Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why I Am Not A Journalist

I didn't always want to be a journalist.

Around the age of 21, I became aware of the fact that I preferred to be an observer - I didn't fit into any particular clique, as I was always on the outside, and always a 'loner' when it came to society.

I felt it best to view the world from afar, and so in terms of a career, I found the best niche that fitted my general psyche was journalism.

Now, here at 29, I am here writing to you today as to why I am not a journalist, despite multiple opportunities to launch my career in either print or radio.

I present well; I've been told I have a great speaking voice by several professional broadcasters.

I can write well; I've been told my writing is 'shit' but it is 'high class shit' by a senior lecturer.

At 23 after completing a Diploma of Communications & Media from TAFE (the Australian equivalent of community college) I entered the university system, and studied a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism.

Coming from a lower socio-economic background (I am pains to call it disadvantaged, as everyone essentially has the same advantage on merit), I counted my blessings in being able to get into the higher education system without a formal year 12 qualification.

I soon learned however that I did not exactly fit in; I was unable to relate to many of the middle to upper class 'children' at university, or understand their motives and suave, cultural leanings.

I wasn't exactly an outcast, but I soon discovered that my place and personal ambitions could not be at the same level of those who came from more grounded, gifted backgrounds.

This wasn't to say I couldn't keep up with the work, and to the contrary, I was staying ahead of the pace and making my own way academically, and at the very least, passing all of my exams.

However, to this day, three years after formally graduating, the Australian government is yet to reclaim any of the HECS money it invested into myself and my education.

The employer at my very first job interview, a home insulation company who needed someone to write blurbs for their webpage (or at least something along those lines) told me in no indirect terms that he did not know 'whose cock' I would have to suck in order to get a job with my university degree.

Three years or so of work and toil amounted to this let down at my very first job interview that I had travelled four hours to get to.

Of course, between graduating and this unfortunate interview, I did engage in several internships - one at a newspaper, the other at two radio stations; a local station and a big metropolitan broadcaster.

I found myself more at home interviewing people for radio news and editing their sound grabs accordingly - I grew very fond of it, and it was a game for me to see how fast I could coax what I needed out of someone, I was very efficient at it.

At the newspaper however, I found most of the people there to be spiteful, sour, bitter, and poisonous - the very environment was spirit-crushing, and while I enjoyed writing my few articles and interviewing people,  I did not see this as a sustainable career.

And indeed, on occasion I was there, a facsimile came through from Fairfax announcing that they were cutting several hundred editorial jobs nationwide.

"They can't sack me... I'm in the union!" muttered one junior journalist.

Well, that sealed its fate for me as a career path.

Given that most Australians have a reading comprehension level below that of a year 8 high school student, coupled with our general dumbing down of the culture, there was little point in trying to enter a career that was most likely doomed to inevitable redundancy anyway.

To this day, despite attempted restructures, the print audience continues to shrink.

I formed the view that while it may well be a useless degree at this point, it was worth it because it might prove to employers that I could at least stick to something for this amount of time and see it through.

How mistaken I was there on that front as well - even the most menial of jobs, such as Telstra call centre work, came to exist in the realm of the impossible - earning a simple basic wage is now increasingly out of reach.

Even the job agencies themselves now inform me that office work is a 'woman's' jobs' and that males aren't generally desired in these types of work.


I suppose there is more and more young fodder spewing forth from all orifices of our education and training system, doe-eyed and ripe for the picking, and more relatively senior candidates such as myself have probably missed our boat.

But hark - what are we writing about - the autopsy of a seemingly failed and aborted career, or the dissection of a system gone wrong?

We'll start with university itself.

Charles Sturt University is the uni of choice for most rural and regional students - however, many inner city children are also sent there by their parents to somehow gain an advantage from the alternative cultural setting.

Being able to wear ugg boots to lectures is quite trendy.

I even came across several international students that probably somehow reached the conclusion that this was their best educational recourse of action because of its relative obscurity - compared to the big metropolitan options, such as UTS.

Of course it gets results, and of course people that go to them at least get something from it.

Everyone there was seemingly well-travelled.

During the summers breaks, I would be told stories of the fantastical adventures people had taken to India, Canada, America, England, or to China - I on the other hand had only stayed here and watched the cricket over the summer, which I personally didn't see as such of a bad option, especially coupled with some beers.

Quickly class divides opened up, either tangible or perceived, and my previous attempts at befriending these people was reaching dead ends, especially when many of them joked about public housing, which I was a resident of, and took pride in where I lived.

There was always this niggling feeling that somehow you are not living up to expectations, especially those from families of more conducive means to success.

None of them were really happy to be there - one girl I knew would gripe and complain about her faux employer from internship, but would later go on to develop a relatively good career from that employer.

What I took home from my experience at university was that the education system here is not about educating people, it is about enabling a new means to make a profit; the last thing this country needs is a large group of educated, well-informed citizenry, as it would challenge the established status quo.

The university itself makes a profit from providing the 'education' and the employers make a profit from the resultant fodder.

The average Australian is not concerned with academic pursuits, and so long as the mortgage is serviced and the children have McDonald's, there is really no other concern our public has.

At university, so long as the kiddies pass their exams and have a good time, there is really no other point to university, at least in the sense of the liberal arts side of things.

I've encountered many people who puff out their chests with pride with the fact that they are liberal arts students - so was I, youngling, so was I, but it's not something you should broadcast and wear as a badge of pride.

It's arts, arts, arts, so they must be seeing the world differently to the poor, down-trodden blue collar slobs.

Upon entering the real world, this falsity became all-too apparent, as what I initially thought was an important pursuit, studying for a university degree, was really just to pass the time in an artificial construct.

Besides which, most if not all graduates entering the news media field were female, and as a male, I was almost made to feel like an outcast for wanting to make my way in such a pursuit.

"You should be on the street holding a jackhammer," was one such quip from a female student.

Although, I cannot play the victim with it.

It's my own choice not to take myself any further with this nonsense.

While on my newspaper internships, I found I got on best with the photographers, who were the unsung heroes, and who were really the only ones that got off their butts on a daily basis and into where the news was happening.

Currently for the time being, I am satisfied with photographing 'pretty' things - whether or not it could reach the holy grail status of 'career' is a different matter.

I just like it for its beauty, and not its ability to turn a profit.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tony Abbott: Prime Minister

Oh boy, how did we get here.

I have not written on this blog in at least 4 or 5 months, just before election 2013 here in Australia launched into full swing - perhaps out of disgust, or perhaps out of frustration with guessing the result, I stopped writing.

Instead, I took macro photos of bugs and flowers, and ignored our election as much as possible.

But now we must face the fact that Tony Abbott, the most conservative right politician to grace our proverbial dinner plates, is Prime Minister.

A comeback from Kevin Rudd couldn't save us from this fate, and nor could various gaffes by Abbott and the Liberal Party themselves.

To add insult to injury, Joe Hockey is Treasurer, and three months into this 'new' (recycled) Coalition government, all of the panic about the economy and boat people has seemingly evaporated away into nothingness.

On the economic front, Big Joe actually handed over $8.8 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia, apparently in some sort of insurance policy against global economic instability - all of a sudden, Joe Hockey acknowledges that the global economy even exists.

And raising Australia's debt limit from $300 billion to $500 billion in the process also must signal that the 'Budget emergency' that was touted by him before the election must be over.

Oh, joyous.

Since they've been returned to power, this government has held a grand total of about eight press conferences - and during a recent visit to Indonesia, only Australian media was allowed into a press conference by Tony Abbott himself; a highly unusual and downright odd state of affairs.

However, still and all, our young news media go-getters still swoon lovingly towards the new Prime Minister and his new (recycled) cabinet - the honeymoon is well underway.

The Coalition is taking a very softly-softly approach to the media, and it is at least refreshing not to be bombarded with political dramas and infighting, as was the case with Labor.

There is a feeling that everyone was just fed up with Labor - as I myself have previously written, they did not deserve to govern.

They had some really great policies and a glinting of good ideas, but they were unable to implement them, and their own dramas overshadowed any positive progress with the electorate.

Their message became lost in a cacophony of spite, especially after Rudd returned to the Labor leadership.

However it must said that Rudd did indeed save Labor from what appeared to be an inevitable bloodbath under Julia Gillard.

But it won't all be plain sailing for Mr Abbott.

He faces a very hostile Senate next year, which could stop him in his tracks in his promise to 'axe the tax', the fabled, evil carbon tax, which was really just a prelude to a full blown carbon trading scheme.

It would have been a free market answer to climate change, and it does bring this country straight back to square one on the issue.

Loud and proud mining magnate Clive Palmer is in the Senate by 50-something votes after a marathon recount in his seat of Fairfax, along with an unruly gang of motoring enthusiasts and pro-gun mavericks.

The Greens didn't fair as well as they expected, and as I had eluded to in previous posts, they have become less popular with the electorate.

Political pundits have criticised the Senate preferences system, as some minor and fringe parties have rode to their seats with only handfuls of votes - however, it does make the Senate more representative of the wider Australia, and it will at least be insanely interesting to watch how they work with Abbott.

Yes Virginia, there is a Tony Abbott.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'Lower socio-economic' - Australian Media's Preface of Failure

Ahh, the good old 'lower socio-economic' preface on a news story about Australia's poor.

