Posts filed under ‘Rant’

Empathy chip missing

Enough has been said in Australia over the tasteless sketch about terminally ill children on The Chaser.  They crossed the line with this one IMHO. Overseas readers can come up to speed by reading this article. I don’t know what The Chaser dudes were thinking but the whole debacle has caused them to issue a public apology. I had planned to do a post that would basically have ranted about how, in contemporary society, we seem to think it’s okay to take free speech to the extremes of ridicule and humiliation. You have been spared my rant because an opinion in The Age said it all for me. The opinion piece, by Shaune Carney, in part explains for me why something like The Chaser’s sketch happened:

“The most striking element of the public reaction was not the level of outrage and disgust, but the extent of public acceptance of the sketch and its message….What the positive reactions to the sketch by The Chaser suggest is that we are now in an era of Me, Me, Me. Years of relativism, cynicism and scoffing at objectivity, and the elevation of subjectivity as our prime condition, seem to have robbed a lot of us of a vital component in a civilised society: empathy. Take for example someone who goes by the handle “coreena”, who commented on Crikey: “I liked the ‘Wish’ skit … I’m fed up being expected to give money so some kid can go to Disneyland.” A child who has been subject to surgery or chemotherapy or radiation or perhaps all three becomes “some kid”. The child’s family, their lives turned inside out, do not rate a mention…..There’s only you, you’re all that matters, and if it’s not affecting you, poke fun at it. They all knew what they were doing. And they knew that a lot of people who admire their work would think that caring about yourself and not caring about anybody else was the smartest way to live.”

And this is also why we have to put up with the likes of Gordon Ramsay (foul-mouthed celebrity chef and “arrogant narcissist”) publicly denigrating Tracy Grimshaw (highly respected TV journalist) by calling her a lesbian, saying that she has the facial features of a pig and that “she needs to see Simon Cowell’s Botox doctor.” Tracy fought back thank goodness, fabulously saying: “Obviously Gordon thinks that any woman who doesn’t find him attractive must be gay. For the record, I don’t. And I’m not.” You can watch her response here.

This image was allegedly flashed on screen during Ramsay’s appearance at the 2009 Good Food and Wine Show in Melbourne and led him to liken Grimshaw to a pig:

Really, what on earth is a so-called celebrity chef doing showing soft-porn images like this at a food and wine show (presumably kids were present)? Why doesn’t he just stick to cooking? During the firestorm that broke out between Ramsay and Grimshaw, he was also caught on video dispensing lewd advice to a young, female reporter – ‘Having run ten marathons, extra-virgin olive oil is good for the nipples. Hot tip.’

With the carry-on about The Chaser and Gordon Ramsay’s stunning lack of grace (go back home to the UK PLEASE), it seems we’ve forgotten that life is about living it with others, feeling empathy for others, imagining yourself in their shoes. It’s not all about ME, ME, ME.


June 15, 2009 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Train tossers

I just have to rant about this. Australian readers would have recently seen this image on the evening news:

This is the photo of an idiot, a tosser, a goose, a dimwit (and throw in any other descriptive word you’d like). Since I have a large number of American readers, I will explain the Aussie word “tosser” – it means a jerk, a wanker (which means a show-off, jerk or tosser!). Basically, a tosser is that person in the image who was practising the fine art of “train surfing”. This art is the province of tossers – people who willingly risk their lives by riding on the back of a train, which is an area clearly not intended for carrying passengers. This particular tosser is a superior tosser – whilst train surfing he was caught on camera putting his finger to his lips, indicating to startled people on the train stations to be quiet as he whizzed past nine train stations. Fortunately, this superior tosser has now been identified by the long arm of the law who will be reaching out to this 19-year old and hauling his ass off to court. Said tosser should thank his lucky stars I never became a judge because I’d be throwing the book, no a whole library, at him.

