Vol 27 No 13

02 July 2017

 Cartoon by Chris Johnston



Search for the meaning of afterlife

12 July 2017 | Tim Kroenert

C is waiting for something; for the meaning of his truncated life, perhaps, and of his marriage to M, to become clear. Divorced from linear perceptions of time, he rushes into the future, to witness the cityscape that replaces the suburban neighbourhood; and into the past, where he views the aftermath of the massacre of a colonial family. Amid this in-folding of time, and the evidence of death and transience, the partygoer's nihilistic prognostications echo fiercely. But they do not satisfy the truth-seeking C.


Why 'white' isn't a racist slur

12 July 2017 | Sonia Nair

Scene from Dear White PeopleI hung out with a group of Indian-Australians while I was a university student who called themselves 'curries', but the unspoken camaraderie that ensued from this self-identification stood in stark contrast to that time I was called a 'f***ing curry' by a passing car full of white people. You often hear from white people that they can't be called 'white' because that too is racist language. This reflects a flawed assumption that societal structures advantage and disadvantage people in the exact same way.

Bookending Australia's history

11 July 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

Colonising AustraliaModern Australian history is bookended by the arrival of white settlers in which Indigenous Australians were expelled to the margins, and by the arrival of people seeking protection who were also expelled to the margins. Between these bookends lie the events, the people, the relationships, the enterprises and the experiences that compose the story of Australia. The bookends, though, are a bit shonky: not ideal for supporting proudly the heft of the history that lies between them. They need fixing.


Jane Goodall's quest to stem the human plague

11 July 2017 | Catherine Marshall

Jane Goodall and Catherine MarshallRevered for her groundbreaking study of chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Stream, Goodall has spent the past three decades travelling the world in an effort to alert its human inhabitants to the alarming news: we are destroying the planet. The message seems to have been lost on those in a position to halt the change, for research scientists have just reported that a mass extinction is currently underway, a biological annihilation in which billions of regional or local populations have already been lost.


Is there an Asian Australian culture?

10 July 2017 | Tseen Khoo

Asian AustraliansThe short answer is 'no'. There is no single Asian Australian culture, just as there is no single 'Australian culture'. As well as an unfortunate tendency to flatten differences, trying to talk about particular groups can serve a broader political and cultural project. I run a research network focused on Asian Australian Studies. The topics we cover strive to give depth and detail to otherwise stereotyped, shallow representations of Asians and Asian Australians that surround us.


Climate revolutionaries of East Africa

10 July 2017 | Paul O'Callaghan

xxxxxThe world's poor are bearing the brunt of global warming yet they have done the least to cause it. African countries have some of the lowest carbon emissions rates in the world, but their fields are drying up and their pastureland is vanishing. Still, all is not lost. If we want to find the answers to climate change, many of them exist within the communities already being impacted. These people understand the urgent threat posed by global warming and they are banding together to find solutions.


North Korea, Trump and war

09 July 2017 | Binoy Kampmark

Kim Jong-unThe DPRK's options in terms of defending itself against the US and its allies were always limited, leaving the way open for an assortment of pantomimes. The arsenal of the threat became normal: that, for instance, of incinerating Seoul, the possibility that Tokyo or Alaska might be targets. The show seems to be moving beyond the next boundary of what is deemed acceptable, largely because Trump deemed it impossible Pyongyang would have a viable ICBM option that could reach the US.


The homeless fugitives from the east

09 July 2017 | Victor Ugwu, E. Unimke Ugbong, William Okello Kadima

Refugees walk in desertWe remember that sad morning, when the bombs exploded, when the cold air, suddenly became too hot, when the flock became wild, how they ran into the wild. look! see! The vineyard is still on fire! look! see! The market stalls is still on fire! We slowly limped, towards the west we head, to where the air is still cold, to where the field is still green, towards the West, to where came the bombs, we head.


Draconian citizenship mindset means no one's safe

05 July 2017 | Fatima Measham

Peter DuttonThe Guardian has revealed that two men holding dual Australian citizenship were sent to Christmas Island under section 501 of the Migration Act. The law enables the minister to detain or deport non-citizens who fail the 'character test'. The detention of these citizens was without question unlawful. The error was identified and they were released. It looks like a happy ending, but you'd have to squint hard.

Data, distrust, and the disastrous My Health Record

05 July 2017 | Amy Coopes

Doctor and patientPlagued by sluggish uptake, clinician reticence and a substantial privacy backlash, the $1.2 billion My Health Record has proven, thus far, something of a lemon. The putative benefits of an electronic health record have been expounded at length by the government. But for success there must be buy-in, and for buy-in, there must be trust, according to the Productivity Commission. Both are lacking, and it is important to consider why.