Australian TV journalists in their cosy warm studios must often arrive from their 'higher socio-economic' areas and get cheesy grins when a 'lower socio-economic' story graces their desks.

You see, all of Australian society's ills - obesity, fat kids, sexual abuse, alcoholism, divorce, drug abuse, unemployment, crime, pensioners rotting away in their flats unnoticed, and all manner of other horsemen of the apocalypse, all evidently only exist in 'lower socio-economic' areas.

And don't we just love the term.

It sounds oh-so very scientific, and lends a cheap press release more credence and legitimacy (well, more legitimacy than the children from 'lower socio-economic areas, am I right?!).

Take the latest 'news' story that graced our morning TV screens - that fat kids come from 'lower socio-economic' areas - and the story was discussed by a female mouthy report who started her spiel on the topic with "I once visited a lower socio-economic area..."

Wow! You poor thing, how did you ever survive? I hope she has recovered from her ordeal.

But to the contrary, I've known plenty of big fat people from upper class areas.

Just look at Gina Rinehart - Australia's richest woman, a billionaire, and with her fingers in all the pies, and obviously not just business pies.

However on our morning show, the topic is discussed as if obesity is limited to poor people; to the contrary, some of the fattest people I've known, and I mean REALLY fat people, have come from very, very well-off families.

Why? Because obesity doesn't discriminate - this society is absolutely swimming in cheap fast foods, and as a matter of fact, we waste billions of dollars worth of fresh foods every year.

Australians love to stuff their fat pie holes, whether they be old, young, poor, or rich; 60% of Australians are obese, and it's increasingly rare to come across a naturally thin woman - but that's OKAY, because we don't want to make them feel bad about their body image.

It's the same with all the other topics - I've mentioned before that our news is written purely by upper middle class kids out of university for upper middle class readers and viewers - and so the explanation for everything plaguing society falls into the 'lower socio-economic' preface.

Oh the poor, it's all their fault; why won't they just die?

Hopefully I won't have to pass these lower lifeforms on the street.

You see, the moment someone points out that Australia does indeed have a deeply ingrained social class system, they are immediately told that Australia is a 'classless' society, and that it's all one homogenous block of happy people.

Nothing could be more distant from the truth, and the media needs to stop ignoring it; I would go so far as to say that our class system borders on being that like the United Kingdom's.

But unlike the UK, our class system is far more simplistic: the very poor, and the very rich.

The ones who aren't so rich, but think they are rich, or have stars in their eyes about being wealthy, are what we call the 'aspirational middle class' - the people who are dangled a carrot in front of them, in the belief that they will be one day be kings and queens.

But they too are ridiculed, and they just simply do not realise it, or do not pay enough attention; there's many well-to-do inner city folk that just simply would not dare tread into Western Sydney, as they just see it as a wasteland of mortgages and babies.

I mean look at the big hoopla when Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott visited Penrith; an absolute media circus ensued, as if they were going to the lost ancient civilization of Machu Picchu.

Even a Labor MP poked fun at the people of Western Sydney.

And of course, the venerable members of our beleaguered media machine, such as the social commentator who once visited a 'lower socio-economic' area, are they themselves smack-bang in the middle of the aspirational middle classes.

Not only is that their audience they write for, but they too think that they themselves are above everyone else.

Filled with airs and graces, and pointing the finger at anyone who doesn't fit society's accepted narratives.

Heaven forbid it be a press release about the enormity of growing alcoholism and drug use among middle class professionals; they can do no wrong, and they certainly don't ever get fat, either.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Dreaded 'Youth Vote'

Oh, the impertinences of our wayward youth!

Sure they can't form informed political decisions at the polling booth.

But hark, ye hopeful candidate, you're about to step in a big pile of it if you ignore the youth vote; so ignore it at your peril.

While it's true that in Australia there's swathes of people aged 18-25 not enrolled to vote, this age bracket still can still hold a deciding factor on who becomes Prime Minister.

It's also true that youth are disengaged with politics - I was recently talking to a 22-year-old girl who did not even know what 'Questions Time' was, and could not recall ever seeing it on television.

After re-composing (or is that re-composting) myself at this utter lack of basic political awareness, I scurried back to my lair and considered that in actual fact, why should she have ever heard of it?

Question Time is nothing but an hour or so of rambunctious hooliganism at the cost of the taxpayer - and with Tony Abbott at the helm, we've seen more 'no confidence motions' than a toilet at the retirement home, all of which were entirely pointless spiels.

And of course, the government's own people ask its own people 'questions' - a sort of theatre is good old Question Time, theatre for the people, but a theatre that turns many off politics.

There was also the case of the young lady who asked me what the difference between Liberal and Labor were - I was genuinely stumped in providing an answer, because especially of late, there actually are very little differences.

Abbott himself of course holds a particular 1950s attitude and style towards society and women writ large of course, but between the parties themselves, the only difference is in ideology and not so much in their actual governance.

With no clear difference between, you may well ask 'what's the point in voting?'.

Between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, Rudd is a clear favourite amongst the voting youthful public; he's routinely swamped by youngsters, and has 1.3 million Twitter followers, compared to Tony Abbott's dismal 142,000.

And have you seen some of things that Abbott writes on his Twitter? All rather mundane blue-tie stuff, and I'm sure there's a smattering 'we'll stop the boats!' in there somewhere just for good measure.

In other words, Abbott has the personality of cardboard - youth don't like cardboard, unless it forms the silhouette and image of Beyonce or something, and Abbott doesn't strike me as Beyonce - tough luck for Mr. Abbott.

Of course, there are youth that would vote for Abbott; the misguided youth.

These are youth from conservative, upright, righteous, business-owning families, and it's true that a parent's voting pattern heavily influences that of their children, lest they stray from the loins of the conservative father and risk being reprimanded for turning into a smelly, dirty lefty.

Off with his unkempt head!

At Tony Abbott's last big 'press conference' (and I use the term lightly, because they are greatly rehearsed and not at all spontaneous) he was standing in front of a large group of elderly people, who seemingly rallied behind Mr Abbott when he was asked about his senior staffer's drink driving charge.

"Woooaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!" the elderly crowd jeered at the journalist, who was obviously in hot water for not asking pre-rehearsed question.

Can you imagine a similar response if Abbott was surrounded by a group of teenagers?

I would think not, and while Gillard had sandwiches thrown at her at a few high schools, Abbott would be thrown the whole loaf.

Abbott does not know how to approach the youth vote. To him, young people are something that are nothing but trouble, just a bunch of lazy, half-witted, tone deaf rebels who all need to be sequestered down in Gina Rinehart's mines.

'Seen but not heard' would be Abbott's view of youngsters, and not at one point have I heard him painting youth in a positive light; he only ever talks about how they are all unemployed and need a big stick.

So, to both Rudd and Abbott, I would say they need to consider the youth vote very carefully in the upcoming election; they must present a forward-thinking progressive, engaging platform, and not write-off the opinions of young people.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Out of Love with the Australian Greens

During the last Federal Election of 2010, I voted Greens in the Senate - and it was a sensible choice, and probably still is, given the rambunctious and chaotic nature of the two big parties.

Now however, I find them utterly repulsive, and as someone who is of a left-leaning nature, it's made me realise that there is no real sane left alternative in Australia to vote for.

Take for example the circus act surrounding a paid parental leave scheme, which has incidentally been flagged by Abbott as one of his big policy platforms for quite some time.

This morning, Christine Milne, the default leader of the Greens after Bob Brown's retirement, has held a dank press conference to announce their ideal paid parental leave scheme.

The only problem, it's almost a carbon-copy of Mr Abbott's scheme; both include a 1.5% tax on companies who earn over $5 million annually - the only difference being, while Mr Abbott's is capped at $150,000, the Green's want to bring that down to $100,000.

Before getting to the 'detail' of her scheme, Milne cited a recent survey in Australia of employers, of whom a large percentage said they would prefer to employ young men who have no relationships and no children.

'This is wrong' Milne proclaimed.

Keep in mind, it was just a silly survey, and just an opinion of a preference, but apparently facts needs to be savaged.

As a young man with no relationships and no children, and who finds it nigh impossible to find a job, I find this rather entertaining - apparently young single men don't deserve jobs, and we should all bloody well get out of the way so women can fulfill the idealistic rolls of both career and children and sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya.

It's bad enough to be told by Centrelink and the local job seeking places that office work is 'only for women' - despite holding a degree, and despite being relatively literate, and punctual.

Thanks to false identity politics, a woman is more deserving. I believe in a fair deal for everyone, but this is obviously a new breed of favouritism.

Christine Milne and her defacto deputy Sarah-Hanson Young do the calm-yet-stern lecture down the camera lens and expect everyone to beg for more; there's lots of yummy political capital to be gained from left issues, such as gay marriage, asylum seekers, and now parental leave schemes - which ironically - the Liberals have been vying for for a while.

Asylum seekers is all the rave at the moment, especially since Rudd's return to power and his announcement of a hardline plan to settle all (economic) refugees in Papua New Guinea.

1100 people have so far died at sea in the mad rush to try to get to Australia, and still yet, the Greens would want to keep the failed policies that enable this parade of death to happen at our doorstep.

