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Category Archives: generational change

50 years on – 1: a classmate’s story

While looking for a photo from around 1960 for Memorabilia 17 – Sydney University: Fisher Library c.1960, today’s post on a reviving Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole, I came upon a classmate from the class of 1959 at Sydney High. (See also Memorabilia 16 – 50 years on.)

Peter Deli and I were in a number of classes together at school. He wasn’t a close friend, but was certainly someone I talked to. I do remember he had such dreadful handwriting he was called in to read some of his Leaving Certificate papers to the markers. He went on to study History at Sydney University, but was never in the same groups as I was; my History selections were fairly eccentric, a fact that now pleases me: Ancient History I (Near East, Greece, Rome); Modern History IIb (18th century Western Europe, 18th-19th century England); Asian History III. So aside from occasional chats in buses, I saw very little of Peter and never knew – until yesterday – what became of him.

Now I know.

hd_history_photo

 

Peter Francis Nicholas Deli was born on 26 March 1942 in Wellington, New Zealand. His parents, Lewis and Lily, were both Hungarian refugees who had fled Europe just before the beginning of the War. His father, an architect by training, had been a violinist in the Budapest Symphony Orchestra. His mother, who was Jewish, had tried to emigrate to Britain and Australia before settling for New Zealand. They met in New Zealand and married in 1941. After the War the Deli family moved to Sydney, Australia and settled in the Eastern Suburbs at Bondi. Sydney had a much larger population of East European migrs than the whole of New Zealand and the Delis were soon absorbed into the Hungarian community’s protective embrace. Peter’s early school years at Double Bay Primary School were far from typical of the elementary educational experience of most Australian children at the time. The extraordinary mix of nationalities and class backgrounds in the school must have had a profound effect on his early development. In 1955 he won a place to the prestigious Sydney Boys’ High School, one of the best secondary schools in New South Wales. Peter excelled in his studies during these years and matriculated with honours to the University of Sydney in 1960. During his undergraduate years he read History and Philosophy, graduating Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours in History in 1964.

Peter was not part of any established campus institutions during his time at Sydney University. They were the preserve of socialites and student politicians and were therefore way beneath the sub-culture in which Peter dwelled. Peter disliked any sort of organised activity. He did however take an active interest in The Push, although he was never part of it. He knew the Push’s Hungarian member George Molnar very well, but the movement really predated Peter’s generation of student activists. Peter instead gathered around him an eclectic and eccentric collection of friends, many of them radically-minded like himself, but not all of them. This group included his closest friend Myron Kofman. Many of them were, like Peter, attempting to throw off some of their middle class upbringing. Clive Kessler, Chris Conybeare*, Bob Connell, Maureen Tighe, Josie Jeffrey and Nina Gantman were among them. Outside the university he collected a gallery of social misfits around him. It was one of these, the ‘Bulgarian anarchist friend’, Jack Goncharoff, who became a major influence on him during his later years at Sydney University. Upon graduation Peter decided to enter the postgraduate Master of Arts programme at Sydney University and began three years of research (1964-67) focusing on Stalinist Russia. During this time he secured his first university appointment, lecturing on nineteenth and twentieth-century European and British history at the University of New South Wales during 1966. He found himself in trouble almost immediately, however, falling foul of Professor Frank Crowley, the doyen of Australian historians at UNSW, because of his long-held and vociferously expressed views on the dullness of Australian History. His M.A. dissertation ‘The Russian Purges 1936-39: Their Image in the Contemporary British Press and their Significance in Historical Perspective’ was awarded First Class Honours and Peter was recommended for the Gold Medal. It was no surprise to his fellow students and teachers that Peter wanted to further his studies after the M.A., but his decision to go to Oxford and read for the D.Phil. in 1967 was an unexpected choice of university…

After a very interesting career, including being in Paris in 1968, Peter succumbed to leukemia and died at home in Hong Kong on 12 February 2001.

The point made there about the cosmopolitan mix at Double Bay and SBHS at the time certainly struck me when I “migrated” from Sutherland (with Ross Mackay, Arno Eglitis, Robert Burnie and Laurence Napier) to SBHS in 1955. On the other hand, much to the surprise of one of my coachees who is now at SBHS, of  206 of us starting out in 1955 only one was Chinese (ABC) and one was Indian – Ashok Hegde, who became a close friend until he went to London in 1958.

* Chris Conybeare: “After March 1996, that culture began to change. The Howard Government was elected on 2 March. The following day, the Secretary of the Immigration Department, Chris Conybeare, was sacked, along with the heads of five other departments. It was a clear message that the Public Service should hold no illusions: everything is politics.”

 

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Notelets

1. Dr C has gone to Fiji for a week’s holiday. That could be interesting as a coup seems to be in progress.

2. A couple of (reconstructed) bits of conversation with coachees this week.

Coachee 1 (14): Yes, I read The Lord of the Rings when I was about 4.

Me: Really? That’s a bit much for a four year old… Did you read it in Chinese or English?

Coachee 1: In Chinese. (He was in Shanghai then.)

Me: Have you read it since in English?

Coachee 1: Yes.

Me: Do you still read a lot?

Coachee: One book a week.

Me: English or Chinese?

Coachee: Mostly in English.

********

Coachee 2 (17): I’m having some problems with Keating’s Speech on the Unknown Soldier. (One of seven set for the HSC unit on speeches.)

Me: What problems?

Coachee 2: What is mateship?

That led to an interesting discussion.

 

Fibre optic network way overdue

The Rudd government can still surprise us, it seems. See Government unveils plans for bigger, faster broadband network, National Broadband Network an ambitious plan and Kevin Rudd joins The 7.30 Report.

Previous schemes, including the one for fibre optic to local nodes and copper wire thereafter, always seemed a bit curate’s egg to me. For a small example: Sydney Boys High internally went fibre optic some years back – five or six, if I remember rightly. Internally this made a huge difference, but of course the internet came into the school down copper wire, being strangled further by the Department of Education net nanny. So internet speeds improved a bit, especially with ISPs offering better speeds, but there was always the fact that what was inside the building was severely limited by the old technology delivering it to the building. That’s true of homes and businesses everywhere.

