Thursday, 17 July 2014

"Form and its Usurpers", by Brendan Vance

I've been sharing this post by Brendan Vance pretty much every, but I feel I would be amiss if I didn't share it here too. It's a long read (and has two earlier articles that lend it some context), but I'm all kinds of serious when I tell you that this might be one of the more important pieces you'll read this, well, forever!

I'm dead serious.

You've probably all felt from time to time like FB, et al. have been screwing you over, but I doubt you've been able to put it in words you could articulate intelligibly to another person. Well, Mr. Vance has been, gone, done the cogitative leg-work for you and his post (essay, really)  is the result.


Read it now.

If it makes your head hurt then go take a break from your screen before coming back to finish it. I can barely believe how much noise I'm making about this essay, but I'm also dead certain that it's completely worth it.

Go now.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Australia the Duck

"Stop the world! I want to get off!"

It's a phrase I hear every now and then from my maternal grandmother.

I have similar moments. Times of being sufficiently overwhelmed and/or not-okay with the situation I find myself in that I just want out. Out I tell you!

Only, this time around, it's: "Stop the country!"

The prompt is the debut column by Guardian Australia's new legal editor, Richard Ackland. In it he highlights an ongoing problem with our current government's approach to asylum seekers attempting to gain access, via boat, to the mainland: it's illegal.

Not just illegal by international standards either; illegal under Australian domestic law.

Ackland writes:
Refoulement is the forcing back of people to their place of origin where they are expected to face persecution or threats to life and liberty on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group.
[Australia's non-refoulement] obligations also form part of our domestic law because that article from the torture convention is incorporated into the Migration Act. The legislation defines persecution as "serious harm ... systematic and discriminatory conduct".
So the government can't even claim to be toeing that odious line (taken on by so many national states around the world and across history) of subscribing to international treaties only so long as it doesn't stop the national entity from doing things their own way. Screw playing hokey with the rules the neighbours set out, that's for chumps. We're not even going to follow our own rules!

And yet...

And yet the idea of the government acting duplicitously isn't what's gotten me to the point where I'm despairing of my country of birth (at least, not that idea alone). I keep digging down, trying to find the source of these feelings, and the thing that seem to throw me the most is realising just how aethical the whole Aust. gov. approach is.

Aethical? I hear you ask. Is that even a word?

Well, maybe not, but I'm taking a leaf out of Shakespeare's book and creating where I see a need. Why? Because the problem with saying something like "amoral" is that it opens up a whole can of worms about "Who's morality are you applying to the situation?", and "Who are you to say what's moral for another person?", and a whole bunch of other self-righteous (heh, ironic that) twaddle from the moral relativists. (Fuckers. Go come up with a decent solution to the reformer's dilemma. Then we'll talk).


So yes, anyway, 'aethical'.

What I mean by the term is that the Australian government, like a toddler in the sandpit (ergo having no concept of 'others'), has no problem acting without reference anything beyond it's immediate desires. It sets about doing what it sees as necessary without pausing to consult the statues that others in times past have seen fit to institute.

To put it plainly: the Australian government is aethical because it does not operate according to any consistent, external, articulated framework that might otherwise serve to stricture (or at least limit) its excesses.

I'm sure that sounded thoroughly hyperbolic.

But really, when you get down to it, what else do you call it when the government (you know, the people who are involved in drafting, passing, and upholding law) starts disregarding certain bits of legislation simply because it's politically expedient?

I don't know.

I mean, one would expect, one would hope, that the government was actually interested enough in doing their job that they actually abided by the rules and regulations they set themselves. No?

Because if they weren't then it calls a lot of things into question. A lot, a lot of things...


Anyway, this is all getting rather depressing, so instead of continuing to stare into the abyss I though I'd finish with an amusing little anecdote about a Muscovy duck I once knew. (Well, amusing might be up for debate, but it's an interesting story at any rate. I'll leave people to draw their own conclusions).

