Home > Regular Features > Weekend reflections

Weekend reflections

August 19th, 2005

It’s time, as usual for Weekend Reflections. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:
  1. August 19th, 2005 at 18:02 | #1

    The lack of debate in the “war on terror” continues to frustrate and yet more information is appearing.
    I’ve just listened to the most amazing interview with British writer, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, about his latest book on the connections between Islamic fundamentalism and US intelligence services.

    Read on: http://antonyloewenstein.blogspot.com/2005/08/connections.html

    Simply put, we are being conned…

  2. joe2
    August 19th, 2005 at 19:33 | #2

    Hypocrisy from our great leader yet again.

    Happy to talk to moderate muslims.
    Down to the church with immoderate christians.
    Personally, I find all fundamentalist religious views scary.

  3. Terje
    August 19th, 2005 at 22:36 | #3

    Are we talking about violent Christians? I am sure that John Howard would not offer much time for Gerry Adams.

  4. August 20th, 2005 at 00:31 | #4

    We’re having an election in New Zealand in a month. Unfortunately, our National party seems to be hiring some rather unsavoury Australian political consultants to help in their campaign.

    How evil is Mark Textor really?

  5. abb1
    August 20th, 2005 at 05:09 | #5

    Had an aussie burger for the first time at Mr. Pickwick’s here in Geneva. Wow. You folks know how to live. Do you eat it, like, a few times a week? What’s the average life expectancy?

  6. paul
    August 20th, 2005 at 05:11 | #6

    John – I don’t know if you read Kevin Drum, but thought this might amuse you

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_08/006943.php

    Some of the comments aren’t bad either

  7. Paul Norton
    August 20th, 2005 at 09:51 | #7

    The Howard Government’s populist small-mindedness towards the unemployed has reached a new low. Workplace Minister Peter Dutton has announced that certain activities such as dancing courses, acting courses and carving wooden toys for charities will no longer be considered legitimate Work for the Dole/Mutual Obligation activities, and the unemployed will be pushed into training and activity “where there is locally a high demand for jobs with those skills”. The story is at http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,16311605-2,00.html

    The problems with this proposal are:

    1. Just because there is a high demand locally for certain skills doesn’t mean that all the longer-term unemployed in the area will have the aptitude or the mindset required to learn or exercise those skills successfully. Training and other employment support services for individual unemployed need to focus on what the individual is good at or reasonably likely to become good at in order to enhance their employability.

    2. What on earth is wrong with carving wooden toys for charities to give to kids frm poor families?

    3. Dancing and acting may not be the most in-demand skills, but one imagines that there is at least some demand for them (especially considering the large numbers of dancers employed at sporting events, public functions of various kinds, in advertisements and rock videos, etc.).

    4. Attending and completing a dancing or acting course can equip the unemployed with generic skills and capabilities such as improved physical fitness, motor skills, comportment, communication skills ander-personal skills. Also, if a person has successfully completed such a course they will have demonstrated that they have the discipline required to follow direction and complete tasks satisfactorily in a structured environment in cooperation with other people.

    5. Attending and completing such courses can also be expected to improve their mental health and self-esteem – very important for long-term unemployed people!

    6. Surely these kinds of activities are preferable to sitting at home, watching daytime telly and drinking goon.

    So why has the government taken this decision? I’d suggest two reasons:

    a. Instinctive philistine dismissal of the practical usefulness of anything to do with the creative arts, ignoring how important creativity and imagination are in a modern service-based and knowledge-based economy (which is probably why the only good ads on Australian TV are the ones made overseas).

    b. More to the point, a large part of the mentality underpinning “Mutual Obligation” is not that recipients of unemployment benefits should reciprocate by doing something which is actually socially useful and/or likely to improve the unemployed person’s employability. It is sheer ressentiment, and the feeling that welfare recipients must be made to suffer for their sustenance and must not be allowed the briefest moment of pleasure at the taxpayers’ expense. Therefore activities which they might gain some enjoyment or fulfilment from are taboo, no matter how beneficial such activities are to the wider society or the labour market situation of the unemployed themselves.

  8. Albatross
    August 20th, 2005 at 16:04 | #8

    “I am sure that John Howard would not offer much time for Gerry Adams”

    Well given JWH’s antipathy towards adherents of the Church of Rome (which he got from his Mum with whom he lived until he was 34) especially those who do not give a fig for the British and their monarchy that wouldn’t be surprising.

    Mind you he has toned down the anti-Catholicism of late especially as the cabinet and the Liberal party is home to so many latter-day Soupers. It should be noted however, that there was the odd snide remark, some picked up by Hansard even, in the early days of his premiership.

  9. joe2
    August 20th, 2005 at 17:00 | #9

    Terje, good point about Gerry Adams. I was trying to point to the rise of rhapsodic christianity in oz, though.

