Category Archive 'Australia'
04 Aug 2018

Australian Nurses & Midwives Instructed to Apologize for Being White

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Daily Mail story (from March):

Australian nurses and midwives are being forced to announce their ‘white privilege’ before treating Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander patients – a move which has been slammed as ‘racist to its core’.

The term ‘white privilege’ defines the unearned social and cultural advantages awarded to people with white skin which are not enjoyed by people of colour or non-white backgrounds.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board believes the cultural safety of Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander patients is just as important as their clinical safety.

16 Jul 2018

Victimhood and Cultural Appropriation

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Professional victim Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

In Tablet, Claire Lehmann discusses the sudden rise to powerful influence of cultural taboos forbidding criticism of recognized victim groups and the ability of members of such groups to wall off cultural items and artifacts from access by outsiders.

Perhaps the most famous American case occurred in the fall of 2015, when Co-Master of Yale Silliman College Erika Christakis responded with an email of her own to an admonitory pre-Halloween email from the Intercultural Affairs Council — a group of administrators from the cultural centers, Chaplain’s Office and other campus organizations — sent to the undergraduate student body warning against wearing Halloween costumes which could be interpreted as belittling or offensive: no sombreros, no blackface, no turbans, arguing in favor of freedom of undergraduate expression. The campus exploded with protests. University officials, including Christakis’s Co-Master husband, were confronted by screaming, hysterical mobs and, despite Yale’s famous Woodward Report affirming Freedom of Speech and some two-faced expressions of support from Yale President Salovey, both Christakis left on “temporary” sabbaticals never ever to return. A modest and polite demurral to an implicit ban on cultural appropriation sufficed to get two prominent Yale administrators and professors run clean out of town.

In 2016, a flare-up exploded over author Lionel Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival—where she infamously wore a sombrero hat while delivering her speech about freedom in fiction writing. …

In 2013, GQ listed The Human Stain as one of the best books of the 21st century. Arguably, such a book could not be written today, and would almost certainly cause a firestorm if published. That’s a pretty sharp turnaround in sensibility in a very short period of time.

The context surrounding the drama at the Brisbane Writers Festival is important for understanding why it happened. Abdel-Magied migrated to Australia at the age of two and, from a relatively young age, entered the public sphere as a “model minority.” She was an articulate activist and an accomplished student (becoming an engineer and memoir writer) who appeared capable of promoting a modern, sophisticated image of an urban Muslim-Australian. For her activism, she was showered with awards and publicly funded appointments, and given international trips for the express purpose of promoting Australia abroad. Yet for all her accomplishments, accolades, money, and travel opportunities—or perhaps in exchange for them—the young woman was stuck with the felt identity of a victim. This apparent feeling of victimhood was so strong that she interpreted arguments for creative license in art to be “lay[ing] the foundation for genocide.”

Many people—both then and now—find it hard to understand how such complaints can come from a place of good faith. Activists like Abdel-Magied seem unwilling to empathize with those who may genuinely want to show appreciation for cultures which are not their own, or writers who genuinely want to empathize with those who are different or marginalized, or simply to reach beyond a single layer or caste of the multicultural societies in which they live, an ambition for which writers and thinkers have historically been applauded.

What also seems odd is that activists like Abdel-Magied rarely appear to attempt to persuade others to engage with the foreign cultures they are purportedly defending in more sensitive or better-informed ways. Rather, their complaints have a hectoring, absolutist quality, focusing on the disrespect and lack of deference that white people have shown them. Listening to these complaints, it is difficult to come away with the view that they are about anything other than exercises in power. While being an effective social-media activist, Abdel-Magied is not a particularly good writer, which means identity-as-victim is therefore valuable currency at a writers festival. If literature is not reducible to identity, and representation is not a group property, then her own claim to literary significance would be a dubious one.

It is by considering the power dynamics at play that the logic of cultural appropriation starts to become clear. In a culture that increasingly rewards victimhood with status, in the form of op-ed space, speaking events, awards, book deals, general deference, and critical approbation, identity has become a very valuable form of currency. It makes sense that people will lie, cheat, and steal in order to get some. Expressing offense over a white person wearing a sombrero hat might seem ridiculous on its face—but for those who live inside these sententiously moralistic bubbles, it may be both a felt injury and a rational strategic choice.