Tossers very clearly don’t consider what impact they may have on other people. This 19-year old brazenly rang up radio stations the next day, bragging about his exploits and saying”if you hold on, you can’t fall off”‘. So should the train come to an emergency stop and the tosser disappear under the train’s wheels, I suppose the trauma the train driver and passengers would experience would never enter the thoughts of the tosser. Actually, the tosser would probably be bold enough to sue the transport company.

Apparently, train surfing is becoming popular. Here’s another image of tossers, these ones are in South Africa:

Seems South African tossers are very practised in the art – they dice with death by standing on top of trains and dodging bridges and high-power cables or swinging out of doors as the train travels through a tunnel and running along the sides. Clearly, these are Mensa-level tossers because if they get hurt, the response is “Yes, I can fall, but I can phone my mom, she can take me to the doctor”. Yeah right: I’d think these tossers should be saying “or take my sorry ass to the funeral home because I will be dead from the complete stupidity of train surfing”. 

Now, I realise that I’m very ancient (after all, I can in fact vaguely remember the 1970s). So can someone, anyone, please explain the attraction of this dangerous, idiotic, lunatic behaviour? I suppose those who indulge think of themselves as fearless and brave. I just think they’re TOSSERS.

May 22, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Something more sane this way comes

Well, seems as though some people in the UK are waking up from the nightmare that is their surveillance state. If you ask me, “the terrorists” (whoever they may be) have already won when nation states subject their own citizens to biometric identification, CCTV cams and ridiculous airport screening that makes travelling hell on earth. To make us live in fear or under the glare of surveillance is tantamount to terrorists winning. On the part of the State, it’s an exercise in power – the watchers have the power over those who are watched and know they are watched.

So I was listening to ABC radio the other day when my ears pricked up. I caught snippets of the former Head of top secret squirrel squad, MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, apparently saying that she was alarmed at the spread of security cameras and police stop-and-search powers (smart Dame). And the Conservative Party leader in the UK, David Cameron, saying that the fabric of liberty had been shredded.

Naturally, the interview caught my interest. Dominic Raab was being interviewed. He’s the dude who wrote the book, The Assault on Liberty, that I have ordered for fast track delivery from Amazon. He’s an international lawyer who is also Chief of Staff to the Shadow Home Secretary. Here’s a taste of what he said:

  • the UK has the longest period of detention without charge in the free world (28 days compared to  12 in Australia);
  • the introduction of identity cards with 50 items of personal information on each and every citizen which will be shared with governments;
  • up to 4.2 million CCTV cams in the UK and the taxpayer has had to cough up over AU$1-billion to fund these unblinking eyes and 80% of the footage is useless;
  • over 1,000 separate search and entry powers, which are not just for serious crime or counter-terrorism purposes (yeah, well, Australia can match that now with our new police powers);
  • massive databases stuffed full of DNA (over 3.1 million DNA profiles) – information is shared amongst the various arms of the UK Government, local councils and security agencies. Yet, the UK has an appalling track record when it comes to keeping personal data safe. Literally, the personal details of millions of Britons has been at risk.

You can read the interview transcript here. Coupled with this is a recent op-ed from The Guardian with the opening paragraphs saying:

“It was never in a Labour manifesto that individual freedom should be surrendered in the interests of collective security. Nor was it written that society should submit itself to a blanket of surveillance by the state.It was never announced as a political creed of the current government that trial by jury is an expensive inconvenience that modern democracies can, in certain circumstances, do without. Nor was it proclaimed that the principle of habeas corpus, that prohibits the crown from detaining a free individual without his or her knowing the charge, was redundant in the face of terrorist threats in the 21st century. And yet, one way or another, all of those views have been expressed in laws introduced by Labour since it came to power.”

The piece stops short, denying that the UK has become a police state or has slipped into authoritarianism. I was disappointed by the op-ed because it didn’t go far enough. Its title is “Modern Liberty has Found its Voice”. Well, thank goodness for that but let’s take it further – what are the plans to restore civil liberties to the people of the UK?  I’d like to see a civil disobedience campaign organised by people who live in countries like the UK (and the US and Australia) where surveillance is rife.