The Greens, like all minor political parties, love to talk big, and love to put vials up to people's eyelids and collect their tears and say they're going to do this and that - in actuality, if they were to govern, they would find it particularly difficult.

When I first saw the polls that show the Greens' vote dropping, from about 12% last election to 9% at the moment, I was confused as to how this could be so given the big parties' dismal performances of late.

But it does actually make sense - Christine Milne and Sarah-Hanson Young are incredibly maddening to listen to - everything is a tragedy, everything is unfair, and only they have all of the possible solutions.

In short, I don't like them, and I change the channel now whenever they have an appearance at one of their characterless press conferences.

Of course, the young folk will vote for them, because they believe in gay marriage, and that's always been a surefire way of late to get the youth vote - but beyond that, there's a vacuum.

I would say their vote has dropped because Australians are becoming increasingly ticked off with political parties of all persuasions.

While I would like to see a minor political party have the balance in the Senate, which is politically healthy, I'm not so sure anymore that I want it to be the Greens.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Making Interest Rates Interesting

On the first Tuesday of every month here in Australia, journalists and business analysts gather around computer monitors to watch a magical number.

If the number changes, it becomes news; if the number does not change, it too becomes news.

Can you guess what this number is?


You're correct - it's the official cash rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

About 2PM the announcement is made, with business-y types sitting at computers shouting out the number in a self-important fashion, making for an excellent soundbite on that evening's news.

Traditionally, politicians, specifically Treasurers and sometimes Prime Ministers, will spin their economic prowess if the number is lowered or stays the same. They will then sternly look down the barrel of the camera, and in a school boyish manner, tell the banks and lenders that they must 'pass the rate on'.

Everyone goes home, and waits for the next first Tuesday of next month, but in the meantime, they will speculate and speculate about what the interest rate will be, and I would dare say, bets are taken on it.

For instance, some data on unemployment and slowing of the economy may come out, which leads to the instant inference that the RBA must be going to lower rates - if they don't, business journalists will ruffle through the meeting minutes, desperately searching for evidence on why they didn't.

Such is the madness of capitalism, isn't it?

So what does it mean for the common man and woman, or woman-man, or man-woman?

If you have a mortgage, obviously it means something - it could mean that you pay $50 less that month, or $100 less, or $50 more a month to live in the bank's house and to make profit for a bank CEO who is  making far more than you.

In the current economic environment however, interest rates are at record lows everywhere, and close to 0% in the United States.

It's a sort of an economic lever - if the economy is growing too fast and inflation becomes a problem, the interest rate is risen - meaning people pay more for the bank's house and therefor spend less on other s***, such as televisions.

If the economy is sluggish, as is the case worldwide, including Australia with our floundering retail sector, the rate is lowered - people pay less for the bank's house and therefor spend more on other s***, such as televisions, maybe if a video game for little Jimmy.

In other words, on a consumer level it plays the workers and consumers like a fiddle - monetary policy, as it's called, would be useless if everyone were rich, which ironically, is the promise that capitalism makes.

But in reality, you're not - that $50 a month becomes a blessing or a curse, depending on whether or not you're paying more or less.

Still and all, the media treat the RBA's announcement as if Moses has come again each month announcing the Ten Commandments with a few additions, either:

"Thout shall spend!"


"Thout shall save!"

It probably garners so much attention religiously because Australians love BIG houses, so along with that, they have big mortgages to pay for the BIG houses.

The floorspace of an average Australian home is marginally bigger than that of America's, and easily up to twice that of a typical Western European home; such is the Great Australian Dream and perhaps the typical Australian male's need to compensate for shortcomings in other areas.

When the kids have all gown up and moved out and have big mortgages of their own, what are ma and pa supposed to do with a big house?

Why, use it as their own personal bank of course - 'refinance' and borrow against the equity of the home and live it up Big Willy style.

And if there's a divorce in the meantime, the house will probably be sold, and the money pissed away on the kids by either parent on anything they want to keep them on 'their side'.

So, the interest rate is intrinsically linked to the marketed Australian way of life - BIG houses with big mortgages - any other pursuit is worthless and not worth the mention.

Unwittingly though, it really boils down to the loyal consumers of Australia being played like suckers through monetary levers - they suck up every announcement and feel a part of the system.

If this is what they mean by 'economic participation' I'm staying on the bench.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rudd Return: Blood Letting Now in Progress

Well, whoda thunk it.

After years of undermining Julia Gillard and biding his time on the backbench, Mr Rudd has been reinstalled as Prime Minister of Australia.

In a smattering of poetic justice, Julia Gillard was kicked out of the high office the same way she stumbled into it - a challenge from the very person she deposed, with the Labor caucus voting 57 to 45 in Rudd's favour.

In the mean time, there has been a veritable exodus from Labor's previous front bench ministries, with even the likes of Wayne Swan, the former Treasurer, making a hasty exit.

Surprisingly, Penny Wong, whom defended Gillard considerably, jumped ship to the Rudd camp, and has been rewarded with finance ministership and leader of the Senate.

The reasons for the change of leadership are obvious enough.

The night before Gillard was purged, images of her posing for a photo shoot for a women's magazine were plastered all across the nightly news, showing her knitting a toy kangaroo and having electric fans placed in front of her make her look more 'swishy'.

All the while, Labor's primary vote was being hammered, as was Gillard's stake in the preferred Prime Minister poll.

The chance of leader has temporarily worked, with Rudd shooting up 11 points to 51%  as preferred Prime Minister, with Tony Abbott slumping still in the mid 30s.

With all of this, the original September 14 election date set by Gillard earlier in the way will most likely be pushed back to give Rudd time to try and solidify some popularity in the electorate.

So, will it all work?

For a time. After the sugar has waned, people will begin to remember the things they dislike about Labor - perhaps the carbon tax, perhaps asylum seekers, perhaps something else that the Liberals toss up.

For certain though, Rudd will clearly be the more popular leader over Abbott.

The prospect of a Liberal-controlled Senate and Liberal-dominated Lower House are some truly frightening prospects, and would probably see a new wave of conservative politics blanket Australia like never before.

For all the young trendy Australians now that are pushing things like gay marriage or renewable energy would definitely have a new thing headed their way under wall-to-wall Liberal governments.

With the amount of cuts to the public services they have earmarked, we would possibly face a recession, or at least a sizeable upswing in unemployed. Other things to keep an eye out for would be a lift in the GST, industrial relations being tinkered with ala Howard-era 'Work Choices', a rollback on tax reforms, and even more pressure placed single parents, the unemployed, and the poor.

We've already seen an inkling of conservatism, ironically, under Gillard, with the cutting of the parenting payment to single parents - the Liberals would go one-step further, with measures such as welfare payment quarantining, and shipping the unemployed off to the mines, despite their lack of skills.

But I digress.

Who will win the election? It would probably be a mixed result, and without any great insight, it could possibly be another hung Parliament, but that would be a miracle, as it would mean Labor would need to save itself from political oblivion - which it is staring down.

In all likelihood, we will most likely see an Abbott Australia. Rest assured, like a Terminator, Abbott has his sites set on the Prime Ministership, and will say absolutely anything to reach that office, as was demonstrated by him lying to the independents when they were negotiating at the last tied election.

Having said that, at least it will be entertaining to have Joe Hockey as Treasurer.

I'll grab the popcorn.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gillard and the Gender Card

The reasons for boycotting the 2013 Australian Federal Election are piling up.

More and more, I increasingly feel alienated from the political apparatus, and increasingly become aware of the fact that our democracy is a functional farce.

After screwing over single mothers, Gillard now apparently is rallying the members of her sex, with odd comments such as these:

"A prime minister - a man in a blue tie - who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie. A treasurer, who delivers a budget wearing a blue tie, to be supported by a finance minister - another man in a blue tie. Women once again banished from the centre of Australia's political life.''

She also made mention that abortion would once again become the 'political plaything' of men in Australia.

Headline grabbing, but completely vacuous of any substance.

She reminds me of lecturer I had once for identity politics at uni - her argument was that because men wrote all the early medical literature on pregnancy and such, it meant that men were evil and had stolen a woman's reproductive rights.

As one of the few males in the stupid journalism course as it was, it was an irksome statement, and completely changed my view on what the motives of feminism actually are.

Being a disaffected, alienated, and a tad cranky young Australian male, Gillard's comments solidify my opinion that she is now simply playing the gender card in a pathetically desperate bid to be re-elected.

Many women I would believe can also see through these attempts at fear-mongering - for instance, subjects such as abortion haven't even been on the political agenda at all, and the abortion drug RU-486 was even recently legalised in Australia.

So it's not like there hasn't been any progress.

However, given Ms Gillard's hatred of single mothers, maybe she would actually prefer that they have an abortion instead of carrying their child to full-term?

Last week we had the Treasurer running around flogging the dead horse of the republic debate, and this week to divert attention away from leadership speculation, Gillard has used emotive language about abortion somehow becoming the 'plaything' of men.

Even her own backbenchers and senators have been somewhat surprised by the comments, as it doesn't seem to be on message or relevant to the electorate.