Complaints about cultural appropriation are not really complaints, they are demands. When Abdel-Magied walked out on Shriver, it was not because of her insensitivity, it was because of her defiance: her refusal to kowtow to the orthodoxies written up by her moral betters, from which Abdel-Magied’s own claims to significance and social status are derived.

In their newly released book, The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars, the moral sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning describe the three main moral cultures that exist today, which they give the shorthand labels of dignity, honor, and victimhood. A dignity culture, which has been the dominant moral culture of Western middle classes for some time, has a set of moral values that promotes the idea of moral equality and was crystallized in Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision that people ought to be judged according to the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

Victimhood culture departs from dignity culture in several important ways. Moral worth is in large part defined by the color of one’s skin, or at least one’s membership in a fixed identity group: i.e., women, people of color, LGBTIQ, Muslims, or indigenous peoples. Such groups are sacred, and a lack of deference to them is seen as a sign of deviance. The reverse is true for those who belong to groups that are considered historical oppressors: whites, males, straight people, Zionists. Anyone belonging to an “oppressor” group is stained by their privilege, or “whiteness,” and is cast onto the moral scrapheap.

In a recent interview in the online magazine which I edit, Quillette, I asked Campbell and Manning what they thought about cultural appropriation. They explained that they found such complaints baffling, like everybody else, but that they also “illustrate victimhood culture quite well.” One of the key components of victimhood culture is its projection of collective guilt, social offenses between individuals are no longer about the actual people involved, they are about “one social group harming another.”

RTWT

07 Jun 2018

Crocodile Finally Eats Terrier

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Kai Hansen with the late Pippa.

Fox News reports that, finally, the courageous little terrier lost the game.

Luck finally ran out recently for a plucky dog in Australia that became known for repeatedly chasing a crocodile back into the Adelaide River.

The dog’s owner says a recent video shows that the croc “did what crocs do.” It ate the pooch.

Kai Hansen, owner of the terrier, named Pippa, told Australia’s ABC Radio that the dog was performing her favorite trick for a group of onlookers at the Goat Island Lodge when the tragedy occurred.

The video, captured by a spectator, shows the dog barking repeatedly while running directly at the massive reptile, before the crocodile, unfazed, whips its head back and snatches Pippa in its jaws.

RTWT

14 May 2018

Potential Next Coen Brothers Movie

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Luke “Milky” Moore

Esquire has a real life story out of Oz that could have been written by O. Henry.

The greatest adventures happen when you least expect them. And on July 15, 2010, Luke “Milky” Moore never thought one of the greatest in recent memory was about to start for him. …

Though he grew up comfortably—his father, Brett, was a bank executive, and his mother, Annette, a child-care supervisor—he’d been employed since thirteen, bagging groceries, mowing lawns, selling insurance. He was a bright student, but he opted to forgo college for work. “I always thought I’d be a millionaire one day,” he says in his thick Australian accent. While his mates were out drunkenly hunting wild boar, Milky was investing in hedge funds, and at nineteen he bought his own home, for himself and his high school sweetheart, Megan.

But then, in the fall of 2008, the life he’d worked so hard to achieve took a series of tragic turns. It started with the stock-market crash, which depleted his $50,000 life savings. With Goulburn’s economy in turmoil, he lost his job as a forklift driver. A few months later, he was driving in the early-morning darkness to paint happy birthday on a boulder near town to surprise Megan when he fell asleep at the wheel of his white Mitsubishi pickup—and drifted right into the path of an 18-wheeler, which plowed over his truck.

