The title of this post is a quote, not about Australia’s Liberal and National party leadership (though it could be – more about that later), but from an article about China’s official 60th birthday celebrations.
David Burchell, writing in The Australian, points out that there is something obscene about the massive self-congratulation going on in China.
A society that can only survive with the repression of minority religious and ethnic groups, constant and severe censorship of news and internet access, and the control of every part of its citizens’ lives, has no business congratulating itself on anything.
And then, 36 million Chinese died in the famine of 1959-61. This was not a natural disaster, but the result of deliberate and violently enforced policy to coerce millions out of traditional farming and small scale village industry into collective farms and factories. There is no acknowledgement of this man made disaster in official Chinese literature, or of other lives lost in similarly destructive and similarly enforced policies. Well, of course not. That would spoil the party.
What makes David Burchell’s article worth reading is not that he points these things out – they have been pointed out many times before – but this:
Imagining ourselves to be polite, we Westerners avert our eyes from it all. Yet this peculiar, tasteless spectacle of official China locked in joyless self-communion suits us fine. For in truth we’re no more inclined to be confronted with China’s dirty historical laundry than is the Chinese Communist Party itself.
We’re co-dependents, as the psychoanalysts might say. We belong on the same couch.
Or if you like, preese not feed fishes with your private.
The Courier-Mail, not quite as dismal a rag as many Australian dailies, has an article about Shanghai’s ongoing crackdown on Chringrish.
The article links to a blog, Mad About Shanghai, which has loads of amusing examples, including a rest room instruction to fall down carefully, and a warning that you should not random through the streets.
I can see why authorities would be embarassed, but I think Chingrish is part of the charm of the place.
A study of more than 12, 000 British children between the ages of seven and nine has found that children who spend large amounts of time in daycare because both parents (or a sole parent) work, are significantly more likely to become obese, and to suffer other long term health problems.
Naturally there are howls of outrage. An article in the Australian says the results have been refuted by Queensland mums. No they haven’t. To refute something means to show it is untrue. A couple of working mothers saying ‘Well my kid’s healthy, and eats salad and stuff’ does not refute the findings of an independent study of over 12,000 children.
Previous studies have found that extensive time in daycare in the early years can have long term negative effects on vocabulary acquisition and behaviour – effects which may be cause children to struggle at school and in later life.
Time to think again about subsidised daycare.
My general rule is that if something needs to be subsidised, it probably shouldn’t be.
For example, South Australian taxpayers pay about $2 for every $1 a commuter pays for a train or bus ticket in Adelaide. I travel 100 kilometres to work and back each day, with petrol prices on the island about 30% higher than in the city. So why should I be asked to subsidise the transport costs of people who travel 10 kilometres to work and back each day, and already pay less for petrol?
Likewise, why should parents who make the decision to sacrifice income so that one of them can parent their children full-time, be asked to subsidise parents who both work? The only reason would be that doing so provided some clear benefit to the wider community. But the now well established negative effects of long term early day care make it difficult to see any such benefits.
Parents shouldn’t be stopped from sending their children to daycare, of course. But they shouldn’t expect other people to pay for it.
A Brisbane lawyer and mother of four children, Mrs Tempe Harvey, agrees. She is establishing a lobby group for children’s welfare, the Kids First Parents Association of Australia. One of their policies is the scrapping of childcare subsidies. Good news.
I have just finished reading Raphael Aron’s book Cults: Too Good to Be True (out of print now, I think, but his Cults, Terror, and Mind Control is still available). The introduction begins with this quote from Konrad Lorenz, Nobel Prize winner and animal behaviourist:
Some human beings seem to be driven by an overwhelming urge to espouse a cause, and failing to find one, may become fixated on astonishingly inferior substitutes. The instinctive need to be a member of a closely linked group fighting for common ideals may be so strong that iot becomes inessential what these ideals are and whether they possess any intrinsic value.
Some of the defining qualities of a cult are emotional manipulation, especially of the young or otherwise vulnerable, the definition of those who question the cult’s values and beliefs as on the side of evil, material benefits (money, sex, adulation, etc) which accrue to the leader/s, claims of knowing the only path to salvation, and prophesies of imminent doom for an evil and unbelieving world if it fails to heed the warnings of the cult and take the actions it demands.
