Consider a Notebook

Consider a notebook. Thick parchment, licked yellow by salty air, and brown ink in a grand loopy hand. It sits in the cabin of one James Cook, and specifies, in no uncertain terms, that a “discovered” land may only be claimed in the name of the King under one of two conditions – that it is unoccupied, or “with the Consent of the Natives.” But Cooky’s a boisterous sort, raised on Magellan and St George, and when they’re there and obviously not consenting he decides to seize it anyway with oratory and lead, notebook and orders be damned. This means that even under British law at the time the invasion of Australia was illegal. Continue reading “Consider a Notebook”

Beyond Bluewashing

Content Note: The following piece contains reference to mental illness and suicide

A fortnight ago, the Weekend Australian published a profile of Jeff Kennett so glowing you’d be forgiven for thinking he wrote it himself. The obsequious puff-piece gushed about the resigning chair of Beyondblue, citing the “indefatigable can-do spirit hard-wired in his soul” and painting him as a maverick saviour of the anguished and bereft.

The anguished and bereft might beg to differ. While there’s no doubt Beyondblue has done internationally groundbreaking work to destigmatise and alleviate mental illness in Australia, this is largely in spite, not because, of the organisation’s public face. As Kennett steps down after sixteen years with the charity, it’s only fair that we acknowledge his generous advocacy. But let’s also not forget the tireless work he’s done throughout his career to champion forces that contribute to and exacerbate mental illness on a mass scale.

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One Nation

There’s worse news every day.

Thursday, 15th of September: in her maiden speech to the Senate, Pauline Hanson declares that Australia is “in danger of being swamped by Muslims”.

Sunday, 18th of September: speaking to a forum of European conservatives, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott describes the influx of refugees to Europe from “Middle East and Africa” as a “peaceful invasion”.

Wednesday, 21st of September: an Essential poll of 1000 people suggests that 49% of Australians want to ban the migration of people of people of the Islamic faith to Australia. A further 11% aren’t sure either way. If the poll is accurate, those of us who oppose such a measure are in the minority.

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Randomocracy

There are questions that cleave nations, the junctures where the paths of history fork.

Who has the right to vote? Is this is our war to fight? Should above the line Senate voting change from a group ticket preference system to an optional preferential system wherein voters are instructed to number a non-mandatory minimum of six boxes above the line while the mandatory minimum of 90% numbered boxes below the line is replaced with a non-mandatory nominal minimum of twelve numbered boxes and an unwritten mandatory minimum of six numbered boxes which will act as a savings provision for those who confuse the below the line and above the line voting instructions as well as some changes to the mechanism of election night ballot counting for the sake of expediency and thrift, or not?

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This Machine Cuddles Fascists

Last week, former Keating Minister Gary Johns wrote a piece for ruling class vanity zine The Australian in which he argued that people on the dole should under no condition be allowed to reproduce. “Potential parents of poor means, poor skills or bad character will choose to have children. So be it.” lamented the Labor MP turned IPA Nazgul as he lazily kicked his bootblack in the head, “But… if a person’s sole source of income is the taxpayer, the person, as a condition of benefit, must have contraception. No contraception, no benefit.”

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Chocolate and Rubber

You may remember that last week was Remembrance Day, when we remembered the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the end of the war to end all wars. Until recently, I never really got the importance of the two sides choosing that particular time to end hostilities. It just seemed like the kind of cute date symmetry your Mum’s friend shares on Facebook, no more meaningful than “today is the 20th of the 12th 2012, which won’t happen again for another 101 years! Share if you hate Ebola.”

But WWI was an era when leaders still made grand poetic gestures, before they realised that the horror they just unleashed had murdered earnestness forever. The armistice agreement was deliberately signed at the eleventh hour. To the largely bible-literate population of Europe at the time, this would have had heavier connotations than it does today – the phrase comes from a parable in the Gospel of Matthew and refers to the very last moment when salvation is possible, just before it’s too late. This is what those bloodsoaked bureaucrats wanted us to remember: that once upon a time humanity was on the brink of destroying itself, and we shouldn’t let that happen again.

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Close the Pod Bay Doors, Siri

A few weeks ago a bunch of reports claimed that for the first time ever, a computer passed the Turing Test. What followed was a half-hearted flash flood of apocalyptic histrionics about Skynet and cybercrime. (By the way, since when does stapling “cyber” to the start of any old noun suddenly make it a real word that adult humans are supposed to say? I must have missed that extremely unimaginative meeting.) But I’m afraid all you prospective Blade Runners have to go back to your singularity subreddits empty handed.  Most of those articles are wrong for at least two reasons. Firstly, the computer program didn’t actually pass the original criteria of the test, or even the watered down version of the test that everybody is saying it passed, and kind of cheated by only imitating a 13 year old child speaking a second language. Secondly, the articles neglect to mention that the Turing Test is monumentally stupid.

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