The only thing that could provide real improvement is for the whole system to embrace fibre optic technology. That is what the government now proposes.

It strikes me that Opposition reservations are analogous to favouring investment in Cobb & Co stage coaches rather than railways in the 19th century. Perhaps the Howard government should have led on this five years ago? If they had we would now be well on track…

See also Australia To Lead The World At Something Good.

Update 9 April

Piers Akerman gets stuck into this today: $47 billion to be flushed down a broadband pipe dream. Citing one economist, Piers opines “Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rolled out a fantasy of jobs, dividends and consumer benefits that would make Australia the envy of the world, if the goals were achievable. Not only is the cost greater and the proposal far more complex but there is a total lack of any supporting data to justify Rudd’s grandiose claims for the new project.”  He concludes: “Finally, Rudd is attempting to flatter the electorate with the promise of a NBN that no other nation in the world has attempted. There is good reason for this. Most nations are not stupid enough to take on untried technologies, assume massive debt and commit to vast schemes unless they can see and demonstrate a proven benefit.”

On the other hand, last year Telstra laid Fibre Optic, that “untried technology”, from Australia to Hawaii. And then in another part of the world:

From having no undersea cable links to the rest of the world, East Africa is now poised to have three.

As a result, many businesses are investing in finger-sized underwater fibre-optic cables that will open doors to the rest of the world.

It could not come too soon. Currently, many African countries rely heavily on satellite connections for internet and telephone calls.

Developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia embraced fibre-optic technology several years ago, and now boast over 500 cables. But the developing world is far behind; Bangladesh – with a population of over 150 million people – has three fibre-optic cables, while the whole of Africa has just ten.

And the advantages are:

Advantages of Fiber Optics

Why are fiber-optic systems revolutionizing telecommunications? Compared to conventional metal wire (copper wire), optical fibers are:

  • Less expensive – Several miles of optical cable can be made cheaper than equivalent lengths of copper wire. This saves your provider (cable TV, Internet) and you money.
  • Thinner – Optical fibers can be drawn to smaller diameters than copper wire.
  • Higher carrying capacity – Because optical fibers are thinner than copper wires, more fibers can be bundled into a given-diameter cable than copper wires. This allows more phone lines to go over the same cable or more channels to come through the cable into your cable TV box.
  • Less signal degradation – The loss of signal in optical fiber is less than in copper wire.
  • Light signals – Unlike electrical signals in copper wires, light signals from one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers in the same cable. This means clearer phone conversations or TV reception.
  • Low power – Because signals in optical fibers degrade less, lower-power transmitters can be used instead of the high-voltage electrical transmitters needed for copper wires. Again, this saves your provider and you money.
  • Digital signals – Optical fibers are ideally suited for carrying digital information, which is especially useful in computer networks.
  • Non-flammable – Because no electricity is passed through optical fibers, there is no fire hazard.
  • Lightweight – An optical cable weighs less than a comparable copper wire cable. Fiber-optic cables take up less space in the ground.
  • Flexible – Because fiber optics are so flexible and can transmit and receive light, they are used in many flexible digital cameras for the following purposes:
    • Medical imaging – in bronchoscopes, endoscopes, laparoscopes
    • Mechanical imaging – inspecting mechanical welds in pipes and engines (in airplanes, rockets, space shuttles, cars)
    • Plumbing – to inspect sewer lines

Because of these advantages, you see fiber optics in many industries, most notably telecommunications and computer networks.

 

On race and policy: worth noting

Again I owe Arts & Letters Daily for pointing to Slate and Sudhir Venkatesh on How To Understand the Culture of Poverty, a review of More Than Just Race by William Julius Wilson.

… Liberals believed that black poverty was caused by systemic racism, such as workplace discrimination and residential segregation, and that focusing on the family was a form of "blaming the victim." Conservatives pointed to individual failure to embrace mainstream cultural values like hard work and sobriety, and intact (read: nuclear) families. It’s like Yankees vs. Mets, and for 40 years there has been no middle ground. (That the current generation of college students might not necessarily share this polarized view may augur an important shift in the years ahead.)

In this standoff, along comes the eminent sociologist William Julius Wilson, whom I studied with at the University of Chicago in the 1990s, promising to transcend the polarizing discourse on race in American society. (Sound familiar?) Wilson claims his analysis in his new book, titled More Than Just Race, will bridge the two worlds and create a new, more enlightened way for Americans to talk about race (heard this one before?)—but he is well aware that won’t happen without controversy…

More Than Just Race, which draws on Wilson’s earlier research as well as more recent studies, is yet more proof of his willingness to ignore political and academic pieties and his will to make social science relevant to the public. Wilson wants to explain inner-city behavior—such as young black males’ disdain for low-wage jobs, their use of violence, and their refusal to take responsibility for children—without pointing simplistically to discrimination or a deficit in values. Instead, he argues that many years of exposure to similar situations can create responses that look as if they express individual will or active preference when they are, in fact, adaptations or resigned responses to racial exclusion…

The book stands to have a powerful impact in policy circles because it points to the elephant in the room. Wilson knows it is difficult to engineer cultural change. We can train black youths, we can move their families to better neighborhoods, etc., but changing their way of thinking is not so easy. Evidence of this lies in the many "mobility" programs that move inner-city families to lower-poverty suburbs: Young women continue to have children out of wedlock and, inexplicably, the young men who move out return to their communities to commit crime! These patterns flummox researchers and, according to Wilson, they will continue to remain mysterious until we look at culture for an answer…

…Wilson repeatedly points to the benefits that jobs programs and vocational training have on the cultural front. Stated somewhat crudely, increasing employment will reduce the number of people who might promote or even condone deviant behavior. Change might not occur overnight, and it may not be wholesale, but it will take place.

Wilson advised the Obama campaign, and it is likely that his combination of race-neutral social policies and "jobs-first" agenda will be attractive to our president. Perhaps after addressing the financial mess, terrorism, the Iraq war, "AfPak," education, health care, and the climate, the administration will turn its attention to domestic poverty. However long that takes, it is alas safe to predict that ghetto poverty will still be a pressing national problem.

Despite the obviously US context of this – and do read the whole article – it is clear (to me at least) that some of our more vexing issues here in Australia would benefit from similar thinking.