Al Gore and the IPCC are the increasingly wealthy high priests of the cult. Their problem now is that the prophesies are not coming true. The seas are not rising, and world temperatures are stable or declining. We are more likely to be facing much colder temperatures than much hotter temperatures over the next century.
Nothing especially nasty is happening. They must be terribly disappointed.
In related news, a Russian former traffic cop has proclaimed himself the reincarnation of Jesus, and attracted about 5,000 followers. Well, why not?
It has been a long time between drinks, but this blog has not been abandoned!
For the last couple of months my sister Amanda has been in hospital in Adelaide. I have been as busy as a one armed paper hanger at work, and working long hours, and going over to Adelaide almost every weekend to visit Amanda.
So even when I have had time to blog, I have felt so tired that I have not been doing anything except what I had to do to get by.
But Amanda is out of hospital now, and has moved up to Brisbane to stay with our brother Andrew and his wife Sheila.
I have closed the shop for a few days and have been enjoying a break. I have even spent a couple of hours playing WoW.
So normal transmission should recommence forthwith.
To my regular visitors, thank you for your patience over what has been a very difficult year.
The two major Australian grocery retailers are both currently running offensively sexist ads.
The Coles ad is the less offensive of the two. ‘You shouldn’t be taxed for being a woman’ it says. So Coles will pay the GST on the whole range of feminine hygiene products.
How nice. I don’t think I should be taxed for being a man, either. So why aren’t they paying the GST on shaving products, or hair restoring products?
I also don’t think I should be taxed for having to eat, or having to wear clothes, but I doubt any retailer is going to say ‘Well that’s unfair, we”ll pay the GST on life’s essentials.’
Women spend most of the family income, so it is natural that retailers should target advertising to women. But suggesting that women are somehow being victimised by the taxation system, and that they, Coles, are bravely and generously remedying this injustice is dishonest nonsense.
The Woolworths ad is even worse.
A woman is making scones. She talks about the ingredients, and then says that recipe doesn’t say anything about fancy packaging. Then she looks at her husband, and says ‘I’ve never been worried about fancy packaging.’
Imagine the uproar if the ad went like this instead:
A bloke is in his toolshed. He says that every tool is in its place, and every tool has its purpose. He adds that tools don’t need fancy packaging, and then looks at his wife and says ‘I’ve never been worried about fancy packaging.’
People would recognise this for what it was – a deliberate putdown. They would complain. And they would be right to do so.
So why is it OK for advertisers to belittle men?
It is worth the wait through the annoying ads (and the slow download speed) for this interview between a swish CNN interviewer and a rural US car dealer.
Mr Muller, the dealer, is asked whether giving away AK47s is irresponsible. He talks about a family recently murdered by home invaders.
The interviewer talks about growing up as a teenager in rural America. Mr Muller points out that things have changed in the last 30 years (ouch) and his county has a major problem with meth addicts.
She asks why people cannot just rely on the police. He says the police are great, but the response time to his home is 15 minutes. His family could be dead by the time they got there.
She asks why Mr Muller mentions God in his company motto, and asks whether Jesus would wear a gun. He points out they didn’t have guns then.
The whole interview is brilliant. A clash of cleverness with common sense.
I cannot help wonder whether things might have turned out differently for this Australian family, three adults and two children, bludgeoned to death in their home yesterday, if they had been customers of Mr Muller.
Just got back from Adelaide where Kathy and I visited my sister Amanda in hospital.
On every second bus shelter there seemed to be a poster exhorting us to put an end to child labour. It had a picture of a (black) child in a museum type enclosure, sorting some kind of grain. Children working for pay, it seemd to be saying, should be a thing of the past, remembered with horror, like the use of child miners and chimney sweeps in Britain two centuries ago.
The child was a model, of course. Real starving children don’t hang about in plastic boxes in museums.
But doesn’t that mean the child was being paid for work?
I agree children shouldn’t have to work in order to provide for themselves the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, basic education and medical care.
Although that view is probably a fairly recent one. Until a few centuries ago it was simply taken for granted that most children would contribute to family income as soon as they were able to do so – working in field, home or factory.
Sticking up posters on bus shelters in Adelaide is not going to make any contribution to the structural economic changes which will make it uneccessary for children to work to gain the basic necessities of life.