It's anyone's guess as to what is actually going on in the Labor Party; the simple fact is that they are no longer fit to govern, and they deserve no more words written about them.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rumblings of an Australian Republic... uh, again

In 1999 a referendum was put forward to the Australian people on the question of whether or not Australia should become a republic.

Without a proper model, the referendum failed, and republicans were left to lick their wounds and ruminate ever since.

Firstly, it's important to note that those of the republican movement are actually a sour, jaded, and unhappy bunch of people.

I first corresponded with one or two of them from the Australian Republican Movement for a research assignment at university - I found them to be very patronising about the types of questions I was asking them, and it was generally an unpleasant experience.

Each to their own, I suppose.

For me personally, it influenced my own view on whether or not we should dispose of our model of the constitutional monarchy.

Up until then, I was all for a republic - I figured that yes, perhaps Australia is ready to elect its own head of state, and that yes, all of the arguments that the republican movement is making make sense.

I was left questioning their argument, which suddenly turned out to be somewhat a weak proposition for change.

Just recently, our Treasurer Wayne Swan has again brought up the issue of an Australian republic, and republican movement stalwart Malcolm Turnbull has also thrown his support behind the renewed gusto.

It follows the release of a book of essays today from prominent Australians - and everyone is getting teary-eyed and excited at the prospect of reinvigorating the debate.

Julia Gillard for one only believes a move towards a republic would be possible only once Queen Elizabeth II passes; as presumably, Australians would find Prince Charles far less popular.

They would then seemingly not have to contend with the current popularity the Queen.

So, there's many ready and waiting to pounce on the constitutional monarchy and replace it with an as-yet undetermined model.

Now, let's back up a moment.

Australia currently has an elected Prime Minister - would Australians also be required to elect a President, or will the new leader fulfill both roles?

Given how easily the Labor party disposed of Kevin Rudd, putting our political parties in absolute control, including the head of state, is a truly frightening prospect, and would entrust far too much power in them.

It would be a slippery slope to despotism, or at least a coporatised political system as in the United States, so I suppose that model is squarely out.

The problem with the republican movement in Australia is that when one actually goes searching for the model they are proposing, it's buried deep among a pile of rhetoric and simple battle cries of how Australia should have its own identity.

So I don't even know exactly what they're proposing - the best that ARM can propose is that we simply get rid of the Queen, and keep the Governor-General model in place.

What's the point?

Republicans counter this fact by saying that they are 'fiercely democratic', saying the monarchists are just making it up, and then go on to give a multitude of different possible republican models, with no clear answer.

Yes, it's all well and good to be fiercely democratic, but if you've cared to even take just a cursory glance at Australia's big political parties, from whom of which we choose within 'democracy', you will quickly find the choices presented aren't exactly democratic.

Political power in Australia is still a playground of the elites; from the 'born to rule' sentiment of those in the Liberal Party, to the shadowy power-plays of those in the union movement that control the Labor Party.

By and large, the Crown is largely a symbolic institution, with some reserve powers that are invested among the Commonwealth nations - a sort of constitutional 'safety belt' which has proven itself to be an incredibly stable form of government since 1901; 112 years.

112 years is a long time for a form of government to last, especially in a young and geographically isolated nation such as Australia.

Compared with that of say, the Soviet model which crumbled after about 70 years, our own little constitutional monarchy and Westminster system, whilst not perfect, has proven itself to be a solid form of government.

And, as the ARM tell us, if the republican movement is merely about symbolic change, there isn't much point to changing anything; it would be akin to changing from white curtains to grey curtains, while proclaiming that grey curtains somehow work better.

All in all, the republican movement in Australia is quite simply an act of intellectual masturbation.

Australia is facing a gamut of up and coming challenges in the future, and all the while, we have these 'prominent' Australians and intellectuals agonising over what words to change in the Australian Constitution all for the sake of tinkering with symbolism.

They also argue that young Australians are 'bemused' that Australia is not yet a republic; I've personally found that to be false, as many people I've spoken to my own age hold fears that Australia would end up looking more like America - a seemingly trite argument, but it goes to show how Australians recognise the fact that things are currently working fine.

The thought of periodically electing a new 'Queen' or 'Crown' for Australia, as some republicans have proposed in the 'Copernican Models' (don't you just love the names!) is rather daunting.

Why even call them 'Crowns'?! Argh!

Not only would you be asking Australians to elect a Prime Minister from the political parties, you would be asking them to elect a head of state as well - just on what criteria would candidates be put forward? What is the point in foisting a big administrative burden on the country by having a 100% symbolic election for someone that would supposedly have zero political power?

You would essentially be introducing a fourth tier of government, and it would open up a whole new front of political elitism.

It makes absolutely no sense - and when you put these sorts of questions towards republicans, they will reprimand you for somehow being backwards, uneducated, a monarchist, naive, and anything else to make themselves look infinitely smart and wise.

Once you dig into their models and try and work out what it is exactly they want to do, when even not a single one of them can agree with the other on a model to adopt, it becomes apparent that they are trying to sell you snake oil.

So don't believe the hype.

Australia is already self-government itself just fine with a stable constitutional monarchy, and while it's a nice idea to make Australia even more like America, it wouldn't make Australia more just or a more progressive country.

Especially if cretinous republicans are put in charge.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

This Just In: News Still Written From Middle Class Perspective

Perusing the lead of the Sydney Morning Herald website this morning, it's become painfully clear that most, if not all Australian 'news' is written from a middle class perspective.

The young journalists all come from upstanding middle class families; go through university as upstanding middle class students; then finally end up writing as upstanding middle class journalists.

One article was about how Gen Y, my generation, still hold dear the prospect of 'settling down' before 30.

I for one am 28 - in contrast to those subjects in the article, I am yet to go overseas, I am to secure permanent stable employment, and I am yet to even merely entertain the thought of owning a house.

And marriage? Don't even get me started on my stubborn refusal to shackle up with a late 20s or early 30s Australian woman - nothing could be absolutely further from mind, given their idiosyncrasies and ingrained sense of entitlement.

The young people interviewed for the article (which was extremely weak on its own anyway) all work in areas such as finance, or other high-powered inner city jobs, and this affords them all overseas holidays.

Perish the thought that our young hoighty-toighty flowing floral dress young lady journalists would interview a Gen Y farmer, miner, or the unemployed or homeless member of Gen Y about their goals.

And forget aiming to buy a house in Sydney - I would dare say the vast majourity of Gen Ys in Sydney would love just to be able to secure affordable rental housing.

I suppose it would be trite to expect a city newspaper to pay attention to anyone or anything outside of their own blessed halo.

Sydney in particular is more akin to a miniature, self-enclosed European country located in the Pacific - Sydneysiders consider themselves more cultured, more wealthy, more knowledgeable, more tolerant, and just about more-everything than the rest of Australia, which they instinctively turn their noses up at.

Even those of Western Sydney who are wedged square up against the Blue Mountains consider themselves to be suave and intercontinental just by the mere act of making French toast.

Because of this, the entirety of our popular media is completely geared towards the city-dwelling middle classes, who are really nothing more than loyal subjects in a collective derangement of superiority.

As such, very few of them, especially newly arrived immigrants seeking to settle in Sydney, live inside an encapsulated bubble, and to venture beyond the bubble of the suburban limits courts danger.

That's not to say the city is a bad place, and many great things in terms of culture and ideas can spring forth from it; it does however mean that it attempts to unduly influence the whole of society, which may not see everything through coffee-fogged designer sunglasses.

Me, personally, I have no intention of even attempting to follow a linear timetable for my own life as a Gen Y.

I turn 30 next year and still get asked for I.D, and I plan on living an awfully long time, and the prospect of sitting in an empty nest just when the mortgage is finally paid off, or gone through a divorce, is not on my horizon.

It's the popular majourity that is only ever reported on, and it's the unpopular minority that is kept only for slow news days.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Upcoming Australian Federal Election - I Don't Want To Vote

About 31 countries world wide have compulsory voting.

Of those, only about a dozen actually enforce the penalty.

Australia is one of them.

Last night I came to the conclusion that none of the majour parties, Liberal or Labor, represent me.

Nor do the Greens, nor do any Independents.

They don't know me, and I don't know them.

They don't owe me anything, and I don't owe them anything - especially not my vote.

I'm not a 'working family', which is their main tried and true demographic target.

Quite the contrary, I'm a longterm unemployed journalism graduate that's has had a deep-seated moderate clinical depression for the best part of the past 4 years.

I've complied with all of the welfare laws; I've attended all of my appointments with 'Job Services Providers' and Centrelink; I've done volunteer work, and I've gone to all interviews that I was required to go to, and I am still not employed, with little prospects and next to no support from any of their services.

I have a circulatory condition in my left leg that prevents me standing for lengthy periods, and despite being told by local Job Services agents that office jobs are, quote "mostly only for women," they remain the only work I would be suited to.

I've been effectively left to rot on the welfare system, and indeed, writing this blog has helped.

So now I find myself deeply marginalised. Not destitute, not a lunatic, but simply someone who has lost faith in our system of government and things in general - and because of that, I cannot ethically vote for any party, or even just show up and have my name signed off to keep the threat of a fine at bay.

At the last Australian federal election in 2010, there were over 700,000 'donkey', or blank votes - I wouldn't want to add to the uncertainty.

And at well over half a million people who didn't even mark their ballots, I'm not alone in my disgust.