 

The American Dream – Vanity Fair, Howard Fast, and some right-wing flummery…

Very late on Sunday night ABC1 ran an old documentary on US communist writer Howard Fast, best known these days for his novel Spartacus, on which the movie by Stanley Kubrick was based. Since Fast died in 2003 the doco had to be quite old; it included extensive interview material. Fast left the US Communist Party – which he had been in and out of – in 1956 following Kruschev’s revelations about the Stalin years and other events of 1956 in Europe. He was quite a man though, first published at the age of 19 and last published in 2000. His life is a neat alternative history of the USA. There is a good site on his work. Until seeing the documentary I hadn’t realised Howard Fast wrote crime fiction under a pseudonym – especially during the years of internal exile in the Cold War days. And during World War II – while a communist – he virtually was the Voice of America.

When I was a boy, I developed a passion for Howard Fast’s novels, and read all I could find in my school library. Then, one day, I no longer found his books. Fast was blacklisted for being a member of the American Communist Party…

"…in May 1952 The New York Times reported intimidation of librarians across the nation by Legionnaires, by Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, by Minutemen in Texas and California. School texts showing city slums, UNESCO material, all books by such threats to the free world as Howard Fast were purged from school libraries."   (Victor Navasky, "The Social Costs," in Naming Names, Viking Press, New York, 1980)

Citizen Tom Paine, formerly used as a school text, was banned from use in NYC schools. In 1956 Fast broke with the Communist Party, and published his rationale in 1957 as The Naked God. His 1990 memoir Being Red goes more deeply into the issue.

So with that in mind I read with interest (via Arts & Letters Daily) Rethinking the American Dream by David Kamp in Vanity Fair. It is a good example of the introspection going on post-Bush.

…Whatever your opinion of [Norman] Rockwell (and I’m a fan), the resonance of the “Four Freedoms” paintings with wartime Americans offers tremendous insight into how U.S. citizens viewed their idealized selves. Freedom from Want, the most popular of all, is especially telling, for the scene it depicts is joyous but defiantly unostentatious. There is a happily gathered family, there are plain white curtains, there is a large turkey, there are some celery stalks in a dish, and there is a bowl of fruit, but there is not a hint of overabundance, overindulgence, elaborate table settings, ambitious seasonal centerpieces, or any other conventions of modern-day shelter-mag porn.

It was freedom from want, not freedom to want—a world away from the idea that the patriotic thing to do in tough times is go shopping. Though the germ of that idea would form shortly, not long after the war ended…

…what about the outmoded proposition that each successive generation in the United States must live better than the one that preceded it? While this idea is still crucial to families struggling in poverty and to immigrants who’ve arrived here in search of a better life than that they left behind, it’s no longer applicable to an American middle class that lives more comfortably than any version that came before it. (Was this not one of the cautionary messages of the most thoughtful movie of 2008, wall-e?) I’m no champion of downward mobility, but the time has come to consider the idea of simple continuity: the perpetuation of a contented, sustainable middle-class way of life, where the standard of living remains happily constant from one generation to the next.

This is not a matter of any generation’s having to “lower its sights,” to use President Obama’s words, nor is it a denial that some children of lower- and middle-class parents will, through talent and/or good fortune, strike it rich and bound precipitously into the upper class. Nor is it a moony, nostalgic wish for a return to the scrappy 30s or the suburban 50s, because any sentient person recognizes that there’s plenty about the good old days that wasn’t so good: the original Social Security program pointedly excluded farmworkers and domestics (i.e., poor rural laborers and minority women), and the original Levittown didn’t allow black people in.

But those eras do offer lessons in scale and self-control. The American Dream should require hard work, but it should not require 80-hour workweeks and parents who never see their kids from across the dinner table. The American Dream should entail a first-rate education for every child, but not an education that leaves no extra time for the actual enjoyment of childhood. The American Dream should accommodate the goal of home ownership, but without imposing a lifelong burden of unmeetable debt. Above all, the American Dream should be embraced as the unique sense of possibility that this country gives its citizens—the decent chance, as Moss Hart would say, to scale the walls and achieve what you wish.

On the same page of Arts & Letters Daily was one of those insufferably humorous pastiches of social “analysis” some on the Right seem so fond of – rooted in a superficial knowingness, in impregnable smugness and snobbery masquerading as “conservatism” but really just marking and confirming territory – or “Aren’t I glad I’m not a prole, and neither of course are you!” You know the genre. Here in Oz we have a number of practitioners, not all of them named Tim. The case at hand is a slash at Facebook, and it gives itself away a bit by using the term “sheeple” for those who inhabit the site. Oh, and it’s in the Weekly Standard – of course. See Down with Facebook! by Matt Labash.

What nobody bothers to mention about the social-networking site is that it’s really dull–mind-numbingly dull.

Look at the outer shell–the parachute pants, the piano-key tie, the fake tuxedo T-shirt–and you might mistake me for a slave to fashion. Do not be deceived. Early adoption isn’t my thing. I much prefer late adoption, that moment when the trend-worshipping sheeple who have early-adopted drive the unsustainable way of life I so stubbornly cling to ever so close to the edge of obsolescence, that I’ve no choice but to follow. This explains why I bought cassette tapes until 1999, why I wouldn’t purchase a DVD player until Blockbuster cashiered their VHS stock. Toothpaste? I use it now that it’s clear it’s here to stay.

So I’m not inflexible. But there is one promise I’ve made to myself. And that is that no matter how long I live, no matter how much pressure is exerted, no matter how socially isolated I become, I will never, ever join Facebook, the omnipresent online social-networking site that like so many things that have menaced our country (the Unabomber, Love Story, David Gergen) came to us from Harvard but has now worked its insidious hooks into every crevice of society…

…the reason to hate Facebook is because of the stultifying mind-numbing inanity of it all, the sheer boredom. If Facebook helps put together streakers with voyeurs, the streakers, for the most part, after shedding their trench coats, seem to be running around not with taut and tanned hard-bodies, but in stained granny panties with dark socks. They have a reality-show star’s unquenchable thirst for broadcasting all the details of their lives, no matter how unexceptional those details are. They do so in the steady, Chinese-water-torture drip of status updates. The very fact that they are on the air (or rather, on Facebook) has convinced them that every facet of their life must be inherently interesting enough to alert everyone to its importance.