Supporting business, trade, industry and resource development will, because these things build the real wealth which enables families to free children for education and leisure.
But the whole ‘The Mayans believed the world would end in 2012’ thing is too cool to pass up.
Actually the Mayans don’t seem to have believed that, it is just that their calendar ticks over then, like an odometer.
But there are some odd references to gods returning then, so who knows? Well, one reference. And it’s fragmentary. But that probably just means someone tried to hide it. Or something.
This is an even more interesting circle:
It is a geometric representation of the first ten digits of Pi.
Whatever else all this means, it certainly means that there are some people in Wiltshire with mathematical and artistic talent, decent lawnmowers, and plenty of time on their hands.
Last week India passed legislation decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults. This has not been entirely popular.
The world’s most popular guru, Swami “Baba” Ramdev, (he has an international TV audience numbering about 85 million) has said a number of things that the gay community will not like. Particularly, that being gay is a defect.
Homosexuality is a curable disease and that sufferers could seek a cure. “It can be treated like any other congenital defect. Such tendencies can be treated by yoga, pranayam and other meditation techniques,” he said.
The legalisation would have a “negative effect” on the young, while increasing the prevalence of HIV/AIDs. “These are unnatural acts not designed for human beings. The decision of the High Court, if allowed to sustain will have catastrophic effects on the moral fabric of society and will jeopardise the institution of marriage itself. This offends the structure of Indian value system, Indian culture and traditions, as derived from religious scriptures.”
I pretty much agree with him. Except maybe about homosexuality being curable through yoga.
Homosexual desire, expecially if a person is only attracted to members of the same gender, is an ‘objective disorder.’
I know many gay men and women find such a view offensive.
Gay men and women should not be judged for their disorder. We are all disordered in some way. But it is still a disorder.
I have often heard arguments along these lines: ‘This is who I am’ (well, life is pretty tragic if your identity comes from only or even primarily from who you want to have sex with). ‘I can’t help these feelings, I didn’t choose them’ (quite possibly so, but neither do pedophiles or habitual gamblers choose to have the feelings they have). ‘I was made this way, so these feelings are natural, and because they are natural, they are good.’
Not necessarily. Natural is not always good. We live in a fallen world. Even for a non-Christian, knowing this is true is simply a matter of looking at the natural world.
That falleness affects all of us in different ways. It affects all of us. We are all less than we could be. So it behoves us not to judge others if they are tempted in ways we are not.
But that does not mean we should not be clear about what is right and what is wrong, or settle for saying that wrong is right.
Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, with just 500,000 people.
On Friday, nine people were killed in twelve hours on Tasmanian roads.
Many roads around the state are again covered by ice and frost this morning. Acting Sergeant Scott Bailey is again urging motorists to drive to the conditions.
A picture has been circulating around the web over the last few days which seems to show President Obama stealing a longing look at a 17 year old girl’s rear end.
I don’t think Obama is a good or capable leader. But it is important to be fair, and a fair assessment of what happened is probably that it was pure co-incidence that Obama happened to be looking in that direction when Mayara Tavares walked by.
It certainly wasn’t co-incidence that Nicolas Sarkozy was looking her direction, however.
Well, almost. World leaders have decreed global temperature must not increase by more than 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels.
How realistic this is depends what they mean by ‘pre-industrial.’ Generally that term would be taken to mean the time prior to the industrial revolution. That is, before about 1780. That is, about the time of the Dalton minimum.
The Dalton minimum was a period of low solar activity, low temperatures (one German station recorded a fall of 2 degrees in 20 years), and the ‘year without a Summer’ (1816).
Given that solar activity is at similarly low levels now, and that global mean temperatures have been steady or declining over the last ten years, our beloved world leaders may find they don’t need to do anything at all to achieve their tide holding back ambitions.
However, according to a paper by Wilson, Hendy and Reynolds, published in Nature in 1979 (279, pp315-317), temperatures in New Zealand during the medieval warm period (which is definitely pre-industrial) were about .75 degrees warmer than the very brief late 20th Century warm period. So we’ve still got 1.25 degrees to go!
Last Monday I had half an hour to spare on my way from Adelaide to catch the ferry back to KI.
I stopped at Second Valley, which is about five minutes off the main road. It was just about sunset.
I thought you might like this photo, taken with my Nokia N95: