Sunday, 19 September 2010

Post-election Gillard Analysis

From ABC's The Drum comes an insightful piece by Glen Milne, exposing the wonders of political spin from a newly-elected government trying to renege on election promises.

"She would not like the comparison, and Tony Abbott can't make it, for reasons that will become apparent, but all of a sudden Julia Gillard is looking a lot like John Howard." Glen Milne, Gillard looking a lot like Howard.

This is clever and biting assessment of Gillard's spin. Before the election a carbon price was out of the question. And after the election? See how Milne scrutinses Gillard's remarks.

"It's absolutely no secret, after particularly the election campaign that was, that the Government believes we need to work towards a price on carbon. The Government has consistently said that we want to work towards a price on carbon."

Oh really?

Note the lawyers' parsing: "...after, particularly, the election campaign that was". Hang on; it's only been less than a month since voting day. But clearly already, Gillard has already segmented time - and promises -according to the election and post election periods. Post election, apparently, the old order no longer applies.

I won't steal any more thunder from him. Go and read it for yourself.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Of flags and books

Pastor Terry Jones wanted to burn copies of the Koran. Most of us know about this story. A google news search will give you all the relevant details, along with plenty of bluster.

Before I go any further, I should say that I think the proposed action goes against Christ's command to love. I don't want to go into a laboured explanation of this point, but it's enough to say that Christ commanded his followers to love, and burning a book which is valued by someone else doesn't seem to fit that bill. One could argue more abstractly that by burning a detrimental book[1], one loves the other by saving them from it. At the same time, there is an argument to say that concentrating on texts one opposes is a distraction from loving the people associated with that text. I'll let you think about it in your own time.

I think what's more interesting to me is the reaction from the "land of liberty" itself. America is founded on principles of liberty, with a bill of rights geared to give people a rights-based mentality. There have been plenty of public debates there about the legitimacy of flag-burning as a means of protest. Usually these debates will invoke the famous remark (allegedly) from Voltaire, which appears in a number of forms, but they all look a bit like this:
I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to your death the right to say it.
It's usually taken to mean that the liberty of speech is more valuable than the content of speech. Many people are swayed by this approach and, although they love their flag, will let others burn it in protest.

So how about the Koran? Or the Bible? Or the Baghavad Gita? Or any other religious texts? Semiotically, they're both symbols that convey meaning. The text conveys its meaning more clearly than a flag, though, but is that enough difference to adjudicate that burning a flag is acceptable, and burning a book is not? What this reveals is that privileging the liberty of speech over the content of speech requires that everyone agree to that preference. When the content of speech has primacy over the liberty, an act like book burning will almost certainly enrage someone.

The question for civil society to think about is whether liberty of speech or content of speech is more important, and whether the necessary social conditions are present to even give people that choice.

From a theological point of view, it must be questioned whether burning a Koran is within the command to love, and whether burning a Koran is using a liberty for self-indulgence (Gal 5:13).


1. At least a book that is considered detrimental by one person and not another. For example, some Christians believe that Dungeons and Dragons is a harmful game and would encourage burning the rule books.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

It's just like football

The election result, that is. 90 minutes of to-and-fro, and then the final whistle. Now we're in the penalty shoot-out where it's down to five to make the decision. The best of five.

Yes, it's a sport metaphor on this blog. Normally I don't enjoy sport, but I make an exception for football.

So what's the problem? Nothing. A hung parliament is the right recipe to get some fire back into politics. Politicians will have to argue a case and reach compromise, and to argue a case means that you need to have a case to argue. So go back to your philosophy and figure out what you stand for, rather than who you stand against, and go for it. Just stop being lukewarm, because the electorate has spewed you out of our collective mouth.

(And that makes for two irregular occurrences on this blog: sport, and a quote from the Apocalypse. I'll try not to let it happen again.)