Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Even Families can have Penises

There's not much to say about this that isn't just plain obvious. Still...

Family First has disendorsed a candidate after photos of him posing nude were found on the internet. From some accounts it also seems that the website on which they were found was a gay website.

The first surprise should be that Family First doesn't screen for this when considering candidates. But perhaps he is someone who has gone from one way of life to another way of life, a convert perhaps. The current US President insists that he has gone from a wild life to a responsible and "saved" life, so why can't Mr Quah?

But is this really a surprise? Consider the case of Reverend Gary M Aldridge. Here was a pastor who really liked to experiment sexually. Did someone know about it? Probably. After all, he was found all tied up so someone else had to do the tying.

But back to the election. If Quah's photos were more recent and were still part of his life, what this demonstrates is Family First's approach to Family. It doesn't include pornography and it doesn't include gay.

Pornography is something that has a number of research efforts on both sides. I've heard everything from "it forms a vital part of our healthy relationship" through to "it ruined our marriage" and subsequently think it should be rated like other kinds of media. There are some people who shouldn't see it, just as there are some people who shouldn't consume alcohol, and some who shouldn't own firearms. For anyone who says that legislation isn't a moral issue, think through those ones for me and try your argument again.

Gay as a family option? Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is possible. Other anecedotal evidence suggests the contrary. I don't, however, think that we should exclude gay people from being able to formalise their relationships as part of civil society. We currently have de facto relationships for heterosexual couples to do this outside the definition of marriage, so I don't see a reason that this can't extend to homosexual couples.

Thanks, Mr Quah, for giving some space to this issue. I wish you all the best for your future, whatever that might be.

Monday, 29 October 2007

The Environmental Election

The ALP is campaigning pretty hard on environmental issues at the moment, and will probably continue to do so throughout the campaign. This is not surprising because the Coalition government has publicly rejected what was widely regarded as the most significant treaty in international environmental management: the Kyoto Protocol. Everyone knows that the Protocol exists, but few people are aware of the content.

Of course, the government's reasons are that the protocol doesn't include controls for developing nations such as China and India. As someone who's been to the industrial cities of China I can tell you that if there was a nation that required some regulation, it is China. So I agree with the Coalition hesitancy in that regard. The other major reason for not signing is that it will cost Australian jobs if we are to comply with the protocol. This is something I don't agree with.

The Coalition campaigns on its perceived strengths of economic management so the ALP will campaign on the Coalition's perceived weaknesses of environmental management. It's all about perception. In comparison to the Coalition, the ALP looks like caring and green citizens - even though they aren't nearly as green as the Greens.

(Note also that the ALP is pushing the undercurrent that the Coalition is only riding on low unemployment and a booming economy because of the booming global economy - but they won't push it too hard until they need it as a safety net for when the global economy slows.)

After all is said and done, the ALP is currently ahead on the environmental issues in the minds of the voters, but whether that will turn into governmental action remains to be seen. Unlike the previous election that was won on the fear of rising interest rates, this one will be won by the voters perceiving a strength in one side when there is really only a greater weakness in the other side.

Hooray for relativity in perception.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Business Troops

Again from the world of DeviantArt comes this marvel.

Business Troops by ~artistic-engine on deviantART

The feeling conveyed by this picture is amazing. See how they fight on, even when wounded. See how they fight for a cause they do not understand. See how they must help each other and the commanders are nowhere to be seen. Corporate life takes its toll in service to the capitalist machine.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Vote for Minor Parties

At last the election has been announced for November 24. I've already mentioned the issues that I will be considering for my vote, but I don't live in a marginal seat so I wonder how much effect it will have. At every election there are always surprises for seats that win and lose, but I can only hope that my seat is one that becomes marginal. In fact, it would be brilliant if every seat was a marginal seat, too close to call.

And it would be brilliant if the Senate was controlled by about a dozen minor parties. I don't mind the government holding seats there as well, as long as it's not a majority. Sure it will slow down the process of getting things done, but each and every piece of legislation will be reviewed by the minority groups that have representation. The best option would be a strange collection of minor parties from the Freemarijuana brothers, to Family First, to the Socialist Alternative.

Yes, I would like to see Family First get at least one seat in the upper house. Why? Well, I don't agree with a lot of their policies, but I think they bring representation to the process. I'm just as happy for the Fishing Party to get at least one seat as well. No, I don't particularly care for fishing either, but there are a lot of fishing people in Australia and they deserve political representation. To be consistent, even Pauline Hanson (or her cohorts) should get in. No, I don't like her views on almost everything, but she brings something necessary to the Senate - diversity.

Vote however you like in the lower house, but for the sake of diversity and review of potentially tyrannical legislation, give your upper house votes to minor parties and put the major parties at the bottom of the list.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

We Will Kill Them All

I watched The Kingdom the other night. It was a harrowing experience, not principally because of the violence, but because of the last two lines of the movie. Like the punchline of a good joke, those lines hit me hard between the eyes and the message got through loud and clear.