These are all actual status updates (with name changes): "Maria is eating Girl Scout cookies. … Tom is glad it’s the weekend. … Jacinda is longing for some sleep, pillow come to momma! … Dan is going to get something to eat. … Anne is taking Tyler to daycare. … Amber loves to dip. I can dip almost any food in blue cheese, ranch dressing, honey mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup. Well, I think you get the point." Yes. Uncle. Please make it stop. For the love of God, we get the point…

Well OK, the article really IS funny, if also silly. What Facebook is like for you really is up to you. You don’t have to use all those gizmos it offers, nor do you have to accumulate “friends”.

You may as well rail against the telephone – and I am sure there were conservatives who did.

On the other hand – and Jim Belshaw has succumbed I see – you’ll never catch me Twittering! 😉

 

Two from The Oz

1. Malcolm Turnbull

I am not going to go here much. Neither has anyone else so far as it stands at 2.20pm with COMMENTS: 0 at the end. Sure is great at phrase-making though – almost Keatingesque:

It is bad enough to have Rudd trying to turn himself, in the blink of an eye, from an adherent of the cautious, responsible economic conservatism of Howard into a slightly more genteel version of a foaming-at-the-mouth radical such as Hugo Chavez.

But to add to that effrontery, we see him every day in the parliament denouncing neo-liberal extremism as he describes me as "the member for Goldman Sachs".

Which seems to be one of Mr Turnbull’s principal beefs in a piece that carries ad hominem to new heights.

I congratulate the Rudds, especially Therese Rein, on their success. Their business grew into a very substantial one in Australia and as other countries followed the Australian approach, grew there as well exporting the expertise developed by them when they seized the opportunity created by Howard’s decision in 1998.

But what are we to think of the wealthiest Prime Minister Australia has ever had, a man greatly enriched by the privatisation and outsourcing of government services, standing up again and again to denounce the very policies from which he and his family have profited so extensively.

It is more than a bit rich. It is as hypocritical, as chutzpadik, as his essay is absurd.

Whether or not Rudd’s essay – which I have read—is the world’s greatest analysis is beside my point really; I would agree that he glossed over the Hawke-Keating years in that essay. On the other hand he is far from alone in his concern that “neo-liberalism” is bearing fruit as we speak.

Whether Mr Turnbull’s essay prevents the Cato-like return from the plough of Peter Costello remains to be seen.

It is probably a good idea to compare Mr Turnbull’s essay with Michael Stutchbury’s feature in the same paper: Too big to resist. Makes Turnbull’s essay seem quite unimportant.

2. Phillip Adams

It’s probably fair to say that Phillip Adams writes and talks far too much, and sometimes it shows. Of course the last person who should say that is a blogger as obsessive as I am. Today is one of his better days.

Early in my newspaper career one of Australia’s most respected educators sent me a stern letter.

Dr James Darling didn’t mince words in his eagerness to mince me. "Dear Mr Adams, I do not approve of you. I do not like what you write. However, I understand that you may have some influence with young readers." He proceeded to attack my most recent column in which I’d been unusually pessimistic about the state of the world.

I’d got a bit rabid, and morbid, from a bite of the black dog, to employ Churchill’s metaphor for depression. Instead of being moist of nose and waggy of tail, as was and remains my puppyish style, a crisis in the Cold War had me snarling at the reader, provoking Geelong Grammar’s most famous headmaster to thrust quill into inkwell. Darling told Adams the cries of pain I was hearing in the world – and these are his exact words – "are not the pains of death but of birth", and recalled other moments in human history when observers had made the same mistake. Confusing – and these are my words – the deathbed with the labour ward. Among his scholarly examples, Greece in the 4th century BC.

Time to reread the old darling’s letter. At a time when the news is not merely of deficit and depression, but of Armageddon and apocalypse. When editorials read like suicide notes. When Obama in his inaugural and Rudd in every other utterance have the sky falling and the end nigh. The bears have killed the bulls and black dogs prowl in packs.

Dr Darling, later Sir James, was right. Forget dodos and dead parrots and cheer the arrival of stork and phoenix…

…This could be the time for the biggest rethink in generations. For improvements to the way we run our businesses, farms, governments, societies, personal lives. We should listen to the Dr Darlings and the Ismail Serageldins because pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not enough to rebuild Henry Ford’s Detroit. It’s time to build William Blake’s New Jerusalem.

So why can I share the hopes, but not necessarily the optimism? Because I well remember another moment like this. And so do you. It was quite recent. The end of the Cold War…

The orchestrated dread of communism yielded to the dread of Islam – or what Christopher Hitchens called "Islamic fascism". It was as if we were addicted to fear and couldn’t live without it. The Cold War was reborn as the War on Terror – and we returned to paranoia. The moment was utterly, tragically lost.

Let’s demand better – the best – from our governments, societies, scientists, corporations and ourselves. Let’s not lose this moment.

 

Fifty years on – guess what, nothing is for ever!

4shs There’s not much wrong with sport over all at my old school (class of 1959) and former work-place, as a glance at the current High Notes shows. But guess what: sport isn’t everything, and I know the English Department was rather chuffed when SBHS outperformed Sydney Grammar in English in the HSC last year… And there are other achievements, as the photo on the right from the school’s website suggests.

Nonetheless, a large minority – and you may take large several ways – did in the past secure the school a reputation in Rugby which was highly prized, even if never a majority activity. The cultural cachet it attracted is for anthropologists to explain, but while many dedicated staff and friends of the school, and many gutsy if increasingly outclassed students, have done their best to maintain that particular tradition, the writing has been on the wall for at least a decade – though it should be pointed out the game does continue, even if somewhat diminished.

So we read today in the Sydney Morning Herald: Worst XV: Sydney Boys drop the ball after 100 years of rugby – except that curiously I had to go through the Melbourne Age to pick up the story online.

SYDNEY Boys High School’s chocolate and blue rugby jersey will be no more when the Greater Public Schools First XV competition kicks off this year.

