Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Australian universities - 'would you like bias with that?'

My only university experience was obtaining a (mostly) worthless print journalism degree locally. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and perhaps in the future, I could look back upon it as a positive move.

I didn't take much social enrichment away from it - I just wanted to to go to my lectures, do the work, and get it all over and done with, and I wasn't too obliging of myself to join a social circle, or even make friends or go to the uni bar.

I had acquaintances, but I never fully felt like 'one of the gang', having started off in second year with credits from a media course from TAFE.

Even mentioning 'TAFE' was to announce your banality, your crudeness, and your lack of intelligence, since TAFE was seen as strictly the domain of the unthinking, unwashed masses.

Of all the TAFE students that had the same crediting, both locally and from Sydney, I was, as far as I know, the only one to actually graduate with the degree - so kudos to me, I guess, even though it remains largely unprofitable.

But while I didn't take away any great social experiences from university, I did take away an overwhelming leftist bias, with a feminist flavour, and at times I had the unnerving feeling that as a male, I shouldn't be looking at journalism as a career.

Which sounds paranoid in itself; but journalism in Australia is overwhelmingly dominated by the ladies, which is great, but there was a level of poo-pooing a guy that wasn't interested in just doing sports journalism.

I even made the mistake of taking a public relations module, filled with rich and snooty ladies that bemoaned my presence - luckily I only took the one class and fled as fast as possible.

But all of that aside, and I'll put it down to just my perception at the time, there was a very large, roaring left undertone.

For instance, what kind of neutral journo wannabe would wear a Kevin 07' tee-shirt?

There was the odd guy that would debate climate change and make snide remarks about Tim Flannery, and for the most part, most of them were politically apathetic, but there was an elite taste of the left.

One example was during a lecture in Politics 110. The lecturer was a stout lady that always wore cardigans, and would often leave the subject matter and drift off into a diatribe about the 60s and 70s.

A particular story was to do with abortion. She gave an account of how one of her friends had had a backyard abortion performed with coat hangars to scoop out the fetus, because guilt-free abortion wasn't available at the time.

Everyone was aghast, and agreed with the premise that it was a woman's right to choose, and abortions should perhaps be freely available as sunscreen or diet coke.

Of course, abortion is one of those wedge issues. Personally I feel it's appropriate under certain circumstances, but if it's a clumsy drunken accident, then responsibility should have already been taken by both parties - especially given the plethora of contraception options available.

In America for instance, the highest rate of abortion is amongst the African American community - 10 million since 1973 - that's a lot of black babies that won't grow up and strengthen that particular group of citizens.

Overall, about 55 million abortions have taken place in America since then and now, with the African and Hispanic community being represented highly.

But under the auspice of militant, leftist feminism, that information was never taught at university.

As a matter of fact, in a module elegantly called 'Identity Politics' (which I proudly failed), we were taught by a female former ski instructor that because men didn't have wombs and could not have babies, that, ergo, the scientific knowledge on pregnancy and birth has been skewed by a male perspective over the centuries, and so it was wrong.

The men should stick with building bridges.

Obviously she wasn't teaching science, because it's difficult to argue established scientific facts. But it went to the absolute core of how removed from reality universities can be, especially when they preach only one view.

The irony being, the vast majority of the university student population is made up by the 'born-to-lead' types of children from wealthy upper-middle class families that hold traditional, strict, right-leaning views, which I am also averse to.

Maybe the left bias is supposed to be edgy, to engage the children more? I'm not sure, but I'm glad I can at least say I have the same little piece of paper that they do.

But as with both school and university, the most I've learned is what I have taught myself before it goes through a reality distortion filter.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gillard's noise problem

Like a long marriage clearly destined for disaster, the primeministership of Julia Gillard has entered it's final year.

And perhaps I sound very presumptuous by stating it's her final year, and perhaps I'm wrong, but it's the glimmer of hope I have, and it's the only thing that let's me pay this woman any cerebral attention.

The prospect of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, on the other hand, is truly daunting, and will probably wind back a lot of social progress in the country as we're hurled back to a plastic-fantastic conservative utopia. 

Unlike a lot of Australians and, quote 'misogynist nut jobs on the Internet', I actually don't mind Gillard as Prime Minister - Rudd, while being very steadfast and studious, had a problem connecting with the electorate.

The message was lost, and it was hoped at the time that Gillard would be more fairdinkum and able to communicate Labor's message across more clearly in a way the electorate could grasp.

Wishful thinking, and it was good only for a time.

It's hard to even fault Julia Gillard. Journalists and the Liberals cite over and over again that there would be no carbon tax under the government she leads, but the fact of the matter is, she doesn't 'lead' any government.

Especially a minority government, where you have to negotiate with all the other misogynist nut jobs that occupy your presence of person.

Tony Abbott himself probably would have been forced to do some sort of carbon pricing; the Howard government, the era he cites repeatedly, supported a carbon trading scheme, while Abbott's Liberal Party purges any progressive thought.

But all of that doesn't matter - because Gillard has a noise problem.

No matter the amount of good policy Labor helps to bring to light, such as the banning of branding on cigarette packets, the media inevitably turns its head straight back to the latest scandal plaguing Labor.