    Not well briefed on hillsong church etc , but imagine that the preaching is directed at the inevitable cataclysm, where the goodly are taken off to god. Christians only invited to the party. Howard/Costello seem to give a nod and a wink to this lunacy.

    Bush seems to go further with this nonsense. Lectures to Muslims about extremist views would have more strength if you did not give credence to bizarre views at home.

  10. econwit
    August 20th, 2005 at 17:33 | #10

    Australia is not the only country that suffers from ‘Revenue Lobby’ disinformation.

    Members of the ‘Revenue Lobby’ in any country will go to extreme lengths to push their agenda of increasing taxes. This article on flat taxes in the UK Telegraph outlines Treasury doctoring a document to push its revenue raising cause.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/08/19/ntax19.xml

  11. Ian Gould
    August 20th, 2005 at 19:24 | #11

    I note that Howard’s distaste for violent religious figures doesn’t extend to former Mujahadeen leader and Taliban founder Hamid Karzai.

  12. Ian Gould
    August 20th, 2005 at 23:31 | #12

    The ABC is reporting that Labor has lost both Queensland by-elections.

    I haven’t been paying much attention to state politics but this surprises me.

    I don’t say that because I’m a Labour supporter (althoguh I am) or because I think Beattie or his ministers have been doing a good job, I say this because Queenslanders have a long history of voting for “strong leaders” such as Beattie, Bjelke-Petersen; Gair; Theodore et al regardless of their political affiloiation and of ignoring all but the most egregious failings of such leaders.

    If that’s changing, I’ll be quite happy to be proven wrong.

  13. August 21st, 2005 at 00:02 | #13

    Lions frustrating (for supporters) season over. Too many injuries and bad form at home finally got us. At least we have blooded a few new players for the years to come.
    Oh well back to watching those GF DVDs I supppose…

  14. August 21st, 2005 at 01:13 | #14

    abb1 – I hate to think what they fed you as an Aussieburger.

    Our local idea of a good hambugga is a mince meant pattie, with lettuce, tomato, beetroot, egg, bacon and tomato sauce, all in a bread roll which is not too soft, sweet and caccy.

    Add a beer and it does have stuff from all five food groups, which would sustain life, and its not even over fatty.

  15. August 21st, 2005 at 03:32 | #15

    “Values”, by one description,” are deeply held views of the we find worthwhile”.

    Now this definition is circular, but it links values and behavior. But we might ask do we know what our values are, and if we do and do not practice them are we hypocrites? Perhaps not. Who among us appreciates our own personalities, those distinctive patterns and habits of behavior we exhibit, the values they imply, and then is able to appreciate that others have different personalities, signifying deeply held differently conceived and differently contrived values. Our own individual personalities, I am told may be seen as gifts, as patterns of inherent value. As often, if my experience is to be a guide, reading a personality profile is as shaking hands with a stranger.

    Such reflection may make us at least sceptical of the belief that values are held at a particular time across the range of individual differences that compose the populations of nations. Yet this conception is invoked, and not questioned, or by the insistence that specifics be given both of the values and their order of importance. For we may share values, but place different significance to them, and perhaps include a variety of other values, which we hold of greater importance.

    President Dwight D. Einsenhower, in his final “military-industrial complex speech”, sidestepped this difficulty here by talking of goals:

    Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

    By espousing these values, he is linking the national values to religious values, and implicitly Christian values, and possibly even Protestant values. Some would suggest that America never practiced such values or purposes then, or now, or before then. So therefore, should be shown to be more true than not, what significance can be placed on national values, other than a form of national purpose or conformity, and implicitly a means of exclusion for seeming other beliefs.

    To your complete surprise, these preliminary thoughts, brings me to the assertions of John Howard. To be fair, I am biased and prejudiced in relation to our prime minister, to a degree which makes me an extremist. I neither believe what he says, or trusts what he does.The Sydney Morning Herald article published on 19 August 2005 explained the reason for, what is now known in The Australian at least as, the terrorism summit:

    Islamic leaders from across Australia will meet Mr Howard in Canberra on Tuesday to discuss how to stop religious leaders from inciting violence and terrorism. Mr Howard called the meeting with 14 Islamic leaders in the wake of the London bombings, following inflammatory comments by some local Muslims justifying the terrorist attacks.

    In this matter, Howard is following the example of Blair, the Labor Prime Minister of the United Kingdom more than Hawke, the former Labor Prime Minister of Australia. My perception is that it is to be a stage managed presentation to serve the political purposes of the Prime Minister. The same criticism recurs in the Australian case, as in the British, that many of the participants are unknown to the Muslim communities for who they are to speak.