Citing safety, the school has pulled its teams out of top-level competition for the first time in 103 years. Instead it will combine its teams with those of Sydney Grammar, competing in the Second XV and B-grade fixtures. Grammar will continue to play in First XV and A-grade fixtures.

For three years, Sydney Boys High has had disappointing rugby results, because of mismatches in size and ability with those of opponents. The Greater Public Schools rugby convener Mark Ticehurst confirmed that the one-sided results had added to the risk of injury to Sydney Boys High players.

In 2007 the school lost all seven of its matches, conceding 633 points and scoring only eight points. Last year it contested only one game, which it lost to St Joseph’s 112-0, before forfeiting its remaining six games. Mr Ticehurst said: "It was the safety issue that saw Sydney High withdrawing. It’s an opportunity to develop their rugby, and although they will still be in a very tough competition, the pressure is off them to perform at the First XV level."

Sydney Boys High is the only public school in the GPS and selects its students on an academic basis. It has traditionally been competitive in rugby, but its students have recently shifted to sports such as soccer.

Last year the school had only 32 players registered in its senior rugby ranks, compared with 79 who signed up for soccer…

Seems the GPS has made the necessary adjustments too, and they’d better watch out in football (the real one) and basketball, among much else… Not to mention Debating of course.

My own contribution to Rugby fifty plus years back was one term as a linesman at age 12, which did score me “took an interest in Rugby” on my school reference. Not much interest, I have to say… I wasn’t in the large minority.

Update 26 February

The Sydney High School Old Boys Union published a correction yesterday, which I have just caught up with. See High Rugby Update.

…As the School announced last year, High and Grammar will share rugby fixtures this year, with Grammar competing in First XV and A-team fixtures and High in Third XV and B-team fixtures.

The High v Grammar first grade match will take place as usual in the last round of the 2009 competition and it is possible that High may play some other GPS First XV teams in other rounds of the competition.

These changes have been temporarily introduced as part of our planned process of building the participation rates, skills, strength and success of rugby at High, from the junior school up.

All other sports at High will be unaffected by this temporary arrangement and there is no impact upon High’s status as a GPS school.

There has been a resurgence of rugby in High’s junior years. In 2008 we fielded four 13s teams for the first time in at least 10 years. Last year’s 16As defeated Newington to record High’s first win in an A v A match for many years.

We are planning to field 16 rugby teams this year compared with 13 teams last season. A coordinated, three-sessions-a-week coaching program for all junior rugby teams commenced last year and we now have about 15 old boys regularly coaching our teams…

There was truth in the Herald story, but it wasn’t really news, and the emphasis was skewed by the angle the journalist took. So “SYDNEY Boys High School’s chocolate and blue rugby jersey will be no more…” is more than a bit hyperbolic.

 
Comments Off on Fifty years on – guess what, nothing is for ever!

Posted by on February 25, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, education, generational change, memory, personal, Salt Mine, sport

 

Speaking of pretty…

Not the new template, but this.

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It’s called “Conversation in the digital age”.

Hat tip: The Tubes are Diverse and Crowded (Reverend Jeremy Smith).

 
Comments Off on Speaking of pretty…

Posted by on February 20, 2009 in blogging, computers, generational change, web stuff, www

 

Last night I was 15 again…

On Compass last night was a documentary that really took me back: Billy Graham Down Under. Radio National also covered it.

gallery-13

1959 Billy Graham Crusade gathering at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Source — Australian heritage photographic library.

I wasn’t there, but did go to the Sydney meetings with Sutherland Presbyterian Fellowship – even if the minister expressed a few doubts about the phenomenon, though he broadly supported it. I also went independently with some school friends, including one Jew, being 15 at the time.

From Compass, where the transcript has now appeared:

Narration
143 thousand people had crammed into the MCG and another 4,000 stood outside listening to hastily rigged up speakers. They had come from all over the state and they wanted to be part of the action.
Judith Smart – Historian
I was eight at the time. I was a member of the Malvern Baptist Sunday School. The Baptists were very evangelical and they decided that they should take all the Sunday School to the Billy Graham crusade.  We weren’t close enough to actually see Billy Graham but his speech was quite astonishing.

No, I didn’t go forward when the call came. I had already done that at a Fellowship Camp at Otford a month or two earlier. Oh, and in Sydney I was close enough to see the man quite close, comparatively speaking, in at least one of the meetings.

It was all rather amazing. Sydney had never seen such crowds, particularly for a religious gathering. On the last day the overflow filled the stadium next door as well as the SCG itself.

One of my teachers did mutter something about Nuremberg rallies, I recall. We thought that quite out of place at the time.

My trip back to 1959 did produce a Ninglun’s Specials entry: Memorabilia 15: 1959 — or thereabouts where you will find some quite wonderful super-8 footage of Sydney in that period. Not mine; a YouTube member posted it.

Much water has gone under the Harbour Bridge since then!

 

Rudd in “The Monthly” – but there really is more

Just about everyone in this country must know by now that Kevin Rudd has been doing some homework — writing an essay indeed — and  the result is now on show. First off, there is a note at the end suggesting it isn’t entirely K Rudd’s unaided work. I rather think Andrew Charlton, among others, may have had some input at the very least.

Now to be offensive to some.

After a century and a half* of playing at Marxism in one form or another we ought really to be totally disabused of that blind alley. May as well base Chemistry on the phlogiston theory. It’s still good (like Freudianism or Neo-Freudianism) for some spectacular academic performances, but otherwise has gone the way of all grand theories. I have met so many ex-Marxists – it seems to be the inevitable outcome – who nonetheless remain Left, though you do get weird exceptions who polarise in the opposite direction. Then on the other hand there is the equally touching faith and mysticism masquerading as scientific economics and politics under the banner of Hayek. Pox on both, I say.

Now with that out of the way, you may see why I found the Rudd essay to be actually rather good – in fact, very good. I suggest reading it is much better than reading about it. Just $7.95 at the newsagent, after all, and even on my pension I could cop that just this once.

What has escaped notice, however, is that it isn’t a one article magazine. There is an excellent dissection of Baz’s Australia by Peter Conrad.

