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Hello world! It has been a long time since we have seen each other across the interwebs.
Apologies for the terrible title(s). They were the best entrants in our 30 second brainstorm to come up with a suitable pun to function as shorthand for our trip across Asia, Europe, and Asia again. Thankfully I don’t have instagram, so few people will be subjected to them.
Grace and I have set off on a long adventure. The itinerary broadly looks like this:
1. Western China (Xinjiang)
2. Central Asia (‘the Stans’)
3. Russia (the world cup)
5. South Asia
This is going to take us about nine months. There may be a standalone blog but it will have to be set up. This is not terribly easy to do from behind the great firewall.
We are currently in Turpan, China, a city which is 75% Uighur and appears to be about 25% police. The noodles are delicious, and the heat is almost as stifling as the super-Orwellian convenience police stations.
Some more thoughts on where we have been and what we have seen so far will hopefully follow. I may refrain from posting this article until we leave China.
I have now posted this article. We have left China. We have some catching up to do. The standalone blog will be with you shortly.
A few months ago, in the weeks that followed Tony Abbott’s near-death experience, a couple of prime ministerial tidbits stuck in my mind.
The first was a line in an article from, of all places, the Australian:
Insiders say that, these days, Abbott sits for much of the day in his office in Parliament House pondering national security, Islamic State and reading Winston Churchill
The second came through the grapevine, and it said that the real reason Abbott pleaded for another six months was not for the chance to win the people over, nor to hand down another budget, but to lead the nation through the centenary Anzac celebrations.
Ever since I’ve been waiting for Abbott to re-emerge as Winston, or at least a pale imitation thereof. It hasn’t happened.
Sure, he has tried, as was well charted by Geoff Kitney in the Australian Financial Review last week. But no one has really cared.
Despite his longing for an overseas conflict, all Abbott has managed to commit our troops to is training the Iraqi army, a relatively low-risk, low-reward assignment in which Australia joins a long list of nations including Romania, South Korea, Jordan and itself. It’s hardly an inspiring mission.
Abbott’s “Death Cult” parlance on Islamic State has not taken grip in the minds of the public. It’s a phrase people associate more with the Prime Minister’s desperation than the enemy he used it to describe. The public is not convinced that ISIS is a bigger threat than any of our other Middle Eastern adversaries of decades gone by, and is less convinced than ever that fighting wars thousands of miles from home is the best way to stop terrorist attacks on our shores. The public may be right, or the boy (and the father before him) may have cried wolf.
On metadata, Abbott won through the dangerous indifference of the Labor party and the general resignation of the public. But what was bad policy by the opposition was probably good politics: they avoided arming their detractors while giving their supporters no less than what their supporters have come to expect. Any votes they lose from their stance will only flow to the Greens, while Abbott lost a chance to position himself as the man of decision he longs to be.
His attempts to divide the public have, by and large, failed. While the Reclaim Australia movement has grown rapidly its supporters are vastly outnumbered – including at their own rallies – by normal, sensible Australians who see it as a shameful reflection on what our nation has been allowed to become. He has managed to pit opposing views against each other, but not to convert any more of the public to his own. Unable to bring Australians over to his side, he has searched for larger groups to side with: the anti-anti-vaccination-mothers-on-welfare crowd may be large, but it includes (and already included) almost the entire political spectrum. For a self-styled wartime leader, taking on such a small enemy shows weakness rather than strength.
For months now Abbott has refused to become sidetracked by things that matter, hoping that by the time he next sits down for a conversation (as he likes to say) on economics, health or industrial relations he’ll start from a position of trust. It’s now clear, on the eve of Anzac day, that’s not going to happen.
Abbott has stabilised but he has not won. He has not climbed back to parity, or near it, in the polls. He will not get a better chance.
On Monday it will once again be 2015, not 1915, and Abbott’s khaki shield will cease to offer the protection it has during this brief reprieve. The public will once again want to know his plans for the budget, for Medicare, public education, social services and foreign aid. They’ll want to know how he’ll tackle the “debt and deficit disaster” – a phrase coined back when people were listening – while passing the test of basic fairness. It’s a huge challenge for a man so deeply indebted to the rich and powerful.
Next week the future will be back on the agenda. That’s why I can’t wait for Anzac day.
I’m a bit late this year, but I still wanted to jot down a couple of disconnected thoughts. As with last year’s post, my views may change in the morning!
Our asylum seeker policy is a national shame, and we all own it
Hundreds of innocent people are locked up in our name. At least two have died, but we don’t count them.
