, but also complicates things terribly. The media do focus on the violent extremists, though Tikno’s point about the majority being against violent extremism is almost certainly a truer picture.

Now for the bizarre.

Malcolm Turnbull. Well, he is human, as that Australian Story episode shows, but a bit of a goose too. The show was filmed behind the scenes as the Utegate Imbroglio was occurring, and today all that became more bizarre still: I wrote fake email: Grech.

And then there is that sleazy Radio 2DayFM The Kyle and Jackie O Show. So glad I never listened to them, especially after Media Watch revealed how bottom of the barrel the show has really been.

More 10 to 17 year-olds, by far, listen to 2DayFM than to any other Sydney station.

Yet up to now ACMA has done nothing about Kyle and Jackie’s obsession with boobs and willies, their parade of vaginas and penises, their discussions of anal sex, and oral sex, and faeces-eating during sex, and other such breakfast-time delights.

And then there’s the program’s routine humiliation and emotional manipulation of its ‘guests’.

Tonight, while Austereo reviews its ‘principles and protocols’, we’re going to look at a particularly sickening example. It wasn’t about sex, or juveniles.

It was about heartless exploitation…

About as funny as a pile of dead rats.

 

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Some serious reading for all Australians

The Productivity Commission has released a substantial report called Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009. It is important to step away from whatever ideological frames one is accustomed to applying and read the report with great care. Though we must always remember there has been progress in some areas — and for me the February 2008 Apology was a necessary and healthy step — the overall picture brings little joy.

Last night on the 7.30 Report anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton, who “has worked and lived with Aboriginal communities since the ’60s and has assisted with more than 50 land rights cases”, had some sobering words.

…KERRY O’BRIEN: When you say pragmatist and practical, does that include Aboriginal communities themselves, Aboriginal leadership accepting that they can’t really expect to kind of enshrine Aboriginal tradition, Aboriginal culture for future generations of Aborigines and lock Indigenous Australians into living in those communities and living that cultural life.

PETER SUTTON: Well I think people are voting with their feet, and there is much more mobility out of those more remote, more ghetto-like communities than there was. There are also many more outside people coming in, so they’re changing in that sense.

But to be honest, I mean, if you want a modern 20th Century health profile of the sort that you find in an advanced country, a first world country or a modern country, you’ve gotta have modern health practices, not just the instruments and the chemicals and the staff on the hospital. You’ve also got to have a settled urban or town-based kind of approach to things like getting rid of waste, dealing with personal hygiene, giving a certain modified and low role to violence in the way you settle disputes – that sort of thing…

KERRY O’BRIEN: How have you changed your views in 40 years? How dramatically have you changed your views in 40 years?

PETER SUTTON: Quite dramatically because I was of that generation of people living in remote communities who aided and promoted and took part in things like decentralisation back to outstations in the bush, who promoted cultural traditionalism and supported it where they saw it, took on interest in it, recorded it, filmed it or whatever. And there was a sort of an army of baby boomers, really, who spread out across the outback from the late ’60s onwards who I think played a fairly significant role, among other people of course, and I was one of those, that cadre of people who were involved in that. For us, culture was absolutely central, cultural preservation and preservation of knowledge of the bush and of places was absolutely central.

Now, I really think we have to start with three-year-old children, what’s essential for them. If it works for them, that’s the way to go. If it doesn’t work for them, no matter how much it might be about keeping some cultural practice going, the practice needs to be questioned and people need to work out whether they’re going to drop it or not.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Peter Sutton, it’s a very complex issue and we could go on, but we’re stuck for time. Thanks very much for talking with us.

Read the report: Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009.

There is a central fact we all must recognise. Most of us are the beneficiaries of a dispossession that has occurred and in many respects is ongoing. It cannot be reversed, and we would be hypocrites to think it could be. I speak as a fairly typical old Australian, a hybrid myself of Dharawal and settler. Our historians have to confront that dispossession squarely; it is a complex story and often not a pretty story, but it is the only story on offer. The point is the present and the future. What are the best ways to both cherish the often neglected wisdom our Indigenous Australians do have to offer and guarantee that this really is a country of fairness, justice and equity for all? These are not easy matters.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, challenge, Indigenous Australians

 

China, the USA, the car, and the environment

Two good items from Monday’s Arts & Letters Daily.

