In light of the terrible news from Norway, it should be possible to hope that we might have a little more civility in public debate in this country.
It might be nice if the radio shock-jocks refrain, if only for a little while, from suggesting the Prime Minister should be pushed into a bag and thrown into the sea.
It might be nice if people stopped referring to the Prime Minister as a ‘bitch”, “witch” and “liar”.
It might be nice if people realise words have power. Words can kill.
It might be nice if more people responded to claims that "Muslims are ruining our way of life, muslim immigration is out of control" with "that's fucking bullshit".
It might be nice. But I’m not holding my breath.
“I'm proud to live in a country that has managed to stand together in the face of tragedy. I am impressed over how much dignity, care and strength we have. We're a little country but a proud people. We are shaken but we will not give up our values. Our response is more freedom, more democracy but not naivety.”
Storming the Bastille. A distant ancestor of the Insertnamehere family is in the front line, spurred on by the belief that there is free beer inside.
People often come up to me* and say “Ramon, you filthy rouser of rabble, what’s your favourite revolution?” to which my answer is always “why, the French Revolution, of course**”.
Think about it.
The French Revolution brought us;
• Angry mobs,
• Dead aristocrats***,
• A Reign of Terror (both kinds),
• More dead aristocrats, and
• A really, really kick-arse national anthem.
Interestingly enough, the French Revolution also gave us the terms “left and right wing” and the Red Flag as a symbol of revolt.
As mentioned previously, I have a girlfriend, Andromeda. Being single for almost five years before that I got used to doing things my way; not having to socially compromise on anything, always being able to choose what's on the telly and what music is playing when I do the housework, and eating what I want and when I want.
Whilst Andromeda is happy to eat whatever I prepare or suggest (when we go out), left alone to her own devices, she has pretty junky eating habits. Like all cliche girls, chocolate is its own food group in her diet, as are these hideous packeted food-drinks called 'Up n Go' (I had one sip and nearly spewed - it tasted like soggy weetbix that had been left on the table for a whole day, in the sun). She also likes Red Bull (I had one sip of that too - all my teeth decayed by 10%).
She also likes McDonalds. Which is a problem, because I've maintained a blackban on McDonalds since 1989 (though I did have a long macchiato from Maccas in 2007, at 2am, on drugs, drunk, and attempting (and failing) to pick up a chick who happened to want a Cheeseburger at that time).
I have been proud of my 22 year blackban, irrational as it is. I don't think McDonalds is any more evil than any other franchise of anything, but like Nike, Nescafe, Microsoft and USA, being the biggest at some enterprise means being the principal target of anti-capitalist ire, but I'm sure that Le Coq Sportif, Moccona, Norton and Norway would be just as evil given half the chance. I eat Hungry Jacks occasionally, but not Maccas - that's irrational, but sometimes, it's nice to just stick to something, no matter how inconvenient it is so as to feel some sense of discipline, or achievement. I set myself a boundary, and kept to it.
But recently, at a dinner party, I made mention of my 22 year ban on McDonalds, and Andomeda said to me, "...that's because you're anti-fun!"
I argued that the eating or non-eating of McDonalds had nothing to do with 'fun', and that indeed, I am a LOT of fun even with the absence of Maccas - hell, the other night, I read Jack London's 'Call Of The Wild' on my I-phone in three hours whilst stroking her hair when she was asleep! I'm a lot of fun! But she wouldn't be deterred. She, somewhat wrongly, but a lot rightly, pointed out that my lifestyle, with the exception of when I have a few drinks under my belt, revolves around arty musings, political debates and lazing on the couch watching sport.
So, two nights ago, we drove to Colac to do a big grocery shop (because there's so many poor people there, the groceries are real cheap - kalamata olives at $7.99 a kilo!) and planned to get fish n chips, but it was shut. "I want McDonalds" she said so I went to the drive through (which they spelt 'thru', which nearly made me crash), and she ordered a cheeseburger, some chicken nuggets and a watered down coke, and before I knew it, obviously with the 'anti-fun' jibe rattling in my head, I heard myself order a Big Mac and medium fries.
It was like riding a bike. One bite into the Big Mac and I thought, "I remember this". An hour later, when I felt nauseous, fat, sickly and lethargic, I thought, "I remember this as well".
I was right to instil a ban on that crap food for 22 years, but here's the rub: I enjoyed it. Sort of. I enjoyed not having to get out of the car, and to be fed, cheaply and quickly, with food that whilst disgusting on almost every measurement, was good for both my appetite and my relationship. Also, I proved I was capable of 'fun', and now that I've proven it to her, I can give Maccas another 22 year wide berth.
Coaltion claims "prices of rubber chickens to soar under the carbon tax"*
Well, I’ve been giving this whole “carbon tax” brouhaha a fair bit of a squiz and so far, I’m pretty impressed.
The starting price of $23 a ton** seems pretty realistic and the Government (and Greens and independents) seem to have constructed the compensation quite well.
• The carbon “tax” is not a tax on the average punter as such, but is a price that will be levied on large polluters to encourage them to switch to lower polluting methods. The money raised by the carton price will be used to invest in more environmentally friendly technologies and to compensate lower to middle income earners.
• Just about every commentator I’ve read argues nine out of ten Australian households will not be affected by the new price on carbon. Through a combination of measures (through changes to the income tax threshold and welfare benefits) most households will be no worse off and if they switch to companies that use either lower-polluting or non-polluting technologies (which is rather the whole idea), then a lot of people will be much better off.
• The argument that “Australia should wait for the rest of the world” is an argument for never doing anything, at any time until the end of the universe. In any case, the rest of the world is looking at forms of carbon abatement schemes. The EU has a carbon abatement scheme; the UK is looking at a carbon abatement scheme. Hell, even China is looking at a carbon abatement scheme***.
As to what it all means politically – who the fuck knows?
My suspicion is that by the next Commonwealth election in 2013, most people will be wondering what the fuss was all about and who is that funny, shouting man that seems to be leading the Federal opposition?
* Possibly not true.
**Or is it “tonne”? I can never remember.
*** A process that seems to be assisted by the fact that discussion and debate in the PRC is perhaps less than rigorous.