    The ground that has to be given, is not necessarily confirming the contentions of those we label extremists, but in the understanding that own narratives formed by our backgrounds, experiences, attitudes and perceptions are deficient, in that others, often those more affected by our actions, have understood a deeper meaning. So, I suppose, confronting the tough questions is not going to happen, which would make the summit a valuable, honest and insightful exercise for all involved. And perhaps too, we might concede if the participants, on both sides, promote understanding and uncover problems these meetings do not have to be representative. At the same time, I would like to have seen more members of parliament, at both Federal and State levels involved.

    It is clear, I believe, from the rhetoric surrounding this meeting that there is not such intention. Howard is quoted as saying:

    The best way of defeating extremism is to point out to those people who might be influenced by it, that they are in fact, leading them up the wrong path. And the purpose of this gathering is to identify ways to further enforce and entrench the moderate mainstream view. Mr Howard said it was important to promote the values shared by all Australians. We want to promote the ideal of moderation and identification with the values that all Australians share,he said. To invite people who represent an extreme point of view is to give them disproportionate and unmeritorious recognition, which would anger people who are trying to do the right thing.

    Rather, you see, the meeting is to confirm the pre-existing attitudes, reinforced by the soundboard of major players in the mainstream media, which in effect is to say that terrorism is wholly a Muslim issue, and has nothing to do with the Australian Governments misguided intervention into the context, and subtext, of Middle Eastern history. The suspicion might be that the Muslim participants have selected to confirm the conceived majority view by avowing what they reject, rather than espousing what they believe.

    And let us suppose that Muslims are also capable of self criticism, as the example of Salman Rushie suggests. With the British situation in mind, Rushie argues in relation to social alienation, and in the extreme suicide bombing that:

    The deeper alienations that lead to terrorism may have their roots in these young men’s objections to events in Iraq or elsewhere, but the closed communities of some traditional Western Muslims are places in which young men’s alienations can easily deepen. What is needed is a move beyond tradition – nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.

    In making such a criticism of Islam, Salman Rushdie is revealing his values. But others, modernizers and fundamentalists, will have different values. Here I think is John Howard’s point that we need superordinate values. Fair enough. Two questions: How do we come to an understanding of difference, and how do we understand what these greater values though which we understand our common ground, our common natures, and our common experience might be.

    One way, and the history of religion has multiple examples, is to impose the ideas of the powerful on those of the conquered. Religious expansion by this light either is a permanent military expedition, or a permanent marketing and propaganda exercise. History indicates success in both action and reaction.

    Another, and perhaps the alternative, was indicated by Jonathan Glover in his Guardian article,”Dialogue is the only way to end this cycle of violence”. Dialogue is as much experiential, as it is tranformative, by this definition. Dialogue, rather than debate, or for that matter discussion, is the foundation upon which democratic representative and decision processes are to be built. This development, without for example, the qualifications that Eisenhower kept in mind, and despite his good intentions, has tendency to disengage from, and over time seek to recast and reform its foundations, by power, by indifference that disengagement breeds, by assumed superiority, and by overt management and covert propaganda.

    Nevertheless it might be interesting to suppose what our national values might be. Here is one set of suggested inclusions:

    * The innate dignity of human life
    * Respect and consideration for the “other”
    * The interconnection between humankind and the environment and thus the need to care for and preserve the earth
    * The importance of integrity and service
    * An attitude of non-violence
    * The individual and collective quest for peace and happiness

    John Howard may have another set of national values, he believes are typical of the mainstream. But the mainstream, as the periphery, may act and believe many things, and act in another way, as indeed might politicians. Or we need is some way to reconcile our purpose with our commitment. And some suggest that can be down by an inclusive, self reflective discourse. Perhaps not a perfect way, decidedly demanding and often difficult, yet in its means and ends quintessentially democratic.

  16. abb1
    August 21st, 2005 at 05:22 | #16

    David, it was a hell of a burger. Lunch that made me skip the dinner that day, which doesn’t happen often.

  17. Ian Gould
    August 21st, 2005 at 11:24 | #17

    The IMF has released its latest report on the Iraqi economy and it makes incredibly gloomy reading.

    The full report is here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2005/cr05294.pdf

    A summary is here: http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=4289059

    The failure of oil production to recover means that government oil revenue is virtually static despite the higher oil prices. Investment in the country is largely confined to the oil sector but that seems to merely be keeping pace with the saboteurs.

    The IMF is pushing the Iraqi government to end domestic petrol subsidies – this will improve government finances but will increase inflation, already running at 20% and will also impact on living standards..

    95% of Iraqis continue to depend on government food rations – despite those rations, 23% of children are malnourished.

    Infant mortality is over 10%, the comparable figure for Jordan is 3%.

    The report notes that very little promised aid money is actually reaching iraq:

    “…in 2004 (the launch year) only about $103 million
    was actually disbursed to finance projects. Moreover, the largest direct bilateral donor (the United States) reportedly spent about $2.2 billion in 2004, but only two-thirds of these funds are estimated to have been spent in the domestic economy (and up to one-half of this was on security).”