He awoke hanging out his shattered window covered in purple and black paint—but, miraculously, alive. “It was incredible that he survived,” recalls his father. Milky had a broken collarbone, arm, and ribs, and a ruptured spleen—but the scars ran deeper. He fell into a crippling depression, barely able to drag himself from bed or hold on to the job his father had helped him get as a teller at his bank. Adding to the pressure, his mother was suffering from a debilitating degenerative back disease, sometimes unable to get out of bed herself—leaving Milky to care for his year-old brother, Noah. It wasn’t long before his relationship with Megan ended under the strain, and Milky assumed the blame. By mid-2010, he was broke, alone, unemployed, and on the brink of foreclosure.

And that’s just when life suddenly gave him the equivalent of a royal flush on the pokies. It happened on July 15, the day his biweekly mortgage payment was due. With no money in the bank, Milky was bracing himself for the beginning of the end. But then something strange happened. The automatic debit—500 Australian dollars—went from his savings account at his bank, St. George, into his mortgage account. Two weeks later, it happened again. When he checked his balance, he could see that he had racked up the corresponding debt, and interest, under his name. Once he hit the limit, he assumed, the overdrafts would surely stop.

But they didn’t. Fortnight after fortnight, his mortgage got paid. Thinking this crazy, he put in a request for $5,000 to be transferred to his mortgage account. A couple days later, he called his bank to check on the transfer—figuring, at worst, he had reached his limit. “Did that go through?” he asked the teller, who told him casually, “Yes, that’s all paid.” A few days after that, on a lark, he called St. George and asked the bank to transfer $50,000 to his mortgage account. “I was literally thinking that I’ll just wing it and see if it works,” he recalls. And sure enough, it did. The $50,000 deficit was charged on his savings account, but the bank didn’t seem to notice, or, if it did, it didn’t care. It was like getting a free, unlimited loan. “I probably had a bit of a smile on my face then,” he says. “Not smiling because I was thinking I was scamming the bank, but smiling because I was like, ‘This is my fresh start.’”

By the time he sold his home a year later, he’d paid down his mortgage so much from the overdrafts that he cleared $150,000 (US$115,000).

Though he’d been quiet about this so far, he finally confided in a friend. “What do you reckon I do?” Milky asked him. What do you do, in other words, when you’re single, twenty-four, and just got a pile of free money from the bank? No-brainer, his friend replied. “Let’s party!”

Milky was going to Paradise. …

Milky’s rock-star lifestyle became routine. Sleep late, hit the gym, buy memorabilia online, slap the pokies, cocktails at the strip joint, then dancing all night in the clubs. On the nights he didn’t pick up, he sought the ready alternative: the many legal brothels in town. “Especially with girls,” he says bashfully, “you’ve got to make the most of every opportunity, because you might turn around and that’ll be gone.” One week, he threw down $40,000 and rented out an entire brothel to himself for four days. And so it was that, one day in November 2012, he barely registered what happened when he went to pay for repairs on his Alfa Romeo. He was standing there in the car shop, hungover and bronzed, when he saw a message he’d never seen before come up on the credit-card machine. “Call bank security,” it read.

Milky blinked a few times, trying to digest the moment he’d feared for the past two years. Fuck, he thought. Well, that’s done. He went back to his apartment in a daze. How could this just end? There was no old life. There was only this one, and the hole he had dug for himself. So he did the only thing he could think to do. He grabbed as many stacks of cash as he could find around his penthouse, drove to the airport, and booked the next flight to Phuket.

RTWT for the happy ending.

07 Apr 2018

Cape York Shotgun

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A flintlock shot gun was found inside a tree harvested on Cape York, the northernmost point in Australia, in the course of it being milled into boards. The gun is supposed to have been left in the fork of the tree and the tree grown around it over many years.

Via Wide Open Spaces.

18 Feb 2018

That’s What I Say

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29 Jul 2017

Shame!

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Game of Throne characters exploit environmentalist superstition to sell a home sparkling water device in this Australian ad.

Bottled water makers sued!

HT: Karen L. Myers.

09 Jun 2017

Saudis Quickly Apologized For Soccer Team’s Behavior

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The Australia team link arms on the halfway line as the minute’s silence begins. The Saudi team stood at their respective positions on the field, not participating in honoring the victims.

The Telegraph explains what happened.

The Saudi Arabian football team were booed by Australian supporters after they failed to properly line up for a minute’s silence in honour of the victims of the London Bridge terror attacks.