Just over a year ago, I ran a week long workshop in Morocco on communities of practice for political activists. One of the things they were trained on was non-violent struggle – the history and models of non-violent action. Why can’t we take the lessons learnt and apply them to a non-violent strategic campaign against the surveillance society?

So for example:

  • citizens actively campaigning against CCTV. Demand that authorities demonstrate the efficacy of CCTV in preventing serious crime. And since we know around 80% of CCTV images cannot be used as legal evidence because images are too blurry or grainy, then CCTV footage should not be admitted as evidence in court and citizens should campaign against the use of footage in legal proceedings.
  • why are the UK people blindly accepting the national ID card?  It is nothing more than life-long surveillance of an individual. Nothing more than numbering of individuals (remember Nazi Germany). Nothing more than making personal details into “registrable facts” to be disclosed, constantly updated and shared with who knows what agency or foreign Government. Organise a local group to educate the public. Prepare fact sheets, newsletters – better yet, join an already established local group fighting the Database State in the UK. Challenge Governments to show how an ID card would make us more secure and how the ID card will not be subverted.
  • educate yourself about the location of CCTV cams – avoid them, wear a hoodie, face away from the CCTV. That’s what I do. Here is a good site to help find the location of CCTV cams in urban environments. There are ways to destroy CCTV cams but this is about protest and non-violence so I won’t give advice on this.
  • become aware of the abuses of surveillance cameras so you won’t bleat like a sheep and parrot “If you have nothing to hide…”. If you’re a student, then get inspired by kids in school who are protesting against CCTV or if you’re a worker with video cams in the office, stage a walkout with fellow workers. If judges can do it, you can do it.
  • arrange a demonstration through city streets like the Germans did – they called their protest Liberty Instead of Fear.
  • get an online petition going, like the Romanians, to protest against RFID and biometric identifiers in passports. Here’s one already started – No To RFID Chips. Let’s remember that the FDA in the US has cleared the way for RFID chips to be used in humans. Also remember that the RFID industry is very keen to embed chips into fashion clothing (they call this inventory control) – but it will allow retailers to create databases linking individual chips to consumers, so your own clothing will be a tracking device in the future. Protest before it’s too late.

Heck, these are just starter ideas. The fact is – we are nothing more than:

if we don’t pay attention to the creeping threat of surveillance and loss of civil liberties. Facebook looks at us this way:

Don’t let this happen. Become an anti-surveillance activist. Download this resource – Non-Violent Struggle – 50 Crucial Points: A Strategic Approach to Everyday Tactics. And learn how to plan symbolic public actions. It’s a fabulous resource for non-violent struggle against any form of political power.

Image source for Facebook sheep

March 18, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Is it the 1870s?

I will have to check my calendar. I could have sworn we were all living in 2009 but perhaps not. Given a tidbit of news I stumbled on this week, maybe we are still living in the late 19th Century when Jim Crow laws started to be enacted in the United States and African-Americans suffered the humiliation of segregation.

Cast your eyes over this photo – see anything that might make you mildly (or really, really) angry?

What on earth was Barnes & Noble thinking? Here we have a “Presidential display” – books relating to Barack Obama and the First Lady. And in the middle of it all – a book entitled Monkeys: A Captivating Look at These Fascinating Animals.

Now, I hasten to add that B&N are saying that it was all a malicious act and have issued a public apology. They believe a customer replaced one of the books in the display window in their store at Coral Gables, Florida with the Monkey book. I’m sure if I tried to replace a book in a window display in let’s say Borders here in Sydney, I’d be spotted pretty fast and hauled off. So perhaps it was a B&N employee who would not raise suspicion by being in the window? And I wonder how long people were outside staring at the display, snapping away before B&N caught on? Perhaps someone had a grudge against B&N. Whatever, I don’t think B&N is a pack of racists.