    I wonder how much of the US$700 million not “spent in the domestic economy” ended up in consultancy fees to neo-con think-tanks?

    Economic growth in 2004 of 46% sounds imnpressive – until you realise it merely offsets an equally large drop in GDP the previous year and leaves Iraqis worse off than in 2000 in per capita terms once you factor in population growth. Growth this year of 3.7%, even if achieved, won’t do much more than keep pace with population growth.

  18. Peter McB.
    August 22nd, 2005 at 03:26 | #18

    It’s the slice of beetroot which makes an Aussie burger an Aussie burger. No other serious country puts beetroot on a hamburger, although Americans are fond of resting a gherkin (quaintly termed a “pickle”) on the plate alongside.

  19. August 22nd, 2005 at 13:33 | #19

    Peter is correct . Beetroot, while obviously not sufficient, is necessary. It is to Aussie burgers what pineapples are to Hawaiians. Ingredienst such as bacon, eggs, cheese etc. push it towards the status of “Kitchen Sink” or “the Works”. Here’s one I made earlier.

  20. what the
    August 22nd, 2005 at 14:47 | #20

    I agree about that beetroot. The hamburger should also be ordered in a milk bar, never made by Anglo-saxons, Asians or teenagers and the paper bag should be spun and twisted around by the corners (i dont know how to describe that particular motion before they smile and hand it to you as you drip saltwater all over the floor after a surf).

    The second best hamburger i have ever had though was in jamaica. And with a bottle or two of the local Red Stripe beer, it went down a treat just like in Oz.

  21. August 22nd, 2005 at 18:42 | #21

    abb1 – If you have the chance to cook Anthony’s burger, even with store bought minced steak, do it.

  22. abb1
    August 23rd, 2005 at 02:28 | #22

    There was no beetroot. Apparently I was fed a freakin kiwiburger under the false pretence. And imagine that for a burger plus a pint of beer they charge about 30 swiss francs here, which is about $30 australian.

    Thanks Anthony, I bookmarked it.

  23. Peter
    August 23rd, 2005 at 06:02 | #23

    To What the:

    The twirling motion on the paper bag for the hamburger results in the corners of the bag looking like the corners of the hats which working-class Englishmen used to wear at the beach, hats made from their handkerchiefs. Since the only genuine Ozzie hamburgers are made, as you say, by people of a non-English, non-Asian background, I always took the twirled bags to be the result of an irony-twinged homage to distant English sea-side culture. Either that or a shortage of rubber bands . . .

  24. Ian Gould
    August 23rd, 2005 at 09:57 | #24

    I am in the beetroot-hating minority.

    Peopel should try a hamburger with beetroot – thereafter for the rest of your life everythign else will taste better by comparison.

  25. Ian Gould
    August 23rd, 2005 at 09:57 | #25

    I am in the beetroot-hating minority.

    Everyone should try a hamburger with beetroot – thereafter for the rest of your life everything else will taste better by comparison.

  26. August 23rd, 2005 at 09:58 | #26

    Question: why, then, is an Aussie pizza distinguished by the presence of an egg on top, the sort of thing that makes a Wiener Schnitzel Viennese? Some confusion between Austraia as Australia and Austraia as Austria, perhaps?

  27. Ian Gould
    August 23rd, 2005 at 17:04 | #27

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,16355243-2,00.html

    Quote:

    MUSLIM community leaders have united to denounce extremism, terrorism and the teaching of hatred at a summit in Canberra aimed at fighting the possible emergence of radical Islamists in Australia.
    President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Ameer Ali said the meeting, convened by Prime Minister John Howard, was “constructive and fruitful” and that the Muslim community had an unreserved commitment to the safety of all Australians.

    “We agreed to denounce extremism, terrorism and the teaching of hatred in this country,” Dr Ali said.

    “We believe in the Australian family, we are all members of the same family.

    end Quote

    Can we now dispense with the regular (and false) claism that muslim leaders haven’t condemned terrorism?

  28. abb1
    August 23rd, 2005 at 17:24 | #28

    why, then, is an Aussie pizza distinguished by the presence of an egg on top, the sort of thing that makes a Wiener Schnitzel Viennese?

    Reminds me of so called “Adzharian khachapuri”:

    This khachapuri is baked as an open cheese boat with freshest salted cheese inside, on which butter and egg are put after baking. To enjoy it fully, mix it all into one paste with a knife, then cut the edges of the boat from the middle to let the paste flow under them and fill the whole khachapuri. Now each piece will bring you unearthly pleasure.
    http://www.restoran.ru/index.phtml?t=8&r=426&lng=2

    Don’t know about unearthly, but it’s very good indeed.

Comments are closed.