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An ode to speechless Bob Dylan

03 November 2016 | Philip Harvey

Bob Dylan cartoon by Chris JohnstonInitial silence from Dylan after the announcement of his Nobel Prize led one of the Scandinavian officials to complain he was being 'impolite and arrogant'. This prompted even more vitriolic opinion online on all sides, from fans, litterateurs, Dylanologists, and other armchair grenadiers. Just as things were getting completely tangled up in blue Dylan himself broke the silence to explain that news of the award had left him speechless. We shouldn't be surprised. Speechless is a normal state for a poet.

Mosul and Aleppo: A tale of two sieges

24 October 2016 | Justin Glyn

Gun trained on MosulThis is a tale of two cities. Both are occupied by militants holding to an extremist reading of Islam which gives no space to other faiths or opposing voices. In both cases, the defenders are using civilians as human shields and preventing them from leaving in the breaks granted by the besieging forces. Both are under attack by the internationally recognised governments of the countries in which they are situated. In both cases, civilians are suffering. Yet the narratives in the west are wildly different.

Flagging patriotism in a divided world

20 October 2016 | Gillian Bouras

Greek flag on mountainsideBefore I turned five, I was in the serried Monday morning ranks of children who had to swear, among other vows, to honour the flag. Years later I watched, shocked, as a Greek friend burst into tears at the sight of the emblematic blue and white stripes at a soccer match: big, strapping Panayiotis sobbed helplessly for quite some minutes. Today the American elections are almost upon us, and Old Glory has naturally been very much in evidence throughout this most gruelling and worrying of campaigns.

Marriage equality supporters' hope for a free conscience vote

15 October 2016 | Frank Brennan

Map of Australia on rainbow flagWhen the dust settles next year, maybe LGBTI advocates will see the wisdom in trying to convince the Labor party to reinstitute a free conscience vote on its side if only to force the Coalition to do the same. That way the parliament a few years down the track might be able to do what the LGBTI advocates want them to do now. If it were my call, I would have opted for the plebiscite in February with prompt parliamentary legislation to follow. But it's not my call.

Combatting Trump's everyday misogyny

11 October 2016 | Catherine Marshall

Donald TrumpYou'd swear, from men's outrage in response to Trump's remarks, that such behaviour is rare, committed only by the truly reprobate and swiftly condemned. But, no: the volume of assault and harassment stories shared on Twitter with the hashtag #notokay, 27 million by Monday afternoon, prove that sexual assault and harassment is common. If women in their millions are relating their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, there must be men in their millions committing these crimes.

Peace in Colombia heads into extra time

09 October 2016 | Antonio Castillo

Juan Manuel Santos Colombia has been on a massive political and emotional roller coaster. A peace accord to end the 52 years civil war was signed on 26 September, only to be rejected in a referendum on 2 October. A few days later President Juan Manuel Santos, whose referendum was rejected, received the 2016 Nobel Peace. All of this happened not in a hundred years, but in the space of a few weeks. Yet for those who know a bit about Latin American politics the defeat of Santos in the referendum was not unexpected.

'Rule Britannia' rhetoric can't redeem baleful Brexit

06 October 2016 | Duncan MacLaren

Shaved-headed English nationalist gives finger to departing EU. Cartoon by Chris JohnstonThe new situation was rammed home to me in a recent trip to a conference in Salamanca, where there is a Scottish seminary, and Madrid, where I have Spanish friends. Everyone I met was shocked at the news and it was as if there had been a death in the family. On the flight back to Edinburgh, it became clear to me that the Brexiteers were about to take my European nationality away from me and replace it with a Little Englander mentality that sees foreigners through a prism of otherness

Athenian taxi driver's keys to happiness

06 October 2016 | Gillian Bouras

Athens taxiThe man's grandparents were from Ithaca, the storied isle, but he himself had always lived in Athens. I learned he had not been driving a cab for very long, but had taken to it when his business failed because of the continuing financial crisis. A familiar tale in the Greece of today, alas. But he acknowledged he was lucky to have a job at all, and went on to say that he had no complaints, because he had realised his ambition. I asked what this was. He replied: 'I have educated my children.'

Cultural ownership and responsibility is not just a fad

03 October 2016 | Esther Anatolitis

Lionel ShriverWho owns a cultural object? Who has the right to determine cultural values? And how can public institutions exercise cultural responsibility? It's a timely set of questions as we consider the implications of the National Gallery of Australia's return of ancient Indian sculptures, the British Museum's refusal to return Indigenous objects, or Lionel Shriver's rejection of minority cultural identities. Each of these unleashes complex, painful consequences that can undermine cultural value or cultural safety.

The dangers of Trump and climate conspiracy theories

28 September 2016 | Fatima Measham

Donald TrumpTrump predictably resorted to insinuation to mask his deficiencies. After the first presidential debate, he said: 'They gave me a defective mic. Did you notice that ... was that on purpose?' It is hilarious until you realise how it would be received by supporters. It captures something of contemporary politics, where the line between conspiracy theory and legitimate anti-establishment criticism is more smudged than ever. A deficit of trust is one thing; a detachment from truth is something else.

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