What it really demonstrates is undercurrents of racism in the US despite Americans electing their first African-American Prez and the ignorance of idiots who still lurk in our society.  And then we have this cartoon I came across from the New York Post that frankly seems to depict Prez Obama as a chimp:

It would seem to be a thinly veiled attempt to say that the author of the stimulus bill (and that would be the Prez one would assume) is like a rabid chimpanzee that should be shot. Frankly, it’s an extremely violent cartoon IMHO. If we couple this cartoon with the B&N monkey debacle, I think we have to ask is it still the 1870s over there in the US?

The cartoon’s creator made his plea following the controversy stirred up, saying that it was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill, nothing more. Maybe so, but I still think it’s an unnecessarily violent cartoon and as someone who doesn’t live in the US and is therefore not embroiled in the racism against African-Americans – its instant message to me was that Prez Obama is being compared to a primate and that there’s a racial subtext.

I’m not sure (perhaps my US readers can help out) but I think a chimp attacked a woman recently, hence the police officers with guns. I just think that America has made such progress that these sorts of offensive behaviours are two steps backwards.  What do you think?

March 14, 2009 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Is change always good?

Two stories caught my attention recently. Yes, we know the world is changing, FAST. Yes, we’re told to embrace change and most of us roll with the punches. We’re told that globalisation benefits the common good because it lifts people in the developing world out of poverty. We’re told that progress accompanied by globalisation spreads technologies, better ways of doing business, raises standards of living and hygiene, and allows markets around the globe to be interconnected.

On the downside, globalisation results in income polarisation; natural resources are sucked out of countries; corporate profits are gained by exploiting cheap overseas labour; domestic jobs are shipped offshore; national sovereignty is weakened; the consumerist society feasts on The Brands and other expensive luxury goods produced in foreign countries with low wages. A global monoculture is the result and we are faced with the same coffee shop on a busy street corner in the global cities we may visit. In my view, globalisation has destroyed the concept of individuality – we dress alike, we smell alike, we covet the same Brands. As the world becomes smaller, so our individuality shrinks but this is IMHO. The decline in artisanship consumes age-old customs and fine crafts skills and erodes the world’s cultural diversity.

Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Why don’t you read the two articles I found. The first article concerns the human cost of oil drilling and the devastating effects on a traditional Arctic community.  The second article looks at the probable destruction of 700 homes within a long-standing community – to make way for Heathrow’s proposed third runway.

What do you think?

February 2, 2009 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Treated like terrorists

On January 12 2009, a new online visa waiver programme came into effect in the US. Should you wish to travel to the US, you will now have to apply electronically for travel authorisation. I won’t need to worry as I have vowed never to set foot in the United States again (lovely country that it is) and here is a sobering example, which might make us wonder what the hell is going on in the US.

Put aside the circus that is their biometrics programme (which is why I refuse to enter the country), here’s how you might be treated by US stormtroopers Customs and Border Protection officers should you be brave enough to try visiting the US. This is a real story from a real Australian family.

Picture this – you have an 84-year old father living in Los Angeles. He is ill so you and your family make a mercy dash from Sydney to the US.  You have a valid visa to enter the US. You are a humble taxi driver from a leafy suburb in Sydney’s north. Your wife is an aged-care worker. You take your two sons, aged 8 and 14 years, along with you to see their grandfather, perhaps for the last time.

You get off the flight in LA. You are greeted by friendly, helpful US customs officials. Oh sorry, I was dreaming! This is what really happened:

  • you are hauled aside and detained
  • you are frisked and your luggage is inspected
  • you are hauled off to a hotel with other “detainees”
  • the van you travel in to this hotel has a cage to contain you and your family
  • you arrive at the hotel at 2.30am. You try to get some sleep but it’s hard when armed guards are by your bedside
  • you are woken at 4.30am, hauled back to the airport and shoved on a flight back to Sydney
  • you are an Australian citizen (last time I looked, Australia was one of the US’s staunchest allies, sending our troops to support the US in Iraq. Maybe we need a rethink).
  • the whole frightening incident unfolded over 24 hours

So here’s the multiple choice question. Are you:

(a) a terrorist; or

(b) a paedophile with a long criminal history; or

(c) a humble taxi driver on an emotional dash to see your ailing, elderly father.