A paragraph of introductory piffle in Australia defines the outback as a place where ‘adventure and romance were a way of life’. Nothing could be less true. Hardship, privation and dying remain a way of life on our unromantic frontier, where adventures are as scarce as trees on the Nullarbor Plain. We know that the land we only marginally occupy will always be indifferent to human incursions; we also ruefully acknowledge our lack of moral right to possess it, since earlier settlers evicted its traditional owners…

Wanting his characters to be mythical embodiments of the land, Conrad organises a continental orgasm when Kidman and Jackman make love. Hot monsoonal rains drench them. The sky splits open, the earth heaves, and the camera giddily skims across Australia as rivers overflow and waterfalls froth. Back at the desert station it is suddenly Christmas, with wild flowers blooming from the fertilised earth. I wouldn’t dream of impugning Jackman’s virility, but I can’t quite imagine that one man has the capacity to irrigate and inseminate the whole drought-parched nation…

There’s a generous account of Professor Ian Harper by John Hirst, which you may read online:

Ian Harper’s free-market friends rib him about his job: what’s a liberal economist doing setting a minimum wage? Better a liberal economist, he replies, than anyone else. But he is rather bemused by how little Australian employers of the low-paid believe in the market. They rely on him to set and alter their wages. They are mostly happy to pay a decent wage but they want to be told what that is and they don’t want to be undercut by a rogue employer; nor do they want to be ahead of the pack in the wages they pay."…

Harper is a good talker and performer; he tells of his work in public policy as drama, playing himself and all others verbatim, with full inflexion and gesture. He calls himself an academic economist but the skills he most enjoys using are political. He likes settling conflict, hearing both sides sympathetically, prodding antagonists to see a common purpose, finding a route beyond an impasse. He is an economist but not a labour economist, yet he was charged with fixing a minimum wage where he could use his skill in reconciling employers and employees. His work on the Melbourne Town Hall organ was in the same way political …

I was delighted to find a free-market economist who was so ebullient and warm-hearted, and chastened, as an old social democrat, to discover that his free-market principles made him highly creative about the proper use of public goods.

There’s also a photo essay on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper. And much more…

So if you don’t happen to like the Rudd essay (unlike me) you will probably find something more to your taste…

* Dating from The Communist Manifesto (1848).

 

Lots to think about – international, national, local

Back in July 2008 in Reset – Dialogues on Civilizations | Essays: Benjamin Barber I presented the then latest from the author of the excellent and prescient Jihad vs McWorld. Now the Arts & Letters Daily has pointed to Barber in the US progressive magazine Nation: A Revolution in Spirit.

As America, recession mired, enters the hope-inspired age of Barack Obama, a silent but fateful struggle for the soul of capitalism is being waged. Can the market system finally be made to serve us? Or will we continue to serve it? George W. Bush argued that the crisis is "not a failure of the free-market system, and the answer is not to try to reinvent that system." But while it is going too far to declare that capitalism is dead, George Soros is right when he says that "there is something fundamentally wrong" with the market theory that stands behind the global economy, a "defect" that is "inherent in the system."

The issue is not the death of capitalism but what kind of capitalism–standing in which relationship to culture, to democracy and to life? President Obama’s Rubinite economic team seems designed to reassure rather than innovate, its members set to fix what they broke. But even if they succeed, will they do more than merely restore capitalism to the status quo ante, resurrecting all the defects that led to the current debacle?

Being economists, even the progressive critics missing from the Obama economic team continue to think inside the economic box. Yes, bankers and politicians agree that there must be more regulatory oversight, a greater government equity stake in bailouts and some considerable warming of the frozen credit pump. A very large stimulus package with a welcome focus on the environment, alternative energy, infrastructure and job creation is in the offing–a good thing indeed.

But it is hard to discern any movement toward a wholesale rethinking of the dominant role of the market in our society. No one is questioning the impulse to rehabilitate the consumer market as the driver of American commerce. Or to keep commerce as the foundation of American public and private life, even at the cost of rendering other cherished American values–like pluralism, the life of the spirit and the pursuit of (nonmaterial) happiness–subordinate to it….

Then here in Oz The Monthly hits the newsagents today with Kevin Rudd’s The Global Financial Crisis.

From time to time in human history there occur events of a truly seismic significance, events that mark a turning point between one epoch and the next, when one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place. The significance of these events is rarely apparent as they unfold: it becomes clear only in retrospect, when observed from the commanding heights of history. By such time it is often too late to act to shape the course of such events and their effects on the day-to-day working lives of men and women and the families they support.

There is a sense that we are now living through just such a time: barely a decade into the new millennium, barely 20 years since the end of the Cold War and barely 30 years since the triumph of neo-liberalism – that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time.

The agent for this change is what we now call the global financial crisis. In the space of just 18 months, this crisis has become one of the greatest assaults on global economic stability to have occurred in three-quarters of a century. As others have written, it "reflects the greatest regulatory failure in modern history". It is not simply a crisis facing the world’s largest private financial institutions – systemically serious as that is in its own right. It is more than a crisis in credit markets, debt markets, derivatives markets, property markets and equity markets – notwithstanding the importance of each of these.

This is a crisis spreading across a broad front: it is a financial crisis which has become a general economic crisis; which is becoming an employment crisis; and which has in many countries produced a social crisis and in turn a political crisis. Indeed, accounts are already beginning to emerge of the long-term geo-political implications of the implosion on Wall Street – its impact on the future strategic leverage of the West in general and the United States in particular.

The global financial crisis has demonstrated already that it is no respecter of persons, nor of particular industries, nor of national boundaries. It is a crisis which is simultaneously individual, national and global. It is a crisis of both the developed and the developing world. It is a crisis which is at once institutional, intellectual and ideological. It has called into question the prevailing neo-liberal economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years – the orthodoxy that has underpinned the national and global regulatory frameworks that have so spectacularly failed to prevent the economic mayhem which has now been visited upon us…

Some of the critique offered (predictably) by Gerard Henderson is worth noting, despite the predictability.