One of the reasons cited for compulsory voting is so that the general population pays attention and participates in democracy.

This is complete buffoonery.

Of the other 1,000 days between federal elections, the government doesn't want to hear two peeps out of you - you just need to go to work, pay your taxes, and at a few months out from an election, you're expected to decipher the cacophony of leader debates and incessant loud election advertising.

I have, however, been paying attention to politics.

My blog has many instances of what I thought were misgivings, or maybe even just gripes with government.

Take the Peter Slipper scandal - this was someone who was known to rort political allowances and was made Speaker, just to bolster the Labor government's numbers.

Or perhaps the Craig Thomson fiasco, where he was allowed to use Parliament to plead his case in the open air - I hardly think any other Australian would be granted that privilege if they were being investigated for criminal wrong-doings.

Or maybe the cutting of payments for single parents.

So no, I'm not an apathetic citizen who is just trying to get out of voting - I am genuinely sickened now by Australian politics, and I now wish to remove myself from its processes as much as possible, and I do not wish to even be remotely implicit in it by voting.

I haven't been listened to for this long period time, and I feel as though I should now just forfeit my vote altogether - which is really only what any political party damn well bloody wants from me.

Last night upon investigating what may happen to me as an Australian citizen for not voting, I came across a description of the usual procedure - first a letter seeking explanation for not voting is posted to you, and then a fine is posted out and you are expected to pay up to $100.

"What if I don't pay the fine," I pondered to myself.

To quote the Electoral Commision of New South Wales:

"The State Debt Recovery Office may issue a penalty notice enforcement order against you. This may lead to the cancellation or suspension of your drivers licence, cancellation of your car registration or worse."

"Or worse," - sounds rather threatening, doesn't it?

Oh boy, better do what they say.

Upon further investigation, I found stories of people that had had their car registration cancelled, sentenced to community work, property seized, their licenses cancelled, and in some cases, even sentenced to jail.

And indeed, 43 Australian non-voters were each jailed for one or two days each for failing to pay their fines in the 1993 federal election and had criminal convictions recorded against them.

You're not criminalised for not making a mark on a piece of paper or just having your name ticked off, but trickily, you are criminalised for then not paying the fine or providing a 'reasonable' excuse.

Sneakily, the political and legal apparatus that forces you to vote hides behind our fines system - it's just like not paying a road fine if you've committed a traffic offense - so in effect, for not voting and not paying your fine, you are automatically criminalised, even though you haven't effectively broken any laws.

Are these the actions of a free and democratic country?

I would think not, and it has made me incredibly wary, as it does raise the bar on my own little experiment of not voting and coughing up a fine just to see what transpires.

Those blatant scare tactics however shouldn't be reason to feel threatened into turning up to the polling booth, especially when you haven't committed any crime by not doing so.

A car and a license I can do without - my car's registration expires in September - it already leaks oil and overheats, and I can't afford to fix it, so I have no intention of re-registering it, anyway.

I have no job to drive to - so I obviously don't need a license, except for ID purposes.

If the court wants to come to my humble room and take my few meagre personal possessions, so be it.

And jail?

That will just succinctly highlight my point.

It seems I'm also not the only one to want to highlight this issue.

Recently, a High Court appeal from a man, 65-year-old Anders Holmdahl, was quashed merely on the grounds that the appeal against his criminal conviction would not succeed after a two year-long legal battle for not voting at the 2010 election.

Interestingly, his case was supported by Liberal Senator Nick Minchin, who has long held the view that voting should not be compulsory in Australia.

Mr Holmdahl is now attempting to have his case heard by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

So, that's how far it can go - all the way to the fricking UN.

It seems my passive political protest and stated reasons for it would largely fall on deaf ears - instead of being a case of simple, peaceful civil disobedience, it would most likely snowball into me being prosecuted and possibly jailed for a few days for not paying up.

I'll see how I feel between now and the election.

During that time, I'll be formulating my response to the Australian Electoral Commission stating my reasons for not voting when they seek my explanation for not taking part in a farcical exercise.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Open Letter to The Young Modern Woman

Dear Young Modern Woman,

I feel I must write you as we both fast approach the magical age of 30.

The sausage-fest years are drawing to a close, and you must now be thinking about 'settling down' - perhaps by marrying, and perhaps by having children, albeit with the right man of course.

You will now profess piety whilst decrying promiscuity, despite the latter being your former order of the day.

Far be it from me to consider myself the 'right man', given that this is an impossible ideal to meet.

Perhaps you already have children and the remnants of baggage leftover from previously failed relationships - the 'right man' must of course be willing to accept this, with no questions asked.

I find myself in the position of having minimal baggage, and relatively far fewer miles on the clock - why should I suddenly 'settle' for your high mileage and gaggle of children, whilst at the same time meeting the stringent criterion of your 'being a man' profile?

How perplexing, and how laced with tedium the prospect is of matching your requirements - which I utterly have no intention of trying to satisfy for the sake of possibly being bedded.

And the modern marketing of feminism has told you that you can have it all; a different man to roger every Friday or Saturday night fostered by copious amounts of alcohol, a stressful demanding career in the city that overtakes all other priorities, an abortion at-will if one of your lovers ever slipped one past the goalie, and guaranteed ownership of children that perhaps resulted from a failed de facto relationship.

Yes, you can have it all, and all of the complexities that come along with it - it's none of my business, until of course the time comes that you seek men such as myself out, imperfect as we are ourselves, to somehow magically sort out your mess and set it all right.

While you were courting a collective army of men either at the pub or via Facebook, I was probably at home, alone, quietly watching Doctor Who or studying for my degree, completely ignoring the world you were inhabiting - the big flashy city with cocks aplenty.

I have my charms; I have my appeals; I have my wits, of all that I have been made aware of by the few good women that I have taken the time to get to know, and in turn, I had gotten to know their qualities.

Yet, I don't give it away for free - perhaps I didn't get the memo from the sexual revolution, and so perhaps I didn't become 'liberal' enough to share bodily fluids with random strangers - my apologies to modern society.

Now you find yourself feeling unfulfilled and used, and perhaps now you're wondering "why?" - and all of a sudden you are actually required to make a connection with a man, to value a man, and to respect a man - all of which modern feminism has vehemently discouraged you from doing.

Just as men treat women as objects, so too should women treat men as objects, for the sake of 'equality' according to feminsm - however, just as not all men treat women as objects, nor should women do the same for the sake of faux feminist empowerment.

Of course women should be empowered - but the routes that militant feminism has promised you are being showed to be a farce - now more than ever, you will find young women confused and clambering for explanations for their feelings of emptiness, of something missing, even though they supposedly have it all.

You will also find young girls becoming increasingly sexualised; puberty begins earlier, either biologically or psychologically, thanks to the mass meda; and in truth, true feminism, true womanhood, has been hijacked.

I have been grossly unimpressed by my relatively limited dealings with you, Young Modern Woman, and if you have been offended by this letter, so bet it.

I will most likely make it my business to continually avoid your crass path the best I can.


Imperfect Male

Monday, April 22, 2013

Australia's Economic Sugar High

All bets are now off.

With Labor's last Federal Budget up and coming in a few weeks, we're now hearing trickles on the grapevine that revenues have collapsed even more so than originally anticipated.

Take for instance the carbon tax.

Labor decided to link Australian carbon credits to that of Europe's - it was expected that credits would be trading at at least $9, and preferably higher.

They're currently trading at $3.

This has resulted in a $7.5 billion black hole in our Budget.

Obviously the ponzi scheme hasn't lived up to its expectations - and it may well be early days in our carbon trading foray, but for the time being, the cold is blowing in.

Furthermore, Treasury projections have been grossly off the mark on this one, and how they could mess up the prediction of the market in Europe, where economic austerity is all the rave right now, is beyond my comprehension.

Why even link any of our economic prosperity to the basket case that is Europe in the first place?!

For something that was supposed to be about lowering pollution emissions, it has quickly become evident that the carbon tax, or carbon pricing, was really a ham-fisted attempt at tax and economic reform.

All in all, the Budget is expected to run at a $20 - $25 billion deficit, which is far off the teeny tiny $1.5 billion or so worth of surplus promised by Treasurer Wayne Swan last year.

"The fundamentals are strong," Mr Swan would often chime in, and continually bragged that they would be bringing back a surplus.

Surpluses are of course a treasurer's proverbial wet dream. It's a way of displaying economic prowess, and gives the government bragging rights over the Opposition, who are obsessed with surpluses.

Unemployment too has been rising, and now sits at 5.6% - considering how the government reaches its figures on unemployment, with working one hour a week being considered 'employed', the real figure is much higher - probably closer to 8 or 9%, but even that is speculative.

Yours truly has been on the dole cue for so long now, that recently Centrelink have plumb given up even taking my reporting form - I no longer even have to apply for jobs, and am probably counted as being 'employed' because I did some volunteer work earlier in the year.

On my last vist there, the woman was completely uninterested and didn't even bother to ask to see my jobs form, which I thought was a strict requirement - I had to foist it upon her, lest I later be accused of not 'looking for work'.

I didn't receive a new form - I can only surmise I am now 'employed' and am no longer contributing to the unemployment statistics - glory be!

