For the sake of the nation, the media should do its job

I first read the headline “It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again” emblazoned across the front of The Age on a freshly delivered bundle of papers out the front of a newsagent, while on a 4am stumble home on Saturday morning. I was drunk enough to think walking from the CBD to Brunswick was a good idea. But I was still able to recognise the blatant hypocrisy of a newspaper blaming Gillard for the lack of intelligent debate in the media when the same newspaper ceaselessly publishes articles on every rumour of a rumour of a “leadership crisis” or “spill”. And I use the term “newspaper” loosely. The Age has let me down.

The Conscience Vote

If you’re a reader of Fairfax newspapers, this is what you woke up to today:

‘It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, as Prime Minister of Australia, so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again. Ms Gillard should do so in the interests of the Labor Party, in the interests of the nation and, most importantly, in the interests of democracy.’

No, really.

You’d expect to read something this pompous from the likes of Andrew Bolt or Gerard Henderson, both of whom are known for their grandiose language and outrageous sentiment. But from The Age? Offered not as one journalist’s opinion, but as the endorsed view of the entire newspaper?

It gets worse.

Assuring us that the paper ‘does not advocate this lightly,’ the editorial went on to say:

‘The Age’s overriding concern is that, under…

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Political Truths Hidden in Plain Sight

julia-gillard

A few recent articles have perfectly put into words my opinion of the Labor government. It’s painfully disappointing how shortsighted the public is, in terms of Labor’s achievements and ambitions. Sam de Brito and Robert Macklin say it better than I ever could:

In Mining for Truth, de Brito asks how mining companies convinced Working Families and Average Joes that taxing the filthy rich, and spreading that wealth to the needy, was a terrible idea.

And in The Case for Keeping Julia, Macklin reflects on all the successes Labor have implemented with a minority government and a bullying Opposition Leader, while the Liberals have yet to release any palpable policies.

I highly recommend reading both these pieces. The obviousness and sensibility in their words is astounding.

Two Things I Didn’t Know About Indigenous Australians

As a white Australian, I have been exposed to some of (but nowhere near all) the inequalities Aboriginals experience or have experienced in society. From minor differences to truly horrific inequalities. But two facts in particular have stuck with me:

Aboriginals and Australia Day

Obviously there are heaps of reasons why Aboriginals don’t support Australia Day. The whole ‘we took their land, brought disease to their communities, killed many of their ancestors and have treated them as lesser humans ever since’ thing is largely to blame. But something I learned recently really shook me. Many Stolen Children were taken from their families without having their birth dates recorded. They were given new birthdays; 26th January, Australia Day. I found that particularly horrible and offensive. So you can imagine why Aboriginals feel some animosity towards the day.

I learned this fact from Jimblah, whose grandmother was one of the Stolen Generations who had her birthday recorded as 26th Jan. I wasn’t able to find any information or records but it was a difficult thing to search for and, as Jimblah said, it’s not a good look to have that sort of thing associated with our national day.

Calling an Aboriginal an ‘ape’

Following the Adam Goodes saga recently, a lot of white Aussies have come out in support of Eddie McGuire and the nameless 13yo girl, saying that calling Goodes an ape wasn’t racist since he’s a tall guy with a beard. But it is racist, and here’s why. Apart from the usual reasons why calling a black person a monkey or ape is racist (animal, primitive, lesser human, low intelligence etc.) these words have further offensive potency towards Aboriginals because for many years they were animals, at least according to the Australian government. I learned recently that, until 1967, laws that governed Aboriginals were found in the Flora and Fauna act. They were legally thought of as animals. No citizenship, no voting. To this day some laws relating to Aboriginal culture and heritage are still governed by the Flora and Fauna act. Pretty shameful. I first read about this in an article by Charlie Pickering.

Whether through my own ignorance or a failing of the education system, it took me 23 years to discover these facts. Either way I find it pretty disappointing. It seems a lot of truths regarding the mistreatment of Aboriginals are being covered up due to shame, and while I am ashamed, I think a lack of education is holding our country back from truly being Australia Fair.

Are FPS Games and Intelligence Mutually Exclusive?