The essential problem with Rudd’s essay is that it is ahistorical. The fact is that what he terms neo-liberalism has not prevailed in Britain, the US or Australia. Moreover, if it did, then the likes of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Britain, Bill Clinton in the US, and Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia did nothing to turn it back. The conservatives in these three nations did not substantially cut regulation or taxation or spending (along with the welfare state that it underpins). Indeed, in Australia, it was Hawke and Keating who started the economic reform process in the early 1980s. Rudd mentions this briefly in his essay but does not seem to appreciate that this reality undermines his thesis….

Whether the thesis is undermined by the somewhat partisan history given by Rudd is itself open to question. He may have sought to minimise the bipartisan nature of the problem, but that does not mean the problem is not pretty much as diagnosed. Paul Keating skated around the issue of bipartisan blame on Lateline last night, though I have to say I do like (in contrast to so much we hear) Keating’s folksy idiom. Keating rightly cautions against seeing the USA as the fixer in this mess. And there doesn’t seem to be much joy in substituting one partisan reading of history for another, which is perhaps all Henderson has done.

Kind of related: I commend Ross Gittins this morning:

… It’s important to understand Mr Rudd is not talking about a $115 billion decline in budget revenues from where they are now, but rather that they will grow by $115 billion less than formerly expected.

The $115 billion is spread over the next four years – that is, it averages less than $30 billion a year – which means it hasn’t happened yet and is just an estimate of what may happen.

The actual figure could be more or less than $115 billion – Treasury’s record on accurately predicting budget figures isn’t too flash – and we have known about $40 billion of it since November.

Given all that, Mr Rudd could be accused of making it sound both bigger and scarier that it is. If so, he’s adding to the gloom and doom.

Why on earth would he do that? Because he’s anxious to ensure the blame for the slide from budget surplus to deficit goes to the global financial crisis, not to him and his Government.

Who’d be silly enough to blame Labor for a budget deficit at a time like this? The Opposition…

And very local: the February South Sydney Herald is out today: ssh_feb09.

And it’s a big, 20-page issue, with stories on climate justice, tax justice, public housing and the dangers of tasers.

There’s much more — there’s the ABC childcare debacle, Yabun 2009, a feature on reskilling older workers, a feature on Tanya Plibersek MP, and reviews of The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke, The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, and the new record by Howling Bells. Soul-folk singer, Itu, talks about recent inspirations, and you’ll also find details about St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on February 8 and Family Day at the Block on February 21.

I’ve been commissioned to cover Mardi Gras Fair Day on 15 February – I and the Casio, that is. Should be fun.

 

Tags: ,

To think about: CEO ethics

YouTube notes:

This video was selected as the winner of the World Economic Forum and YouTube’s “Davos Debates” program, at youtube.com/davos – see more videos and submit your own, and keep an eye this week as the leaders at Davos respond to your videos.

Pablo Camacho
24 years old
Student (and independent writer)
Bogota, Colombia, South America

This is my answer to the question “Should company executives have a code of ethics similar to doctors and lawyers?”

 

Kevin, Peter, Malcolm … and Jim … on 2009 not being 1996…

Or why George W, John H, and all the merry crew of retirees and yesterday’s people are no longer relevant and perhaps never were.

Which would be too harsh, I suppose, but I can’t help wondering about all the economic pap we were fed for the past decade or two. You can’t help wondering what, had he been re-elected, John H would be doing right now. Surely he must deep down be dancing little jigs in some back room of his mind because he wasn’t re-elected, and can just sit and polish the gong George W gave him in his dying moments, while the good luck he traded off flies away.

To be fair, Peter van Onselen does point out in today’s Australian that Peter Costello was not totally off the mark towards the end:

NOT being listened to when you are right is one of the most frustrating things a person can experience. In this respect, Peter Costello is sharing a little of the experience of Cassandra, daughter of king Hecuba of Troy.

In ancient Greek mythology she had the gift of prophecy but was cursed by Apollo and denied the power to persuade.

In the lead-up to the 2007 federal election, Costello as treasurer warned that a financial tsunami was on the way, and Australians should be careful about who they voted for to run the economy.

To be sure, when predicting the tsunami Costello was first and foremost referring to what would happen if China floated its currency, the yuan.

That hasn’t happened yet.

But he was also referring more generally to what would happen if China’s economy faltered. Data released this past fortnight indicated China’s growth has dramatically slowed to 6.8 per cent. By Chinese standards that puts them in a virtual recession.

More important, Costello’s tsunami comments also made reference to the impact the US sub-prime mortgage crisis would have on world economies, including Australia’s. That impact is now known as the global financial crisis, the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

Costello was ahead of the curve in predicting it…

In politics, Costello was alone in cautioning that an economic meltdown was on the horizon. While Labor was talking up the risk of high inflation, John Howard was campaigning on his promised ability to reduce unemployment to less than 4 per cent. With the financial crisis now in full swing, unemployment is expected by some to hit 9 per cent. Had the Coalition won the election Howard’s unemployment pledge would have sat neatly along side his 2004 election pledge to "keep interest rates at record lows"…

Now, it appears, Kevin Rudd is firing all his guns in the pages of the February Monthly. Paul Kelly outlines the argument:

KEVIN Rudd has put his ideological spin on the global crisis – arguing the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years represented by Thatcher, Reagan, Greenspan and John Howard has failed.

Rudd has defined himself, his Government and his re-election strategy by declaring that only social democrats and the Labor Party can recruit state power to save capitalism.

He has thrown the Liberal Party on to the trash heap of history, saying it is "the political home of neo-liberalism in Australia" and that the former Howard government aimed to reduce state power "as much as possible".

Declaring that a failed 30-year epoch in world history has come to a conclusion, Rudd says the crisis means "one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place".

The new epoch is about using state power "to save capitalism from itself". Rudd’s aim is to hold global neo-liberal policies responsible for the catastrophe and the Howard government as local upholder of these fatal ideas. His game plan is to position Labor as the long-run political and ideological winner from the crisis.

In his latest essay for The Monthly, to be published next week, Rudd turns the global crisis into a decisive ideological event. The resort to government intervention demanded by the crisis fits perfectly with Rudd’s philosophy. He presents Malcolm Turnbull with an ideological challenge by insisting the Liberals stand on the wrong side of history.