Hugo was a miserable excuse for a duck. Not that he himself was miserable, but his lifestyle and personal habits left much to be desired. Hugo, you see, was in the habit of finding a warm spot of sun to snooze in after the daily bucket of grain had made its appearance. This in itself would not have been such a bad habit, but Hugo so enjoyed the little nests he created that, come the call of nature, he would rather defecate in said nest than get up and do his business elsewhere. But this was not all, oh no indeed; Hugo was a most singular duck. During his slumber he would shit and turd up his snug little nest something terrible; however, the real sanitary disaster came not only from his propensity to make continued use of the same nest, week after week, but from his compulsive habit of expunging the contents of his inner plumbing into and over his nest whenever the opportunity presented itself! There's little more to be said for Hugo, other than that his habit of constant 'refoulement' eventually lead to him (as a friend eloquently put it) "Going yellow, and then dying, in his own poo".
Ho, hum.

Here, I guess, endeth the lesson.



Thursday, 3 April 2014

Articulation (a longing for)

Ever tried to explain the colour blue to someone who's colourblind? Or the flavour of avocado to someone who's only ever tasted beef-jerky & candy corn?

It kinda how trying to explain my faith feels at times.

It's not that there aren't solid, reasonable reasons for why I believe what I do but, at the end of the day, they're only highlights at the end of the reel. There's historical data that's as reliable (or better) as anything else we're got from the period(s) in question, there's logics and arguments, there's testimonies & anecdotes from people I believe and can trust to not be stretching the truth, there's even examples in my own life of some pretty outrageous stuff that satisfactorily fits into the framework of a Christian understanding that would be difficult to account for otherwise.

But at the end of the day, if I'm brutally honest, that's not why I believe.

I believe because however I come at things, whichever way I twist and try to pretend that I'm a completely impartial, rational being, in the final count it all boils down to my simply being in love with my saviour.

How crazy is that? I mean, there's no real way to explain it to someone else --no way I can 'impart' my love of something (or rather, Someone) to others-- and hence to anyone who is not also in love with Jesus the whole thing comes across as ludicrous.

And while I guess on some level I'm resigned to that fact; at another, deeper, level I'm pretty torn up by it. "How can something that gets me in such a profound fashion leave those around me so untouched?" It confuses and (at times) devastates me.

And it's at this point that, I think, art comes in. Art (paining, music, dance, drawing, writing, composition in all its forms, etc.) offers a glimpse, a Zen view if you will, of worlds that would otherwise remain closed to the viewer; a peek, as it were, into the ineffable.

For me, being in the conscious presence of God is akin to being on fire "and yet the flames did not consume the bush". Trying to explain with plain text gets a little hard after that, so here's a song by the excellent Switchfoot that at least captures some part of the experience:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Tough one

Obviously this isn't Friday. Less obviously this isn't the blog post I had planned. The current idea is that the post I'd intended for this Friday past I'll put up this Friday coming. I'm kinda excited (in a morbid fashion) about getting to writing that post because it, unintentionally, actually contains the reason I didn't end up writing/posting it. I'd say more, but then I'd be making that post now instead of the post I'm actually going to make. I hope that wasn't too confusing to follow; it all made sense inside my head...

A friend shared the above picture on FB last night and after dithering as to whether I should comment or not I posted the following:

No argument here. But the question that keeps coming back to my mind is: "Is it okay to force those who do not follow Christ to abide by His creed?" ('cos that's kinda what we're doing, using our country's laws to forbid a certain activity on the basis of it not being in line with the Bible [yes some other, secular, reasons are often given too, but let's be honest-- the scriptural argument is the big motivator])
The question doesn't keep coming back because I don't know the answer (1 Corinthians 5:9-12 is pretty clear on whether we should hold non-Christians to a Christian standard); instead it's because every time I get asked to pick a side "Well, are you for or against same-sex marriage? Come on! Choose!" I am forced to revisit the issue and wonder how I can explain my strong opposition to the idea/practice of same-sex marriage while also explaining that I am equally strongly opposed to requiring (by law, no less) that non-believers toe the line as set out by the Word.
There is a great tendency to become polarised to one end of the spectrum or the other. I don't really want to cop-out and say "I abstain", but that just brings m back to the choice: "Yes, or No?". It's tough. Maybe I'll just be in Antarctica and out of contact when the time comes. :L