Bioshock Infinite

Today I read a fantastic article by Daniel Golding on whether new Irrational Games title Bioshock Infinite was able to bridge the (as yet) unspanned gap between intelligent games and FPS games. A link to the article is below and I highly recommend reading it, but if you don’t, the short answer is no. Infinite purports itself as an intelligent game, but falls disappointingly short.

http://www.abc.net.au/arts/stories/s3733057.htm

While I haven’t played Bioshock Infinite, Golding’s experience reminded me strongly of my own playing Spec Ops: The Line. This is another game that wants to be taken seriously.

Spec Ops The Line

Again, set in a well-known real world location with a twist, The Line takes place in sandstorm-devastated Dubai. While not strictly a first person shooter (more a combination third person slash over-the-shoulder cover shooter) there is definitely a large “shooting people in the face” element. The ‘thoughtful’ aspect of The Line comes from the player’s relationship with civilians. Residents in the ruins of Dubai see the protagonist as yet another US invader trying to administer peace, often at the cost of innocent lives. The player is not welcome, and is treated with hostility by unarmed men and women. I interpreted this as a metaphor for the current day US presence in Iraq, and its intention is noble. Playing the game you will have rocks hurled at you, be swarmed by angry crowds and have to negotiate various other situations thrust upon you. What do you do when a mob of unarmed civilians threaten to overwhelm you? Do you try to push through their barricade? Do you fire shots in the air to scare them? Shoot one as an example, or start spraying bullets into the crowd? In fact, these options are illusions. The game railroads you into using force and the outcome is the same. Similarly, the player is presented with two men hanging from a sign, one a soldier and one a civilian, both of whom have committed crimes. The player must kill one to allow the other to be freed. But again, regardless of the decision, the outcome is the same.

There is also a scene, similar to the Call of Duty airport civilian massacre sequence, where the player uses white phosphorus to burn alive an entire battalion of enemy soldiers. Once again, there is no real choice; if you want to progress the game, you must commit mass murder. The storyline carries on. After all these moral decisions, the game ends with a (spoiler alert) classic ‘Is he crazy? Was it all in his head? Did it even happen at all?’ type ‘however you interpret it’ finale which I’m sure left a lot of players fuming.

Spec Ops: The Line isn’t a perfect game. The moral dilemmas are obviously designed to guilt the player and don’t affect change anyway. But it did make me think. I wouldn’t say I ‘enjoyed’ playing it, much the same as I wouldn’t say I ‘enjoyed’ visiting Dachau. But, similar to the concentration camp, I do not regret the experience and it invoked thought and reflection. I’m not sure if Golding would define The Line as an ‘intelligent’ FPS. However I’m glad it was developed regardless, and I’m glad Bioshock Infinite attempts to deal with bigger issues, even if it does fall short. Golding questions whether a shooter could ever successfully tackle deeper issues. I say absolutely. And while attempts like these may ultimately fail, better than never trying at all.

In truth, I’m still going to play Bioshock Infinite. I can look past the lack of depth and still enjoy the storyline and gameplay. Sometimes it’s nice not to play against other people, quest endlessly for ever-improving gear or navigate an open-world, non-linear epic. Sometimes it’s nice to be told a story.

Not to mention the architecture… Dubai buried in a sandstorm…

Please stop talking, Labor

In the wake of yesterday’s anticlimactic leadership “spill”, the Labor party is licking their wounds and the general public is left with a very bad taste in their mouth.

Since the Rudd knifing in June 2010, I’ve heard dozens of people exclaim “I voted for Rudd, not [Insert expletives here] Gillard!” People seem to forget that you vote for a party, not a prime minister. If you made decisions based solely on the party’s leaders, you fucked up. I’m willing to bet you get 95% of your political opinions from a Women’s Day writeup about Gillard’s new glasses. Policy should be your deciding factor. Sure, I wouldn’t trust Abbott to represent an U14 interschool rounders team, let alone my country, but my vote comes down to policies. Unlike transient leaders with their own agendas, these are the changes that will affect millions of people years down the track.

One of the major parties is fighting the good fight with policies benefiting the 99%. Think back to when Rudd was kicked off the top spot by his own party. Popularity was a major factor; the Australian public was losing faith in him and Labor was doubtful of his ability to win the next election. But what caused such a sudden drop in the polls? Rudd was on track to getting heaps of shit done, where did he go so wrong? He didn’t. Big business brought him down. His one mistake was thinking he could take on the mining corporations, take money out of Gina Rinehart’s already overflowing pockets. Taxing the mining companies was a brave move, but proved to be Rudd’s downfall. These companies had (have) huge amounts of money and power, thus were able to mount a campaign that successfully convinced the Australian public that taking from the rich and giving to the poor was a bad thing. Labor used Rudd’s axing to distance themselves from the tax, saving the party at the expense of their leader.