We routinely send refugees back to face torture and persecution in the countries they have fled.
We pay foreign governments to help them prevent refugees from leaving in the first place. This is the direct, no-exaggeration-required equivalent of paying the Soviets to put another layer of bricks on the Berlin Wall.
We are one of the richest countries in the world. We are collectively some of the richest people in the entire history of the world. Yet we have more important things to care about. Going to the beach. Buying those new shoes. Getting trashed with the boys. Making dogs chase mechanical rabbits.
I had written something about the hand of friendship we extend to the people fleeing the very same wars we are fighting. I take it back. There is no hand of friendship. We offer nothing.
We all need to own this one, because we do all own it, whether or not we care.
Our society neglects the traditional owners of ‘its’ land
Where are the indigenous voices in our society? I have come across strong, powerful indigenous voices on a few occasions this year and each time I have been blown away. Unfortunately those experiences have been a long way from the mainstream, where indigenous representation seems limited to Adam Goodes and Noel Pearson, at least when the latter praises an old white man friend of his or goes in to bat for a (typically failed) government policy. I have nothing against Adam Goodes, but I wish our society would pay more attention to the grassroots voices and stories of people like Amy McQuire, Barb Shaw and Chris Tamwoy. Hell, even reading Bringing them Home would be a start.
Abbott’s citizenship almost matters
It doesn’t really. He’s doing an awful job whether or not he’s in there legitimately, and he is theoretically capable of doing a good job whether or not he’s in there legitimately. If our MPs are allowed to give confidential information to the intelligence services of foreign nations without even a slap on the wrist, I fail to see what difference a passport should make.
At the same time the whole issue raises some interesting questions. Why have the law at all, if we don’t actually care whether the PM (or any other MP) has dual citizenship? If that’s the case then why was the law written in the first place? Would we let a foreigner born in Pakistan, Malaysia, Japan or Brazil into the top job without asking for some proof of their legitimacy?
Would we let them continue in the job unchallenged if they then knighted one of their former-countrymen for absolutely no apparent reason? Somehow I don’t think so.
Muslim people are people
I’ve removed the paragraph on Islamophobia because the whole “discussion” about whether Muslims are good people is seriously stupid. Why are Muslim people any different to any other people? Do we discuss whether redheads should be treated and trusted the same as other people? Gay people? People with parking fines? Zoroastrians? It’s 2015, I should fucking hope not.
The Asian Cup has been a fabulous tournament, and more people should be aware of it
A slightly more lighthearted thought, which I’m about to ruin with seriousness, for the tournament has been a great advertisement for the point I made above. Sadly I don’t think many rusted on Islamophobes would have seen Omar Abdulrahman’s magic over the past three weeks, or have been in the stands for Iraq v Iran.
It’s real, it’s here, it’s not going away. At least not while we all live the same lives we lived last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and wait for Tony fucking Abbott to do something about it.
At the back of my parents’ attic, in a box marked “Ed,” is my first year 5 assignment, an A3 poster titled “All About Me.” In the middle of the page my eleven-year old self had written, by way of introduction and in handwriting not all that different from today’s, a line repeated by millions of Australian children.
When I grow up, I want to play cricket for Australia.
As a kid, like so many other Australians, I lived for the game. When it wasn’t a match it was a net session, or a hit in the backyard, or in the kitchen, or in the bedroom with a little autograph bat signed by the New South Wales team. If it wasn’t a game it was catching practice, or training, or sitting around with the old man discussing tactics and field placements, or helping my grandpa roll the pitch and paint the lines for Christmas Eve. At other times, of course, it was lying in bed listening to Jim Maxwell and Henry Blofeld and Peter Roebuck and Harsha Bhogle, or sitting and reading until memorised that little blue bible, The Laws of Cricket.
There were thousands of us, and he was one of us. Every player who has ever gone on to play for Australia, any player who has gone on to play Sheffield Shield, was one of us. The game is so complex, so rich, so imbued with history, that you can’t just play it. You have to live it. Phil Hughes lived it, as so many of us have lived it. He was better than us, he was braver, he was more determined, and he was the one who made it, and was going to make it again.
His death hits me hard because he remained, till his very last day, one of us. As good as he was, he remained defined by how good he could become.
That eleven year old kid wouldn’t have cared for celebrity girlfriends, fancy cars and a free ride from the selectors. He would have wanted be brilliant, to be unique, to be strong, to be loved by his teammates, to be respected by his opponents, and to score runs for fun. He would have wanted to be Phil Hughes.