On reflection I realise I've actually held this kind of view for quite a long time, but rarely articulated it. Whether it's because of the pro-gay lobby (don't know which is worse tbh, getting bashed/flamed, or being given pitying looks that seem to say "Poor guy, being so brainwashed. It must be a hard way to live hating the idea of other people, who never did him any harm, being happy. How could anyone get to be so hate-filled and backwards? etc. etc." or because of the Christian lobby side of things (the choices for censure being: reproved for 'backsliding', getting bashed/flamed even harder by the ultra liberals [for 'not being loving' >_>], or a host of other reactions that all boil down to the phrase "Christianity; you're doing it wrong") either way I've censored myself.

That's about as far as my thought processes have gone, that I've unknowingly put myself on mute, and tbh I don't know if there's much more I can wring out of that realisation; but if nothing else, I guess this post here marks for the record where I stand: No I don't agree with one side, no I don't agree with the other side, yes I guess they'll probably both try to stone me now.

Typical, really.

Try to put your best foot forward only to find there's an anti-tank mine 6cm below...


Friday, 14 February 2014

Post title goes here

Blogs posts are scary.

Or rather, writing them is. Because however well you write them; however funny, smart, interesting, or informative they may be; they're never a nice neat end in/of themselves. You always have to write more. A follow up post. And then another. And another. And suddenly the prospect of writing a single, brief piece seems utterly insurmountable.

It's not that I fear running out of material. Most days something will cross my brain that makes me think "Ah, now that would make an interesting blog article" and sometimes I spend the rest of the afternoon composing the post in my head. Only never to post it. So clearly there's something else at stake.

It could be the depression. I can see how having a complete lack of motivation or desire to engage with anything or anyone might get in the road of entering into that intimate & painful exercise known as 'writing'. But then I'm not always depressed; so if it were merely Winston's black dog one would expect to find at least a smattering of posts leaking through on my good days... Only one doesn't find them. So clearly not the depression.

Maybe I'm just not comfortable with exposing my inner processes to the rest of the world and any attempt to write buckles under the stress of constructing textual facades that are acceptable to the world (and hence won't attract unwanted ire) while also being close enough to what's actually going on below the surface that I can avoid feeling duplicitous. But then I never really did care what other people thought about how I do things; not the things that really matter anyway. I might fret and worry over whether people think I'm a messy housekeeper (I am), but politics? Faith? Education? Ethics? Dark brown yeasty spreads? I have strong, articulate views (Vegemite, for example, is amazing) and I'm pretty much ready at any time to tell you why I'm right (or at least, not completely wrong). The only real concern I might have is whether people understand my position as well as they think they do. >_> So clearly, once again, the problem must lie elsewhere.

In the end I suspect it's not any one thing that makes continued posting difficult but instead the interplay between a number of factors that leads to post paralysis and a distinct lack of active blog. Oh, that and procrastination.

Me and procrastination is enough of a topic that it probably deserves a post (or several) of its own some time (particularly some thoughts I've had recently about a possible causal link between work/study habits in adults and playstyles in children) but, you know, another topic for another day. Anyway, reading about procrastination in two excellent blog posts by Tim Urban on the Wait But Why blog has lead to both a conviction that chronic procrastination is a problem for me and the (crackpot) idea that by committing to posting a new thingy every Friday (which is what I'm actually doing, in case you were wondering) I can start to train myself to actively not procrastinate (it makes decent sense in theory but the execution still feels, even as I type this, like I've just volunteered to have a wisdom tooth pulled every week for the foreseeable future (and shhh, I know I only have four, just stop over-analysing it and go with the metaphor/simile/thingy-thing)).

So, um, yes. I think that's enough of a post for this week. Ha. I'm done now. So how do I turn this thing off again?..