Interestingly, yesterday’s theatrics came shortly after Labor attempted to push their tough (albeit rushed) media reform through. Another attempt to reduce the power of big business, this time the villain (or victim, depending on your point of view) was Murdoch and his empire. If you think the Australian media presents news in a professional and unbiased way, odds are you also think Andrew Bolt is a modern day Australian hero. Another attempt on multi-billion dollar corporations sees another leadership coup. Coincidence? Maybe. But you can be sure money is changing hands behind the scenes to influence decisions and keep the wealthy wealthy.

I am a Rudd fan, but for the sake of the party and the future of this country, I just wish Labor would get their shit together and let Gillard take them to the polls. All this inner turmoil does little for their popularity. The public sees the party as a shambles, and who can blame them. But would we prefer a well intentioned government who can’t decide who their leader is, or a selfish, xenophobic party too busy bringing down the other to formulate their own policies? One of these parties will pick big corporations over the ordinary Australian any day. Can you guess which one?

Major Gaynor’s Disappointing Twitter Debut

Three short days ago, a man called Bernard Gaynor stepped into the social media sphere, making his Twitter debut as an unassuming @BernardGaynor. Scrolling through his handful of tweets, though, one could be forgiven for thinking he’d just stepped out of the 18th century. With each 140 character update, Bernard paints a picture of himself as a hateful conservative with disappointing homophobic and xenophobic views. Let me highlight a few particular examples:

“I wouldn’t let a gay person teach my children and I am not afraid to say it”

“…close borders to those who do not accept Aussie values – burkas are not a sign of tolerance”

“#climatechangeiscrap”

If I had a dollar for every far-right-wing bigot spouting their backwards views on Twitter, I would have enough to buy a small island in an ocean somewhere and never have to see another copy of the Herald Sun ever again. Reading through Mr Gaynor’s opinions, it unfortunately comes as no surprise that he is heavily Catholic. I wish I didn’t automatically associate religious people with stupid views. Indeed many of Bernard’s fellow Catholics would be disappointed with the hate he is spreading in the name of their faith. However their voices are so often drowned out by outspoken individuals and groups such as the ACL.

So if there’s so many of these people on social media, why am I writing all this about Mr Gaynor then? Here comes the scary part: he is running for the senate in Queensland.

That’s right, Gaynor wants to stand in the Australian federal parliament. Let that sink in. The guy who thinks gay people are inferior and should be discriminated against in classrooms, is running for parliament. The guy who thinks man-made climate change is a sham, flying in the face of an overwhelming majority of scientists, is running for parliament. Gaynor states he is “ready to serve…in the only party that won’t sell Australia out – Katter’s Australian Party.” More likely KAP was the only party willing to take someone with such extreme and offensive views. Don’t forget Katter and Co’s disgusting television ad campaign against same sex marriage in 2012.

As you can imagine, Gaynor came under fire over his tweets (surprise Bernard, people don’t like being told they are lesser humans and should be denied certain rights because of their sexuality). He responded with a press release in which he neither apologised for nor withdrew his comments, instead stood by them and dug his own hole a little deeper. “This is not controversial. Any society with a basis in common sense would support parental responsibility [to refuse a gay teacher the opportunity to teach their children].” As both my parents are teachers, Mr Gaynor, let me share some facts that you may not know:

1. It takes years of study at university to become a teacher. Few things are more important than building our children’s futures, yet they are among the lowest paid professionals in the country. Every single education student is aware of this, yet they persist with their degrees and diplomas regardless. Why? Because they are passionate about the education of future generations.

2. School curriculums are set by higher authorities. Maths, science, English, sport etc. are all subjects. “Sexuality” is not a subject in the Australian curriculum, so teachers’ views are irrelevant.

3. You can’t “teach” sexuality. If your kid is going to be gay, they’re going to be gay. The best option is to support children for who they are, rather than try and change them.

So Mr Gaynor, with these facts in mind, can you see how ridiculous your words are now? I somehow doubt it; bigots like you are often so lost in their own vile beliefs that there’s no hope for them. I only hope that, if one or more of your five children ‘come out’ in the future, you can muster the compassion to treat them like the human beings they are, rather than whatever lesser beings you see the gay community as currently.