1. P J O’Rourke, The End of the Affair. Provocative and ironic as usual…

The phrase “bankrupt General Motors,” which we expect to hear uttered on Monday, leaves Americans my age in economic shock. The words are as melodramatic as “Mom’s nude photos.” And, indeed, if we want to understand what doomed the American automobile, we should give up on economics and turn to melodrama.

Politicians, journalists, financial analysts and other purveyors of banality have been looking at cars as if a convertible were a business. Fire the MBAs and hire a poet. The fate of Detroit isn’t a matter of financial crisis, foreign competition, corporate greed, union intransigence, energy costs or measuring the shoe size of the footprints in the carbon. It’s a tragic romance—unleashed passions, titanic clashes, lost love and wild horses…

The American automobile is—that is, was—never a product of Japanese-style industrialism. America’s steel, coal, beer, beaver pelts and PCs may have come from our business plutocracy, but American cars have been manufactured mostly by romantic fools. David Buick, Ransom E. Olds, Louis Chevrolet, Robert and Louis Hupp of the Hupmobile, the Dodge brothers, the Studebaker brothers, the Packard brothers, the Duesenberg brothers, Charles W. Nash, E. L. Cord, John North Willys, Preston Tucker and William H. Murphy, whose Cadillac cars were designed by the young Henry Ford, all went broke making cars. The man who founded General Motors in 1908, William Crapo (really) Durant, went broke twice. Henry Ford, of course, did not go broke, nor was he a romantic, but judging by his opinions he certainly was a fool…

2. Jacques Leslie, The Last Empire: China’s Pollution Problem Goes Global.

…The emergence of China as a dominant economic power is an epochal event, as significant as the United States’ ascendancy after World War II. It is in many ways an astonishment, starting with the ideological about-face that enabled it, the throwing over of Maoist values for plainly capitalist ones starting in the late 1970s. So thorough is the change that the 19-foot-tall portrait of a stolid, potato-faced Mao Zedong that still looms over traffic-choked, commerce-suffused Tiananmen Square looks paradoxical, even startling, in seeming need of an update in which Mao winks—or sobs—in blinking neon. Meanwhile, inside Beijing’s Forbidden City, the heart of old China, buildings with such intoxicating names as Hall of Preserved Harmony and Palace of Heavenly Purity bear signs reading, "Made Possible by the American Express Company."

The grander astonishment is the most massive and rapid redistribution of the earth’s resources in human history. In a mere two and a half decades, China has awakened from Maoist stagnancy to become the world’s manufacturer. Among the planet’s 193 nations, it is now first in production of coal, steel, cement, and 10 kinds of metal; it produces half the world’s cameras and nearly a third of its TVs, and by 2015 may produce the most cars. It boasts factories that can accommodate 200,000 workers, and towns that make 60 percent of the world’s buttons, half the world’s silk neckties, and half the world’s fireworks, respectively.

China has also become a ravenous consumer. Its appetite for raw materials drives up international commodity prices and shipping rates while its middle class, projected to jump from fewer than 100 million people now to 700 million by 2020, is learning the gratifications of consumerism. China is by a wide margin the leading importer of a cornucopia of commodities, including iron ore, steel, copper, tin, zinc, aluminum, and nickel. It is the world’s biggest consumer of coal, refrigerators, grain, cell phones, fertilizer, and television sets. It not only leads the world in coal consumption, with 2.5 billion tons in 2006, but uses more than the next three highest-ranked nations—the United States, Russia, and India—combined. China uses half the world’s steel and concrete and will probably construct half the world’s new buildings over the next decade. So omnivorous is the Chinese appetite for imports that when the country ran short of scrap metal in early 2004, manhole covers disappeared from cities all over the world—Chicago lost 150 in a month. And the Chinese are not just vast consumers, but conspicuous ones, as evidenced by the presence in Beijing of dealers representing every luxury-car manufacturer in the world. Sales of Porsches, Ferraris, and Maseratis have flourished, even though their owners have no opportunity to test their finely tuned cars’ performance on the city’s clotted roads…

 

I read the news today, oh boy…

Well, it is the anniversary of that album…

But then, whoda believed it a few years ago?