In the early half of the Rudd government in 2008, the full effects of the Global Financial Crisis were in full effect - as such, the government enacted economic stimulus packages, to the tune of about $30 billion, and effectively pumping all of the surplus from the previous Howard government into the economy.

At the time, this was a good idea - it maintained and even boost employment levels in Australia, given that people had more money in their pockets for discretionary spending to the tune of a $900 or $1000 payment, pink batts were raining down, and school halls were being built everywhere.

It helped Australia avoid recession and kept us in good economic shape compared to just about every other western country on the planet.

Of course, it has only delayed the inevitable, and while it was economically prudent, Keynesian economics and 'pump priming' can only go so far.

The businesses and areas of the economy that should have failed under the normal circumstances of capitalism were propped up - the correction, the recession itself we were trying to avoid, never happened.

The economic sugar high is now wearing thin; our Australian dollar is staying high due to our relatively 'high' interest rate (compared to other nations) of 3%, and this is forcing businesses such as Holden to lay off swathes of workers as they find it difficult to compete in the global market with our inflated dollar.

Holden as one example has received a total of $2 billion in grants and subsidies from the government, yet still fail to compete against smaller and more efficient imported vehicles.

This has had the knock-on effect of the government bleeding tax revenue, as business is not as profitable as expected - for too long now Labor have tried to gloss this over, by continually stating the aforementioned line of the fundamentals being strong.

Oh, but all of a sudden, we now face 'unusual' economic times. Unusual? How bizarre.

The economy now teeters on the premise that the mining sector will remain strong - any contraction in the Asian market, namely China, will result in even further revenue write-downs.

A conundrum, especially given the fact that the mining tax, which is really just a watered down, lip service tax in comparison to its original Rudd government incarnation, has fallen grossly short of projects.

The upcoming Budget in May will most likely be a 'caretaker' government-type of Budget, as Labor already knows they have little chance of being elected come September; there will be little chance to extract any political capital from it now, given that it will have to be a particularly tough Budget.

Of course, we can look forward to the kitchen sink being tossed out once the Liberals hand down their first Budget of the decade next year.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Gullibility of The Middle Classes

The middle classes.

Call them lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, they're all mostly the same thing.

There may be little variation such as wage and education level, personal tastes, or location, but they overwhelmingly all follow the same set formulae.

Without them, our current economic model couldn't function. They're needed to pay taxes, to service the mortgage industry, to be exploited by the upper classes for their labour, and help feed the masses of the hungry underclasses below them - lest they take to their castles with pitchforks and torches.

Many western nations like to think of themselves as 'classless' - however, since they were mostly populated by the highly classist Britain, classism is ingrained into their DNA, and it will never be lifted.

At this point, I must be sounding like a raving Marxist, which is to the contrary; India for instance has the caste system, and even the Reds had a system of the very poor and the very rich, which went against the very idea of communism, hence its failure.

I merely have outside view looking in.

The main premise of the middle classes is that one can always 'get ahead', and every action in life is therefore aimed at this 'getting ahead'.

It could be called ambition, and actions such as higher education are supposed to set the ball rolling of the so-called 'aspirational' middle class and further their 'getting ahead'.

Getting ahead however doesn't always work, it has its pitfalls, and is by-and-large a grand marketing scheme devised by the upper creams of society.

For instance, you might think you can 'get ahead' by buying your own home with a spouse; a place to raise the children, and a sense of financial security once it is all paid off in 10 or 20 years.

Of course, you throw yourself to the mercy of the market - the house might lose value, interest rates might go up and down, but by and large this isn't so much of a problem.

But, say for instance, you want a 'better' house? So begins a merry-go-round of buying and selling, buying and selling, in the hope of 'getting ahead' in the market and having one up on the Jones'.

This is more prevalent than you might think, and it is something that is done in the 'mortgage belts' of Australia, such as the western suburbs of majour cities, and country and regional towns.

Also, you might end up getting a divorce, with the wife keeping the house, or having it sold off, and watching your labour-dollars go up in smoke.

It's what drives the market for many things - that 'getting ahead'.

When of course, all one needs is a secure roof, a place to prepare meals, and perhaps a garage; but this is never sufficient for the middle classes, who perhaps need four car spaces and a kitchen the size of a warehouse.

The 'McMansion' is the ultimate aim.

And for most of the time, it's temporary anyway, as they effectively 'rent' this dream from the bank in the form of a mortgage with tacked-on interest.

But that's enough of housing.

Indoctrination begins early in the middle classes.

The children are dropped off to childcare while mummy and daddy both work in an upstanding, righteous fashion to service the aforementioned mortgage.

And if the kiddies grow up big and strong, they too can become soulless wage slaves themselves.

This formulae is now what everyone is programmed for; to work, consume and die.

But perhaps that's an oversimplification, and one tainted with cynicism.

If the middle classes weren't so sickeningly docile, passive, and downright gullible, the whole premise of western politics and economics would collapse with dire consequences.

Politicians wouldn't be able to lie to them anymore.

This is the reason that the vast majourity of politicking is aimed directly at the middle class.

In Australia it comes in the form of the Baby Bonus, the First Home Owners Grant, and the Schoolkids Bonus.

Obviously, the government wants you to do two things - breed and pay a mortgage - and people buy the message in droves, when really they are pawns of cattle being shuffled around the socioeconomic system.

White picket fences and manicured lawns are all one is put on this earth to strive for, and heaven help you if dare question it otherwise.

Marriage is another pinnacle of the middle classes.

Once their child spawn have left childcare, drifted through more indoctrination at school, and perhaps completed their fuck-fest at university while perhaps dodging an STD scare or three, it's time to 'settle down'; get married, have a couple of kids, and wait for their inevitable deaths while starring blankly at the TV screen that shovels more propaganda down their throats.

Like force-fed geese being fattened up for foie gras, they're lulled into rhythmic routine and led to slaughter.

Given the frightening obesity rates in the west that continue to climb, it's not too far from the truth.

What's the alternative?

Well it sure does beat living in Africa, or somewhere else in the third world, whom may have little more than a tent to live in, let alone the warehouse-sized kitchen and four car spaces; a dog in a western country probably receives better nutrition and healthcare.

Our system however is built on the premise of economic growth, and can only survive if there is continual growth.

If growth falls or slows, jobs are lost, prices rise, and suddenly the creature comforts evaporate along with the jobs that provided them in the first place.

So it's not sustainable in any sense - just the toll on the planet of the natural resources required to meet Joe and Joanne citizen squeezing out more and more babies to collect the Baby Bonus is sign enough that this is not a system geared towards the longterm.

What's more, the middle classes don't know who their real enemy is.

They're told it's Joe Six Pack dole bludger, or a wayward asylum seeker who is eating their precious tax dollars; which is partially the case, but in that instance they fail to notice that they themselves may one day be unemployed or incapacitated, and in which instance, living in a welfare state would be fortuitous.

They fail to realise it's the people at the very very top who they indirectly work for, such as bank CEOs that earn their equivalent yearly income in a day or so, that they are completely oblivious to.

But not to worry - work even harder, and you too might one day be just like them.

The narrative is that it's the people 'below' them that are the enemy, and are required to be chastised, put down, and shunned, rather than the people that truly do own them for life and hold the proverbial dagger over their heads while promising economic paradise.

How many times have you heard a middle class person claim that they are independent and self-sustaining?

Nothing could be further from the truth - they are intertwined within a system.

They're dependent on their employers to give them the job they work; they're dependent on the bank to loan them money for their house; they're dependent on poorly paid Chinese labourers for their toys and gadgets; they're dependent on farmers to grow their food for them.

So no, they are not independent - they are simply being rewarded for unwavering obedience, and they could fall down with the rest of the swine at any point in life.

It is the good life after all though, right?

Ignorance is bliss.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ignorance Still Takes To The Streets

One of the perks of living in a western democratic society is that (mostly) all ideas are allowed airtime and are open for debate.

This Saturday just passed I was hitting the pavement in search of a SIM card for my mobile broadband modem.

I rarely use it except for when needed, so it had since expired.

I didn't find the SIM; Vodafone just keep finding new ways to frustrate their customers.

What I did find though was a street preacher.

Living in a NSW regional town, they aren't so difficult to come by, and most of us try to avoid them; just like we try to avoid pay TV salesmen, or guilt-tripping charity workers looking for donations.

I had already sized up the situation and planned my route to pass this fellow with minimal fuss.

Somehow though, he ended up shoving a pamphlet in my face.

I begrudgingly had a look at what it was - it was a pamphlet decrying evolution science as a scam to brainwash the minds of our impresionable youth and dooming us all to eternal hellfire and such.

This stopped me in my tracks, and I began to challenge the young man in debate.

I'm 28; he would have been no older than myself, and new to the 'job' of preaching the word of the local Baptist church.

The novelty of having a wannabe-preacher state that he believes the earth is 6,000 years old was too much for me to resist, especially given that I'm bit of a geek when it comes to science-y stuff.

Not only could I resist debating his standpoint, I was flabbergasted that a seemingly clean-cut person could possibly believe something in the face of overwhelming evidence for evolution and the true age of earth, which is the order of 4.5 billion years old.