Saudi Arabia were preparing to play Australia in a World Cup qualifier at the Adelaide Oval when the stadium announcer called for a minute’s silence to begin.

The Australia team linked arms in a line on the centre circle while the Saudi Arabia team stood in random formation as the silence began.

According to Adam Peacock, who works as a presenter for Fox Sports in Australia, the Asian Football Confederation approved the minute’s silence against the wishes of Saudi Arabia.

The Football Federation of Australia were then unable to persuade Saudi Arabian officials to agree to participate in the tribute.

A number of Saudi Arabian players stood still with their arms behind their back while others appeared to continue their warm up.

RTWT

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The Wall Street Journal reports that an official apology was quickly forthcoming.

Saudi Arabia’s Football Federation apologized on behalf of the country’s national soccer team for failing to observe a minute’s silence for victims of a recent London terrorist attack ahead of a World Cup qualifying match against Australia.

The incident prompted a furious response in Australia, with the crowd jeering the Saudi team, which instead of lining up moved into positions for the coming match on Thursday as Australia’s players linked arms to pay silent respects to victims. While many of the Saudi players stood still, others including the team captain, Osama Hawsawi, continued warm-ups and stretches.

Eight people died in Saturday’s attack in London, among them two Australians.

The Saudi Federation said Friday it condemned “all acts of terrorism,” adding that it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologies for any offense caused by the failure of some members of the representative team of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to formally observe the one minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the London terrorist attack.”

“The players did not intend any disrespect to the memories of the victims or to cause upset to their families, friends or any individual affected by the atrocity.”

RTWT

31 Mar 2017

The Australian Bin Chicken

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Threskiornis moluccus:

“Historically rare in urban areas, the Australian white ibis has immigrated to urban areas of the east coast in increasing numbers since the late 1970s; it is now commonly seen in Wollongong, Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Townsville. In recent years the bird has also become increasing common in Perth, Western Australia and surrounding towns in south-western Australia. Populations have disappeared from natural breeding areas such as the Macquarie Marshes in north-western New South Wales. Management plans have been introduced to control problematic urban populations in Sydney.”

Hat tip to SuperversiveSF.

28 Feb 2017

Only in Australia

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In an engine shop in Victoria, Australia, a female redback spider (Latrodectus hasseltii) attacks a juvenile eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis) that had become entangled in her web.

Eastern Brown Snake: “can be aggressive and is responsible for about 60% of snake bite deaths in Australia.”

Redback Spider: “responsible for the large majority of serious spider bites in Australia. Predominantly neurotoxic to vertebrates, its venom gives rise to pain, muscle rigidity, vomiting, and sweating.”

31 Jan 2017

East Asia & Australia

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(click on map for larger image)

20 Jan 2017

Australia Vegetation Map

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06 Dec 2016

Man Rescues Dog From Kangaroo

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28 Nov 2016

In Adelaide, the Reptiles are Restless

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red-belliedsnake
Red-bellied snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus). Yes, it’s an elapid.

ABC NET AU:

A snake catcher is warning of increased snake activity in South Australian towns and cities over summer after removing several dangerous reptiles from Adelaide’s CBD [Central Business District].

Adelaide’s Ian Renton said good spring rains had boosted food sources for mice, and while callout numbers were about average so far, they had the potential to increase.

Mr Renton said he had removed snakes from homes and businesses right across Adelaide, including the CBD.

“We’ve taken them out of Wyatt Street, out of Frome Road, Pulteney Street, both red-belly black snakes and brown snakes,” he said.

“People leave their doors open or snakes come in through pet doors or air conditioning systems.

Mice go into the roof space and the snakes follow the scent trail, and drop out through light fittings.”

Mr Renton said people needed to take care and use common sense around their properties.

“People need to be aware [and] watch where they’re putting their hands. Don’t put their hands in places where they can’t see,” he said.

“Make sure they’re wearing gloves, good leather gloves, when they’re doing gardening.”

He said SA Ambulance Service had been reporting almost daily calls to treat people for snake bites.

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