And then, speaking of holes: Bellevue hole an active crater for weeks to come. See Sally’s Sydney Daily Photo.

(More coming. I’m switching to Live Writer…)*

And then, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted…

020609_cartoon_moir_gallery

Moir in today’s Sydney Morning Herald

Meanwhile.

We have had much merited soul-searching about the targeting of Indian students in Melbourne of late. You will see Ramana took it up here recently. You need only to check this blog under racism to see where I am coming from on such things. However, I did find New Matilda more than a bit po-faced in Sol Was Right: We Are Racist by Ezequiel Trumper. I agree with commenter PaulRobert:

…You’re not seriously trying to argue that there is less entrenched racism in the US than in Australia, are you? There’s very little chance of hysterical protests against chk-chk-boom because no one takes the racist angle seriously – it was so obviously a joke.

Your article reminds me of Robert Hughes’ idea of "linguistic Lourdes": if only we could change the language people use, all the evils of the world will magically disappear – very PC circa early ’90s.

If you want to highlight the damage racism does in this country, get on the case about the appalling attacks against international students in Melbourne. But Trujillo? I’m happy to join with Rudd and give him the "one-fingered" farewell not because of his Mexican heritage but because he was a corporate vandal, a failure and a knob.

I even go along, for the most part, with Gerard Henderson:

…Stories which have a race edge tend to excite journalists in Australia. Not, however, on this occasion. Readers of The Age and, to a lesser extent, the Herald Sun would have been aware of a spate of attacks on Indians beginning about October, primarily in Melbourne’s western suburbs. This led to the establishment of the Police-Indian Western Reference Group in January. At the time about 30 per cent of all victims in this area were men of Indian appearance.

In fact, the number of Indian victims of assault in Melbourne over the past six months exceeds the total number of serious casualties in the Cronulla riots – and revenge attacks – of December 2005. Yet, until last week, there had been almost no coverage of this issue on the public broadcasters. The matter was all but ignored on such important ABC programs as AM, The World Today, PM, The 7.30 Report, Q&A, Lateline and Radio National’s Breakfast, as well as SBS’s World News Australia.

Even the Victorian Government has been surprisingly quiet on what sections of the Indian media have depicted as "curry bashing" incidents. The Premier, John Brumby, issued a media release last Friday following representations from India’s high commissioner in Australia, Sujatha Singh. Better late than never, but still late…

Interviewed on Lateline on July 28 last year, the influential Indian commentator – and one-time United Nations player – Shashi Tharoor criticised Australia’s policy on uranium exports. He made the important point that, unlike Australia, India does not enjoy the protection of the US nuclear umbrella. He also pointed out that, in living memory, India has fought wars with what are now two nuclear powers — China and Pakistan.

Elsewhere, Tharoor has depicted Australia’s policy in this area as a vestige of what he terms "apartheid".

It appears many influential Indians do not fully appreciate that the Rudd Government’s position on uranium exports is determined in part by the Prime Minister’s focus on observing United Nations treaties to the letter, and in part on upholding Labor policy and, in the process, keeping Labor’s left-wing quiet.

Even so, the policy has annoyed the highest level of the Indian Government. And now many Indians are rightly concerned about ethnic-motivated crime in Australia.

It’s time to focus on improving the relationship between Australia and India. A greater concentration by the Victorian authorities on crime, and more restrained policing, would help for starters.

Let’s hope they catch all the low-life responsible for the Melbourne attacks.

* I was composing direct to WordPress but the WordPress media uploader, and/or Google Gears, crashed Firefox three times!

 

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