Libraries adapt to the age of free information

05 July 2017 | Neve Mahoney

Public libraryI often visit my local library. I tend to go in the after-school hours, so there are children everywhere. I can see mothers guiding young, chubby hands across picture book pages. I think of Mem Fox's advice about how children should hear a thousand stories before learning to read. With the internet and ebooks, the free information that made a library unique is no longer exclusive. Classic literature can be found with a Google search. So what do brick and mortar libraries offer that Amazon can't?


The English teacher's drink of choice

05 July 2017 | Frank O'Shea

Hip flaskPaddy was a mediocre teacher, even if that is the unreliable opinion of a colleague who has great sympathy for what must go on in an English class. He had a weakness not uncommon among the literati and which may well have been a reaction to the rigid pieties of his Tory background. In his case, the consumption of alcohol caused him to become tiresomely scrupulous, seeming to lose the capacity for dissimulation and verbal artifice that are necessary qualities for life in the modern world.


Black clown's 'house slave' awakening

04 July 2017 | Megan Graham

Malcolm X famously delineated two types of slave: the 'house Negro' and the 'field Negro'. Although a 'house slave' is closer to their oppressor and receives special privileges, they are still a slave. Chocolat in his role as the clown Auguste seems to be just another kind of house slave. Despite his success he is still maligned and at the mercy of masters. While rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, he is routinely denigrated. Attention, he learns, is not the same as respect.


The manor and the workhouse in modern Australia

04 July 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

Etching of the poor in Dickensian EnglandA regular feature in Australian politics is the attempt to save money by penalising people who are struggling with life. It is usually accompanied by disparagement of the groups who are targeted. The strategy has a long history that provides a context. In 19th century England, a system was established that would encourage people to seek work by deterring them from seeking help. Central to this was the establishment of workhouses where the conditions would be more unpleasant than in any form of work.

Awaiting the Referendum Council in NAIDOC Week

03 July 2017 | Frank Brennan

NAIDOC Week 2017 posterIt is no disrespect to those Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders gathered at Uluru to say that now is the time for the report of the Referendum Council to be scrutinised by our national politicians, and that our elected leaders should pay special heed to the observations of those Indigenous members of the federal parliament who have offered considered reflections on the way forward. In particular, our elected representatives should have regard to the views of Patrick Dodson who is now Bill Shorten's Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.


Ghosts of ministers past

03 July 2017 | Gillian Bouras

Greek Orthodox priestWhen I was a small child, Presbyterians ministers, including my great-uncle Jack, seemed to be everywhere. They march through memory: soberly suited, dog-collared, determinedly cheerful and often dull, although Old Jack preached a fiery sermon, and could well have taken to the stage instead of the pulpit. They were eventually replaced in my life by a procession of Greek Orthodox priests. They would extend their hands to be kissed in a gesture my nonconformist soul found quite shocking.


You beaut country

02 July 2017 | Tony London

xxxxxHis baseline is country, ridges, lakes, breakaways, songlines, and we are taken along the skylines of his imagination which shoulders its way through the streamers of the players race, colours askew, bursting out into the field of play where we are invited into his game, his rules, goal posts he moves forever, we engage with the master gamer.


Bitcoin revolution is a matter of trust

29 June 2017 | David James

BitcoinOne of the more interesting recent developments in finance has been the creation of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies. They are being touted as a revolution in how we think and use money. Alternately, there are many who want to go in the opposite direction, back to the gold standard. Both sides have a common enemy: money whose value is determined by government dictate. Allowing governments to dictate in this way, they argue, is the core of the problem. To a significant extent, they are wrong.


Despite census results we dismiss religion at our peril

29 June 2017 | Christine Burke

Crowd aerial viewThe origins of hospitals, schools and social services can be traced back to the efforts of people of faith. Much poetry, art, drama and literature grapples with the deeper meaning of life in dialogue with a larger vision found through the everyday challenges of our lives. This religious urge can re-emerge as nationalism, racism, greed, or narcissism, and these have no inherent counter force to question their authenticity. The truths at the base of great religions reorient us towards love, peace and justice.

NAIDOC: Languages matter because people matter

29 June 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

NAIDOC Week logoThe theme of the week is 'Our Languages matter'. It lies at the heart of the Uluru statement. It also poses questions about the way in which we conceive our identity as a nation. In Australia we communicate in many languages. English is the language of business and public life, but many other languages, both Indigenous and introduced, are the primary languages of groups of Australians. Language is much more than a means of communication. It is an emblem of our tribe. It shapes how we interact.