The significance of Rudd’s essay is that Labor will become the party of ideological attack and neo-liberalism and its backers will become the targets. This is a device to keep Labor united during the coming recession and the Liberal Party on the defensive…

Kevin Rudd has written (well too) for The Monthly before – but not as Prime Minister. Some may wonder about that, but I do plan to give what he says consideration. It may also be – but then I am naive – that the real significance of the article is not the party-political one Kelly refers to. What if it is just true?

Sojourners’ Jim Wallace, currently in Davos, would seem to be part of an ever-expanding choir. Mind you, he has been a member for years.

Every morning when I wake up in Davos, I turn on my television to CNN in my hotel room. And every morning, there is the same reporter interviewing a bundled-up CEO with the snowy “magic mountain” of Davos in the background. The question is always the same: “When will this crisis be over?” They actually have a “white board” where they make the CEO mark his answer: 2009…2010…2011…later.

But it’s the wrong question. Of course it’s a question we all want to know the answer to, but there is a much more important one. We should be asking, “How will this crisis change us?” How will it change the way we think, act, and decide things — how we live, and how we do business? Yes, this is a structural crisis, and one that clearly calls for new social regulation. But it is also a spiritual crisis, and one that calls for new self-regulation. We seem to have lost some things and forgotten some things — such as our values.

We have trusted in “the invisible hand” to make everything turn out all right, believing that it wasn’t necessary for us to bring virtue to bear on our decisions. But things haven’t turned out all right and the invisible hand has let go of some things, such as “the common good.” The common good hasn’t been very common in our economic decision-making for some time now. And things have spun out of control. Gandhi’s seven deadly social sins seem an accurate diagnosis for some of the causes of this crisis: “politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.”

If we learn nothing from this crisis, all the pain and suffering it is causing will be in vain. But we can learn new habits of the heart, perhaps that suffering can even turn out to be redemptive. If we can regain a moral compass and find new metrics by which to evaluate our success, this crisis could become our opportunity to change….

If we wait until the economic crisis is over to get back to business as usual, we will have missed the chance we now have for re-evaluation and re-direction. Some of the smartest people in the world are assembled here on the mountain. But are we smart enough not to miss the opportunity this crisis provides to change our ways and return to some of our oldest and best values? Almost half the world’s population, 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day — virtually outside of the global economy. Maybe it’s time to bring them in.

There are some interesting comments on the thread following that post.

Oh — and Malcolm? Well, he tries…

 
Comments Off on Kevin, Peter, Malcolm … and Jim … on 2009 not being 1996…

Posted by on January 31, 2009 in America, Australia, Australia and Australian, challenge, generational change, globalisation/corporations, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Political, politics, right wing politics, USA

 

Change and decay in all around I see…

Jim Belshaw has begun “a series on social and cultural change in Australia that began with A note on Australia Day and related matters.” I see he expects there that I may sometimes disagree with him:

Postscript

Neil wrote:

“I guess we will see some posts expanding on this…”

True of course, but I suspect that while Neil may not like some of the things I plan to talk about, he may be a little surprised at the content.

The posts I have in mind are not intended to tell people what to think nor indeed what I think on specific issues. While I will make my own views clear so that people can understand my biases, I am more concerned to disentangle issues and point to what I see as trends. Where I can, I will put things in historical context. While bias is inevitable, I want to write from a professional perspective.

I will be writing from an Australian perspective, but I hope that the material will be of broader interest.

I won’t say more at this point. I leave it to you, the reader, to form your own views.

I suppose it is possible I may disagree, but I certainly don’t have any problems with the latest in the set — Ladettes – girls acting like boys. Nor do I much worry about Australia Day being 26 January; it could even be argued that date becomes a space for quite useful reflection. This was certainly my case on Australia Day 1988, the Bicentennial, as I suspect it was for many others. I agree too (which I don’t always do) with the more conservative partner in the Skeptic Lawyer blog: I’d like to know where this crap started.

Via LP, I learn that there were several ‘mini-Cronullas‘ this Australia Day, the worst taking place along the Manly Corso in Sydney. No-one dead or seriously injured this time, but people abused, people showered with broken glass, drunken nongs running around wearing the flag like a superman cape (something I find extraordinarily disrespectful), racist epithets flying thick and fast etc etc…

The Americans have somehow managed to be flag-waving and patriotic, but you never see stuff like this attached to their flag; as one American points out, if it happens there it’s the Confederate Flag that gets ‘claimed’ by various drunken nongs. And I just can’t imagine any American using their national flag as a superman cape.

Skeptic Lawyer does bend over backwards to exculpate the Howard years. While I agree it isn’t just that, I think there was a synergy between Howard, the fear generated by 9/11 and Bali etc, and the spirit (demons?) whipped up by Pauline Hanson. It does seem to be very much a right wing phenomenon. SL and I do share distaste for the development nonetheless. Not all change is beneficial.

See what I had to say on Cronulla 05. The posts there were written in the heat, because as one who lived in The Shire for many years I was really upset by what I saw, even if I now concede happily that The Shire is nowhere near as bad as these events and images would suggest. Like just about everywhere else The Shire has in fact changed and in many respects has coped well. Last year’s local government elections tended to bear this out. The extreme racist candidates didn’t get far at all. But I wrote then of Howard, thinking now also of Skeptic Lawyer’s post:

12. PM refuses to use racist tag – National – smh.com.au 2005-12-12 4:10:00 pm

Our PM has spoken at last, refusing to use the R-word when there can be no doubt whatsoever that racism of the crudest and dumbest kind was a big part of what happened yesterday, just as it haunts the psyches of the gang-members, or many of them, to whom the folk of Cronulla rightly object. OK, I would not say all Australians are racist either. I’m not, I hope, though I have had my moments, as we all have. But JH is and always has been namby-pamby in his reverse political correctness on the issue of racism. A bit of “ticker” would have gone down well on this occasion.

I still think that.

When it comes to social change our attitudes are very much shaped by where we’ve come from and what has happened to us. If you want at least one indicator in my case all you need to do is look at a photoset that sums up the last twenty years of my life in its way: M’s New Year party. Little wonder I was sickened by Pauline Hanson, is it?

I do look forward to Jim’s continuing series, because I know they will be, as ever, very carefully considered. Whether I always agree or not is another matter, but Jim has that pretty well covered in the note quoted above.