And if there's no scandal, the media will run the leadership question - which is a moot point, given that Labor has next to zero prospects of installing a new leader before the next election in about a year or so.

The cigarette packaging issue for instance garnered a few days of attention last week, but this week we've gone straight back to scandal, namely the accusation that Ms Gillard had a part in shady dealings at the law firm she worked at in the early 90s, Slater & Gordon.

The story doing the rounds is that there was embezzlement of union funds during an affair with former Victorian AWU boss, Bruce Wilson.

True or not isn't the question, and it's an issue I wouldn't pursue in a blog posting, it all comes back to a concerted character assassination upon Ms Gillard and her primeministership.

The likes of Larry Pickering, a conman cartoonist, add to a political climate with little or no manners or decorum left in a race to he bottom to somehow uproot Gillard from office.

What is the alternative they want? An Abbott government?

Listening to Joe Hockey talk economics for example is a lot like being at the circus - monkeys are swinging from the trapeze, elephants are reading Shakespeare, and there's no logic or fact, with things like the Global Financial Crisis being completely ignored.

The ideas of both major parties leaves little for the mind to differentiate any difference between them, except the fact that Labor doesn't have Ringmaster Hockey.

Being a blog that's supposed to be critical of the left, I suppose you would expect I would be more critical of Labor - that's hard to do, given that Labor actually now is basically Liberal Lite, having adopted a Howard-era Pacific Solution-like refugee policy.

In fact, a big factor at play in Labor winning the Kevin '07 election was that they moved themselves closer and closer to the right.

The differences between the big parties is few and far between - I surmise that this is why the personality of its leaders has become such a mud-slinging match, and the political debate in the media has become so personal.

For instance, gay marriage - it's a popular issue that the Greens use to grab youth political capital from Labor.

Despite Gillard being unmarried and an atheist, she still stands by the strict Catholic boys' school-type reasoning that marriage is between a man and a woman, and we don't have a hope of knowing her true opinion.

The only thing 'left' left about Gillard is union support, themselves a bunch of bonehead headbangers like Paul Howes, left wanting for relevancy.

And surprise surprise, the latest Gillard scandal involves the alleged embezzlement of union funds.

All that remains is personal attacks - Gillard is a woman open to be ridiculed by all and sundry in the media, and Abbott is the antithesis of that woman, who has little respect for women, and especially doesn't like being told by a female Speaker in the House on how to behave during Question Time.

Almost every soundbite on the telly news now is Gillard defending her leadership, or defending her position, or defending the government, or defending its policy, or defending the defence.

With all the noise, you couldn't be blamed for wearing earmuffs and paying it no attention.

I've written previously how Australians don't pay enough attention to politics, but you truly cannot blame them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The oblivious class

I don't really like to talk about people in terms of class.

Australia often likes to pride itself as being a 'classless' society - two minutes on either side of the fence, and you yourself will quickly discover that there is at least a disparity between the lower and upper classes.

The truth is, is that Australians love, and perhaps cannot even help themselves, to distance themselves from the classes beneath them. It's almost a carryover from our British heritage.

The television shows that frequent commercial television exploit this. They encourage the status-seeking Australian to aspire to bigger things; to be a singer, for example. But when did you last hear them mention what's her name that won the last big singing game show thing... The Voice, was it? That disappeared fairly quickly.

Oh, I don't know.

But yes folks, I'm here to talk about the oblivious classes. Who are the oblivious classes?

Well as the name suggests, they're the people that are completely tuned out from political discussion, or even the general news.

They're busy with their lives; busy with raising a family; busy with work, and busy with making sure enough food is on the table to feed their family.

So you may very well surmise correctly - they are everyday Australians.

They can afford little if anything attention to the general political discussion that our chattering classes can avail to concern themselves with.

And that's who I would like to contrast this class with - the chattering classes.

The chattering classes are those who are locked onto ABC Canberra all day; not 2Day FM, or any other of the myriad of commercial radio stations that the oblivious class is listening to as they hurry to work along our congested arterial roads, forever worrying if they will make it on time to keep their employment.

They are too full at the brim of the glass to worry about political discussion.

The commercial radio may well tell them that the carbon tax is bad, that Julia Gillard is bad, that anything is bad, but they don't have the luxury of time, or even the drive to look into the matter further.

Which is sort of a double edged sword.

Our politicians here in Australia absolutely thrive on the soundbite grab - a tiny 10 second snippet that might make the evening news, either on television or radio, that might have an inkling of a chance to reach the ears of the oblivious class.

They play to the audience, and the capacity for discussion is greatly reduced by this aim for the 10 second soundbite.

"Stop the boats," may be one, for instance.

You're there, in your overheating automobile, rushing home from work to make sure the kids aren't going all Cory Worthington on you, and holding a sexual orgy back home in your absence.

What time do you have to worry about issues? None. You have no time, but God damn it, if someone on a boat is going to get something you might miss out on while busting your hump, you might damn well want to hear about it, even if it is only 10 seconds worth.

And so that forms the basis of your opinion.

So perhaps the chattering classes need to look beyond themselves - the oblivious classes make up most of the popultion, and they're opinion deserves to be paid attention to, or at least be swayed.

The majority rules.