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17 January 2017 |
In an otherwise sombre start to the year Barack Obama's final speech has been a shining light. He celebrated what he saw as the successes of his administration without sneering at his political opponents. He spoke graciously and decently, and evoked hope for the future. Obama is right in insisting that empathy is the necessary starting point for reconstructing a broken economic framework. It enables a global perspective from which the good of individuals and groups is set within the flourishing of the whole community, and especially the most disadvantaged.
16 January 2017 |
Without any media fanfare, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop published a statement on 9 January 2017 announcing that Australia and Timor Leste had agreed to terminate the 2006 Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea. This news is more welcome to the Timorese government than to the Australian government. But the uncertainty created by this Timorese win might in time impact more adversely on Timor than on Australia. Only time will tell.
18 December 2016 |
A few years ago I woke up on Christmas morning to see a small, neatly wrapped gift under the tree. The size and shape were familiar and I was excited to see my name on the gift tag. I'd wanted a new phone all year ... one with one of those touch screens everyone else seemed to have. A few months later I could no longer feel pride for my phone, instead just guilt. I'd sat down and watched a documentary about how phones just like mine were manufactured.
15 December 2016 |
Assad's victory epitomises, in a sense, the reactionary tide prevailing just about everywhere in this, the Year of the Donald. The hopes raised during the Arab Spring have, it seems, been crushed, with the Syrian regime consolidating its grip over a nation it has oppressed for so long. Yet Aleppo also illustrates how little the Right's victories have actually settled. The Right's biggest asset is often the Left, with progressives seemingly determined to validate all the smears levelled against them.
11 December 2016 |
The British Prime Minister is many things. Depending on which side of the political spectrum you're on, she's either a trailblazing female politician set on reclaiming Britain's independent role in Europe, or just another callous, career orientated Conservative ill-suited to the challenges at hand. One quality she does appear to possess, however, is a degree of honesty, particularly when it comes to Britain's controversial take on human rights and foreign trade. Or does she?
08 December 2016 |
Trump's phone call with Tsai Ing-wen is to diplomacy what Happy Gilmore's slap shot was to the Pro Golf Tour. It defies all convention, is appallingly out of context, and should not even work, but it might just augur a new way of doing things. That conversation disrupted previous norms, some of which resulted from decades of delicate, often secret, negotiations. In the midst of the confected outrage it is worth considering the event within the context of contemporary US-China relations.
07 December 2016 |
It is hard to overstate the sort of things that become permissible when the dominant political culture appeals to our darker nature. Take the cascade of brutality in the Philippines, or the stream of hateful incidents in the US. In Australia, white supremacist groups staged 'victory rallies' after the US election, and posters appeared last weekend at Melbourne University telling 'dunecoons, shitskins, niggers, chinks' to get out. This permissiveness isn't just about Trump, though he is a catalyst.
28 November 2016 |
I spent some summers in the border camps around the same time as Healy. This was life-changing: it made me subsequently look at policies from the perspective of those affected by them. But on reading these stories told by from the perspective of the Khmer people I recognised how much of their life I had not noticed. This gap between perception and reality may be pertinent to reflection on how we are to respond to the startling recent shifts in our world and to the brutality that runs through them.
28 November 2016 |
Someone I read in high school, so probably Shakespeare, once said 'The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.' Well, whoever it was clearly hadn't been to Stratford-upon-Avon (so maybe not Shakespeare then). Here, you truly can visit the past, without a passport. As one peruses the shops, houses, supermarkets and ATMs, one cannot help but speculate as to the links between Shakespeare's works and what must have been the commonplaces of his everyday life.
23 November 2016 |
Technicalities seldom withstand moral grievance. So it is with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte's justification for allowing the remains of a reviled dictator to be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani - the Heroes' Cemetery. Young Filipinos, observing recent political disorder, had begun wondering whether Marcos was really that bad. But the disgusted response of millenials and others to the sneaky burial suggests that the pushback against historical revisionism is paying off.
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