I know it's something of a cliche to talk about the cycle of violence, so forgive me if I stray down that path.

A few years ago I wrote a piece called Turn The Other Cheek, George in which I put forward that the better response to the World Trade Centre attacks from a Christian ruler would have been one of non-violence. At the time there was a great call for vengeance from the Americans and it saddened me. All that money spent on equipment to flatten Afghanistan and then Iraq, just to flush out two enemies of the state. Looking back on it now, it seems as though Bush made an angry decision and has been unable to back down from it ever since. Is he embarrassed?

Whatever the reasons, we are now left in a situation in which two countries are destroyed and the destroyers are now trying to convince people that they are rebuilders. Will the destruction convince any of the enemies to lay down their arms? Probably not. When vengeance is high in the cultural awareness of those with the triggers, the weapons will be taken up again and used to inflict more violence.

The answer is not vengeance. The answer is peace and peace-making. We can spend our time and money on making war, or we can spend it on making peace. I, for one, would rather see peace.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Division of Labour

I've decided to split out my gaming interests to a new blog, Tabletop Manifesto. TM will deal with various kinds of games, but mostly the indie games. It's an interesting phenomenon in gaming, bringing the means of production back to the hands of the worker. People are able to create something and manage the production of it for themselves.

This revolution won't be televised. It will be played out in the homes and among friends. It's hard to wish for anything better.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Conscientious Objection

If I were to bring a hungry, sick and dirty child into your house and into your care, what would you do? The most likely answer is some combination of "feed them, wash them and take them to the doctor." There is little or no doubt that when the plight of another human being is brought close to us, most of us who have the power to intervene will do so.

So, if we will intervene to help in the life of a person who is in our immediate vicinity, would we help if the person was one step removed? Say, for example, that you knew the person who was responsible for that child being hungry, sick and dirty. Would you support that person?

Now suppose that this harsh person was the owner of a business that sold your favourite brand of chocolate, and the reason that the child was hungry, sick and dirty is that the child had been kidnapped from its family, brought to the plantation which grew the cocoa and forced to work there for no money. Would you buy chocolate from the man who contrived this arrangement? It is, after all, your favourite chocolate.

The moral choices associated with this cannot be ignored. If we knowingly support activities that put people into these kinds of situations we are no better than the one who kidnapped the child in the first place. Being a conscientious objector to these kinds of exploitations is right and good. Our only defenses are ignorance and apathy. We either don't know, or we don't care. Please, for the sake of the oppressed, find out whatever you can about modern slavery and stand against it.

You can read more about fair trade at these sites.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Failure of Existentialism

Existentialism, it has been said, was always going to fail because it requires people to take total responsibility for their actions. This is largely true. Many people are of the opinion that they have an essence that defines them, a non-physical substance that is them. It is the way that they have always been. It is who they are now. It is who they will be tomorrow.

You'll be able to figure out these people when they use expressions like, "But I'm not like that." or "I've always been this way, and I'm never going to change." or "I've learnt so much about myself." It's almost as though they have separated themselves into two parts. One part is the "I" that is making the comment. The other part is the "me" that is waiting to be discovered. But let me ask you, which is the "I" that has free will and makes choices? Is it the "I" or the "me"? Does the "I" take orders from the "me"? Where is the autonomy of that person?

Other manifestations of this belief are found in the idea that every life was created to complete some task; a telos. If this is the case, how do we determine what that task is? Typically the answer to this is something banal like "follow your heart." Unfortunately, there are a great many people who cause harm to others by following their hearts. Robert Mugabe sincerely believes that he is helping the Zimbabwean people. George W. Bush sincerely believes that he is helping the cause of freedom (whatever that means). Following your heart to find your cosmically appointed task is an act of self-indulgence, coloured with claims of divine right.

The alternative to this is the primacy of choice. That is to say, each person has the capacity for free thought, for spontaneous thought. Human consciousness is capable of creating ideas from nothing; ex nihilo. We are capable, in each and every situation, of choosing to do something that we have never done before, or something that is vastly unlike anything we have done before. A pacifist can choose to shoot another person in the head. A heterosexual man can choose to engage in homosexual activity. A man who gets into drunken fights can choose to lower his fists. Each and every example like this is possible through the primacy of choice.

And beyond that, the consequence of such choices perform two functions. They define the person who performs the act (not the other way around), and they become an irrevocable part of that person's history. The agent of a free will action cannot hide from that action. To do so is to deny that they have free will, the power of choice. Of course existentialism fell out of favour. It leaves us with no one else to blame for our mistakes. The only room it gives for us is the infinite potential of our next free will choice.