Of course, we all know this type of debate has been done to death, especially in the United States, where radical literal interpretation of the Bible is at times a persuading debate against logic and reason.

I should probably state at this point that I'm not a hardcore Atheist. I have had periods of adhering to Atheism, but it instead morphed into being an agnostic.

After taking up macro and nature photography last year to help with depression, I did gain a new appreciation for what we are all surrounded by; even the night sky presents an overwhelming venue to contemplate one's own mortality and place in this little backwater patch of humanity.

And for me at least, appreciation for life comes from simply observing it, and finding 'salvation' could never arise for myself from the pages of a holy book, but instead from the sheer immensity and mystery of life.

Whether that involves a 'creator' is somewhat irrelevant - there may or may not be a 'God', and there may or may not be 'life after death' - but it is none of our concern, and it is definitely nothing to threaten people with hell over.

Back to our street preacher.

After we had discussed evolution, even so far as to try and explain something as complex as the Big Bang and the formation of the moon (since apparently gravity wasn't 'real'), Barack Obama somehow came up.

At this point, I knew that this conversation was a loss-loss situation, because apparently under 'Obamacare', everyone needs to have a microchip implanted in their hand to have access to it.

Obviously, this 'chip' would be the 'Mark of The Beast' - this would have made a very compelling argument for our preacher friend, despite the fact that the 'Obamacare chip' is a hoax.

I didn't even make a rebuttal, as it would have been pointless to tell someone who believes the planet is 6,000 years old that he believes yet another hoax and lie, and is perhaps being misled by his religious father.

He even went on to say how pious it was for Obama to call it 'Obamacare' - I had to explain to him that in fact no, it was the conservative political apparatus in the United States that uses the term to deride universal health care.

I also informed him that 'Obamacare' is only to bring America up to a healthcare standard on par with the rest of the world, including Australia where we already enjoy universal healthcare - and healthcare that he has probably received himself.

I ended that part of the conversation by saying that if Jesus came down from heaven tomorrow, he'd order that we heal the sick and the poor, and with 40 million Americans on foodstamps, that it was desperately needed.

He had no response, instead saying that I was "chasing a rabbit down a hole," - well, it was a very shallow hole and a very fat rabbit - easy pickins.

I'm not even sure as to why I tried to 'reverse-preach' logic and reason into this guy.

I don't think he was expecting an hour-long debate of his heavily misguided views, and I definitely wasn't expecting to come across such a public display of sheer ignorance on a sunny Saturday.

So, if you yourself comes across one of these so-called 'preachers', arm yourself with the facts and engage them in debate - challenge them, but be polite and always hold up a level of decorum.

As Yevgeny Yevtushenko said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Anything You Can Broadband I Can Broadband Better

After a lengthy wait, the Coalition's broadband policy for Australia was finally released with great fanfare.

Besides the novelty of former leadership rival Malcolm Turnbull appearing side-by-side to Tony Abbott (whom is destined to be Prime Minister come September), there was some substantial detail.

It even drew the blustery ire from Minister for Communications,  Stephen Conroy, who had the odd line at yesterday's press conference to the effect of: 'Malcolm Turnbull is the king of telling lies using facts'.

Make of that what you will.

Labor's recent work on a National Broadband Network, or NBN, has operated on the premise that fibre would be connected to every single home in Australia. Because of this premise, it has largely ran over-budget, suffered poor management, various bungles, and is projected to take much longer to implement.

However, having said that, it does have the lofty goal of promising at least 100Mbps at reasonable prices.

Yours truly is currently sucking down the Internet at 3Mbps, as are many rural and regional Australians, and the prospect of waiting until after 2020 to access a service such as the NBN is daunting.

Labor are to be commended though for setting such a lofty goal; in terms of comparison to countries like the UK, Italy, South Korea, and even a few former Soviet republics, Australia's current standard of Internet service delivery has already fallen far well behind other modern (and not so modern) parts of the world.

So, Labor's NB is fibre to the home, or FTTH for short, that much we know, so what is the Coalition's plan?

Well, a lot has changed since the last Federal Election. Back then, Tony Abbott and the Coalition were singing the praises of wireless technology, and throwing their support behind such things as 'WiMAX' as I believe it were called.

The problem with wireless technology is that it's usually prone to congestion when the network becomes saturated with users slowing it down, and lag and delays, which doesn't help with applications such as video conferencing.

Because of those obvious flaws, no one really took the Coalition's broadband policy seriously.

Now they have reached a middle ground - fibre to the node, or FTTN for short.

Aren't you just loving these acronyms?

FTTN is a model where fibre networking is still employed, but instead of wiring it to every individual home, it is instead wired to what is a called a 'node' - this would work by connecting, say, a few streets together, by using the already existing copper wire running to the user's home to the node.

Minimum promised speed is 25Mbps up to 50Mbps, and there is the option (for a large fee) of connecting fibre to the premise if a user does indeed want the full 100Mbps.

It's fabled to come in for a cheaper cost to the tax payer and be faster to implement, by 2016.

On news forums and places like Twitter today, everyone is making a joke out of the proposal - all of a sudden, everyone that uses a computer and a web browser is suddenly a rolled gold expert on building a colossal broadband network.

And once again, it's a tit-for-tat argument where every Comic Book Guy-type nerd is espousing Labor's NBN as the only way to go, slamming their fists down on the desk, spilling their chips, and demanding fibre to their home.

Well guys, just chill for now.

Let's look at this logically - firstly, Labor will most likely not be in power federally after the September 14 election - period.

Secondly, where was all this blather and bluster over the past three or so years when the Coalition had no comparable broadband policy, and for all intents an purposes had their heads buried in the cable trenches?

The project was going to be stopped altogether, and flakey wireless broadband was instead going to be the policy.

All in all, I think it is a good compromise. The Liberals have realised that they cannot simply stop the NBN rollout, and they will in a way inherit much of the work that Labor has already gotten underway.

For a country the size of Australia, ripping up the existing copper network and replacing it entirely to every house with fibre is somewhat technically daunting.

The copper network also has its detractors, labelling it as out-of-date, tired, crumbling, and just taking up space underground. Copper has a lot of years yet left in it - and it makes no sense to destroy perfectly serviceable infrastructure that still functions as intended.

All current internet and voice traffics travels over it - it obviously works, so having a mix of fibre and copper for the time being is perfectly acceptable, and in time, it will be replaced by fibre entirely anyway.

I'm no expert - you're no expert - we're going to get a Coalition government come September whether we like it or not, and everyone for now needs to get used to the idea in the real world their needs to be compromise.

When all is said and done, there are actually far more pressing issues with this nation other than broadband.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Aussies & Free Thought

The more I've thought about it, the more I have come to realise how sheep-like most Australians are.

Tucked away down here in the Pacific, Australia has often had an identity crisis - it stems from being a fundamentally immigration-based population, despite the chagrin and denial from our deeply embedded racist elements.

It's a land of contradiction.

An 'aspirational' Australian is an Australian whom plans to follow in his or her parents' footsteps by following the 'Great Australian Dream' and looking up to the grand idea of owning their own home.

This is despite the fact that today a 'home' is more of a personalised miniature bank that one temporarily lives in; you effectively live in your own little bank, and you glue yourself to the television every time the Reserve Bank of Australia announces interest rate cuts or rises, as announced by hyperventilating economists in bad glasses.

Having to pay a mortgage, contradictorily, is also part of the Great Australian Gripe.

Many times on the news where there has been layoffs at a factory, a journalist will go mercilessly hunting for the following soundbite:

"I have to pay me mortgage! What now?!"

Shock horror ensues, as it echoes with the other vigilant and aspirational Australians who also have to pay their mortgage, striking fear into their very hearts of not being able to fund the interest to live in the bank's house.

Owning your own home for one thing is mostly a post-World War II idea. For instance, my grandparents lived in state housing on a very large block with big front & back yards for decades; paying a mortgage was never a concern, and they focused more on making it a home.

I'm not going to debate whether owning a home vs. renting is better, I'm merely using it as an example that there are other ways to skin a cat, namely of having a secure roof over your head, although the argument can also be made that the former can be a good idea.

With house prices now however, it makes even less sense than it did during the Baby Boomer era.

But today, there is no choice. In modern Australia, there is either only choice A) or choice B), with the 'B' option always being the wrong one, and one to denounce, ridicule, and make fun of.

We get all hot and bothered on repetitive social issues, such as gay marriage, and using it as an example, no one ever proposes (if you'll excuse the pun) that one might not want to be married in the first place.

Oh, the horror!

The middle class Baby Boomer's homosexual offspring merely want to follow in their parents' footsteps with a big expensive wedding, and a big expensive divorce at the end of it - and I have no issue with that.

As a matter of fact, nothing is stopping gay couples from having a wedding party; it's just that the state doesn't recognise their union.

Hopefully when they can be legally married, they will be able to equally divide up the sale of their house with minimal legal expenses.

But I digress.

As with many western nations, Australians are also big fans of conspicuous consumption, which is embodied in home ownership, adhering to the maxim of 'bigger is better'.

We in this country are wary of admitting that we have a socioeconomic class system, but we do; it is only that it is displayed and reinforced by our level of conspicuous consumption, meaning that the more 'stuff' you have than the other bloke, the better off you must therefore be.