If you answered (a) or (b) then perhaps you might expect to be questioned, frisked, grilled, hauled off by US authorities. But if you answered (c), you are correct and you must ask – why is an Australian citizen and his family (remember there are two teenagers involved here) treated in such an appalling manner?

US border protection officers accused this poor man of trying to enter the US illegally (Note to US customs and border protection – not EVERYONE in this world wants to emigrate to the US despite the fact you now have a Prez who can string a sentence together). The man showed them his return tickets worth $6400 for flights back to Australia on February 5.

During detention, the family says minimal food and drink was provided. What appalls me even more is that two teenagers had to suffer through detention in a hotel with armed guards sleeping near them. The man, Mr Fazle Rabbi, was not allowed to see his father despite emotional pleas.

Now, let’s look at the name here: Fazle Rabbi. Mr Rabbi and his family emigrated to Australia from Bangladesh four years ago. Mr Rabbi is an Australian citizen (smart move to emigrate here and not try  the US Mr Rabbi!).  Did US officials refuse this man and his family entry to the US  because of their ethnic heritage? Was he the victim of racial profiling? I’m afraid this is the conclusion one might reach because everything else seems to have been in order: return tickets and visas.

Apparently, the official response has been that the US reserves the right to refuse entry. Hey dudes: did you refund this poor family their wasted $6400?  Did you bother to ring someone – like ASIO and find out if this family were a pack of terrorists in disguise?  Did you bother to find out if the elderly father had a doctor in LA you could ring to verify the story? Did you confuse the Australian passport (presumably Rabbi travelled on one) with that of Afghanistan? Did you take one moment to think you could display some compassion?

Note to the US: if you treat foreign travellers this way, one day that treatment may just be what you experience when you try to enter a foreign country.

Source: SMH

January 28, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Money, money, money

The global financial hissy fit (or as I call it the GFHF) has probably caused us to consider money a whole lot more. The other day, I set off to one of Sydney’s department stores to purchase a Dazzle Glass lipgloss from Mac. I admit I suffered temporary amnesia – I forgot that Mac is a global brand.  Besides, when I considered the price of the lipgloss, I declined to buy it. But if the GFHF wasn’t our reality of the moment and you could spend any amount you wanted to spend, what would you buy?

I’ve always wondered: if I won zillions in a lottery, what would I do with it? Would I still work? I think the answer to the last question is I’d be out the door so fast, there would be no chance of it smacking me in the posterior! But the answer to the first question would be….well, not sure. I know I would donate a fair amount to charity. I know I’d probably trek around the world for a few months. But beyond that, don’t know.

So I was intrigued to read about the estranged wife of United Technologies Corporation’s former CEO. Now, whilst the rest of us are starting to feel the impact of the GFHF and some people are even fretting about homelessness, said wife believes she simply cannot live on anything less than $53,000 per week. Yep, that’s right: $53,000 every 7 days. My cunning maths ability tells me that’s approximately $7,571 per day. What is she spending on you ask?

  • clothing $4500
  • hair and skin care $1000
  • dry cleaning $650
  • flowers $600
  • fur storage and cleaning $45 (darls, one should NOT wear dead animals – you could save some money!)
  • travel $8000 (I reckon she could save here by staying at home. Apparently, she can’t travel on the UTC corporate jet anymore)
  • mortgage, maintenance fees, rent or other costs for a Park Avenue apartment, a Hamptons residence and several properties in Sweden

Poor lambchop! I could certainly share with her some of my very own recipes for making organic moisturisers, soaps and body lotions. I could save her $1000 at least on skincare.

Meanwhile, I suggest that said estranged wife of ex-CEO who had more money than he possibly knew what to do with, should read this article that chronicles the individual hardships and stories of people suffering through the GFHF in the US.  She’d read about foreclosures, declining towns and streets, eviction of the poor, lay-offs, unemployment benefits that will run out, people on the verge of homelessness, families living from paycheck to paycheck.

Darls: I reckon this will stop you whinging about how you can’t live on anything less than $53,000 a week!

December 21, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

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