This is why the term 'cashed up bogan' is so often used.

They may indeed have their palms greased with cash, but they spend most of it as disposable income in the vain hope of climbing the invisible class ladder - Bazza might go for a new ute, and Shazza might spring for a new Commo, despite the fact that both vehicles rapidly depreciate in value while they pay the interest over several years.

A debt cycle is established, as you need to pay for your shiny new toys that will do nothing but lose value - not a very efficient way of climbing the ladder, but your mates will think it's cool.

Celebrity culture also has a part to play, namely the fact that Australia imports most of its celebrity rubbish from the United States, so naturally we try to emulate the 'American Dream' as well.

See what I mean about our identity crisis? What's the 'Australian Dream' again... owning a home?

How insipid, so let's add in some good old fashioned promiscuity in there as well, some botox injections, competitive weight loss, 'get rich quick' talent shows, Zumba classes, and bada bing, bada boom, modern Australian culture is born!

It has also infected our political processes somewhat.

Having a baby? No worries, here's a few thousand dollars, go buy yourself a big screen telly.

Have some kids in school? Not a problem, here's a few thousand dollars, go buy yourself a beer.

Need some childcare? Not a problem, we'll help pay for that, too, so you can *drum roll*

... pay your mortgage!

Heaven forbid we would allow the cashed up bogan to sacrifice anything out of their income to pay for their own offspring; that wouldn't make the government look like a good guy, would it?

Oh, and I've known a family that did actually use the baby bonus to pay for a new big screen TV - it does happen, and I would dare say it's rather prolific.

All the more to encourage a consumer-based society, I would say.

Freethinking is perhaps difficult when the government has already made the choice for you.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Aussies & Drugs

"Drugs, drugs, drugs. Line up and get your drugs, kiddies!"

It's an issue that's been beaten to death, but an issue that will be with us for as long as 'illicit' drugs themselves will be with us.

Just like every other issue that gets debated in a democratic country, there's the for and the against, all with good arguments, but as with all debates, there's no clear winner with a clear answer.

Let's look at our most prolific and most destructive drug: alcohol.

Yes. Booze!

Alcohol costs the Australian economy in health costs and damage to the community in the realm of tens of billions of dollars - it's cheap, it's legal, and it's tightly integrated into the Australian culture.

Young, old, rich, poor, we all love a tipple. So despite the calls for tighter regulation and higher taxation to lessen the impact of our most beloved booze, the industry is seemingly too powerful to challenge.

It sends politicians of all strains running.

Now, what about something 'illegal' - like marijuana.

I confess, I last tried marijuana at a party way back in 2004, and a couple of times before that over the course of a year - I can see its appeal, but I've also witnessed how it can become addictive, and with myself personally, it made me feel 'dumbed down' and sluggish for days after, despite what its adherents claim.

But yes, unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale.

I just plumb didn't 'dig it', and I refused all offers from friends of a toke thereafter.

That's not to say I don't 'like' the people that consume it - I'm yet to meet one violent high person (unless they're drunk as well), and one could argue that it is vastly less destructive than our good friend alcohol.

However, there is a stigma that certain sections of society that smoke it.

A poor person smoking marijuana is 'bad'.

"AGAINST THE WALL! Test his piss! My tax dollars aren't paying for THAT!"

A suave, young, creative university hipster student however smoking marijuana is 'good'.

"He's only young, and so what if my tax dollars support his university placement, he's talented and needs it to develop his art; they're our future leaders!"

So if you're not 'cool' enough to smoke marijuana, perhaps you shouldn't; however if you're in your mid 40s for instance, unemployed, and smoke dope all day, maybe we should test your piss.

Hmm, maybe I just perpetuated a stereotype.

And then of course there's stuff like heroin, because marijuana is for pussies, anyway right?

Warring Mexican drug cartels, which are costing their own country dearly, flood city streets with the likes of meth, heroin and cocaine, and the kiddies think it's cool.

That's an area of the drug spectrum I know little of, so perhaps I should take to the streets and ask the cool kiddies in flat-brimmed cap hats what the latest, hip, cool, funky drug is.

Maybe it's cat pee, ala South Park's 'cheezing'.

Who knows.

What I do know, is that if something is illegal, it becomes dark and mysterious, and something that certain sectors of society will want to try; in the case of drugs, a massive black market opens up.

Imagine for a moment if marijuana was decriminalised.

Imagine further if the government could collect taxes from its sale - it already collects taxes from the sale of tobacco and alcohol - so no one in positions of power can claim moral superiority when they already skim the fat off the human misery those two drugs cause.

It would take away some of the profit and power of our dinkey-die dope growers, and perhaps turn them into legitimate businessmen, if it could be properly regulated.

Of course, the moral panic in this country over things such as marijuana and gay marriage always prevails over plain common sense, so unfortunately, no progress will be made in the near term.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Education Revolution - An Evolving Farce

It was billed as the biggest shake-up to Australia's education system.

The 'Education Revolution' - as Labor and the Gillard government had billed it.

It began with the early Rudd times. A laptop for every school child, as it was the 'toolbox of the future' - despite the fact that we still need industries that use real toolboxes.

If you just ignore the fact that Australia's manufacturing sector is being systematically deconstructed and shipped overseas, that is.

Heck, even the call centres are increasingly outsourced.

The laptop per child scheme proved to be somewhat useful, if not dreadfully wasteful, and the computers were criticised for being under-powered and not pre-installed with all the software a student would use.

Then the Global Financial Crisis hit, and the infamous 'School Halls' program was instigated as a means of sugar-boosting the economy.

These aren't necessarily bad ideas - they were just perhaps good ideas that were poorly executed at the cost of the public purse.

The 'Schoolkids Bonus' is the latest example of trite measures to bolster educational standards... at least, I think that's what it's for?

Who knows.

In terms of higher tertiary education, it exists in Australia as mostly a privatised business, a juggernaut of dreams, promises, and flashy marketing material aimed at the naive young person.

It's hard to ignore the fact that the overwhelming majourity of Australia's university graduates originate from higher socioeconomic backgrounds; it's almost expected that a child from a lower socioeconomic background will have the future of a service station attendant for the rest of their lives.

Either that, or an alcoholic.

There is some sugarcoating and inspirational language of 'no child left behind', but the fact of the matter is that the rigid class structure of Australian society is still alive and kicking strong.

It's even being taught in the universities as fact.

A young paramedics student recently informed me that in a psychology class they were all asked to raise their hands if they identified themselves in either the upper class, the middle class, or the working class.

An episode of 'Housos' was played in the tutorial, and was used as serious example as to how all lower class people look, act, and behave.

The differences between the upper and lower classes were emphatically highlighted, and how everyone should avoid being working class or (heaven forbid) lower class at all costs.

At first I thought it would have been to show students the type of people they might come across in their career as a paramedic - but no, the emphasis was that the lecturer herself was upper class, and everyone should aspire to be the same.

I too recall a 'politics 101' subject during my journalism degree that preached to a similar song book, namely that lower class students should not go to private schools; they would not be abreast with the finer points of the upper class, and therefor would not fit in.

Universities themselves are by and large degree factories that skim the fat from government for 'education'.

Want a degree? Not a problem! Sign your life away, inherit an education debt, and hope for the best.

There is no guarantee that a suitable job for your degree will be waiting for at the end of it all, but that doesn't matter - all you need to care about is if you have enough alcohol since you're living away from mummy and daddy.

Then there are the professional students.

They wised up long ago that they will most likely be unemployable at the end of their degree, and so are moving on to a second, or perhaps even a third, racking up an education debt that they will likely never pay off.

The Baby Boomer generation enjoyed free university education - nowadays it is somewhat a mark of honour to be laden with owing the government tens of thousands of dollars for learning three years' worth of junk.

This younger generation, my own and the one coming up behind me, are very apt at rolling over and playing dead to please the Baby Boomers and pledging to follow their rules of work and education.

By doing so, they are not fighting for the entitlements that their parents had, such as free tertiary education, or lower property prices.

Many young people are so ignorant that they just believe that expensive higher education is how it's been since the dawn of the dinosaurs, as is high petrol prices, high rental prices, high property prices, and all the rest of it.

But hark, you're getting a degree - you surely will be able to secure a full time career able to pay for all the middle class goodies your mummy and daddy have, won't you?

Perhaps, maybe, if you're lucky.

After all, Australian universities are churning out an awful lot of graduates, both the good and the bad, and you'll be competing with them all out there in magical employment land.

Chances are that you'll at least briefly end up on the unemployment cues, and the horrid 'job support' services network that it entails - either that, or you can get mummy and daddy to pay your trip around Southeast Asia to help you 'find yourself' before you enter that fabled career you lie about wanting.

The system might be geared towards you getting an education, but after that, it's the devil's playground of chance of it actually meaning anything in the Real World that you heard about long ago.

It's a race to the bottom to become a wage slave, degree or no degree.

There are some that say a degree and university isn't simply about the piece of paper, that it's the experience, and that it makes society a better place if we have more educated people living in it.

If you've seen Australian television lately, for one thing, you would know otherwise; there really is no 'big thinking' going on among our youth.

Their vision is as short as conspicuous consumption and following in their Baby Boomer parents' fabled footsteps.

The revolution perhaps isn't being televised.