A Hike, Here and There.

What a week! On the home front, with four days left of school for the year, it’s been hectic. On the international front… well. It’s been something else. Happy Sunday to you all, and here are some links!

One of the biggest news items around the world this week was the release of the report into the CIA torture programme. I found it difficult to read the details. What happened to these people was truly horrific. I would like to say that I can’t understand how one person can do something like that to another person, but in fact, I can see the way that an organisation’s permissive culture and reinforcement from the media and wider community can lead to someone justifying this in their own mind. There have been countless incidents in history where the same has happened. I suppose we look at those and imagine that we have evolved beyond that. If only that were the case. In this article, former Australian detainee David Hicks heckles George Brandis, Australia’s Attorney General at a Human Rights Awards ceremony. He claims that the Australian government knew about his treatment – this would make them complicit in his torture. Can we prove they were? I’m not sure, but if they knew about it, then of course they share responsibility for his treatment. If they didn’t, then perhaps the close relationship with the US, about which our politicians have boasted, isn’t as close as we thought it was.

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UK conservative politician Baroness Jenkin’s remarks about the poor have landed her in trouble this week, but I would like to step in to her defence. I agree that she is reinforcing stereotypes and making assumptions about people’s skills based on their income, but she has a point: many people do not know how to cook, and if you are poor and don’t know how to cook, then a lot of your money is going on cheap, pre-prepared foods which have little nutritional value. What we need to be doing is focussing on how people can gain the skills they need to help them make food at home, and also ensuring that quality ingredients are not out of the price league of those on low incomes.

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This is why we can’t have nice things. Sony set up a pop-up shop to sell limited edition retro-look PS4s for the 20th anniversary of the launch of the original Playstation. It’s not just that it might be unfair to those who don’t live in the London area – people are going to miss out, wherever the consoles were sold. It’s more that there were many who lined up to buy them were planning to sell them on for profit. It just seems a shame that there couldn’t be more people who simply appreciate the one-off for what it is: a collector’s item which inspires nostalgia for those who have been playing the Playstation for the past 20 years.

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While I’m encouraged by the fact that director Kathryn Bigelow has made a film highlighting the issue of ivory poaching, it is a little disheartening that it takes a threat to human lives for us to really get upset about the potential extinction of other animals. Bigelow has joined with other groups including WildAid to produce the animated short which shows how terrorism is funded by the ivory trade; considering our failings in halting poaching, perhaps this approach will lead to a better result for both elephants, and for us.


4 thoughts on “A Hike, Here and There.

  1. I actually got up a little early this morning – I’ve been sick the past few days and haven’t slept through the early morning hours very well at all – and was hoping that I would at least have as consolation another of your Sunday posts to read!

    Regarding the torture program, I have already posted in my blog about this; so I’ll keep my response to the subject here a little short. What really concerns me about this isn’t so much that it was done (people have been torturing one another for a very long time, and will likely continue to do so); but rather the mentality involved in justifying it by the U.S. government. Essentially, the CIA and the people who designed and authorized the program are defending the program by saying it obtained the desired results. First, there is evidence to the contrary; and second, we are talking about the most powerful country in the world, which has stood in the past as a beacon of hope for the dignity and freedom for human life, taking a major back step from its own values. What I find to be even more worrying at this point is that, while the current government of the U.S. has (to some small extent) admitted that the program was wrong and that steps should be made to guarantee that it never happens again, the other half of the government is still defending the program, trying to shift the blame for moral wrongdoing onto the shoulders of those who brought this report forward, and at no level in the U.S. government is there any sign that the architects of this program will be further investigated or prosecuted. It seems like other countries, who were only remotely involved, and likely never knew the full details of what was happening, are launching investigations, with the potential for punishment for the wrongdoers as a valid option; yet President Obama, in a recent interview, has already washed the U.S. government’s hands from the matter by stating that he felt America showed its greatness by admitting to its mistakes – with nothing at all said about taking full responsibility for them. As far as he’s concerned, this has all gone as far as he intends it to go.

    With the ‘poor can’t cook’ comment – thank you for linking to the BBC article, by the way – I would offer one further dimension to the conversation: a lot of poor people can’t afford to cook properly, time-wise. With dual-income families being the norm these days, and often people needing to secure second jobs just to make ends meet, a lot of people just don’t have the time to shop around for good ingredients (which you aptly point out may or may not even be affordable in the first place), let alone stand around in the kitchen to prepare three square meals every day. In this case, offering cooking courses to poor people might help some; but overall it’s a band-aid approach to a wound that needs proper stitching. As a society, we do a miserable job at taking care of the people we expect to be the workhorses: they need to be paid more for what they do, and they need to be given more time to spend at home. At that point, cooking courses might really make a difference.

    In a way, the selling on of the 20th anniversary editions of the PS4s helps those who couldn’t make it to the lines to buy them to obtain what they would otherwise have missed out on 🙂 I understand your position, though … we live in a society where materialism runs rampant, and such exploitation is usually met with monetary reward. I see a perverse sort of ‘learned helplessness’ at work here, as well: people initially resist materialism, but are exposed to it so often that they feel they are helpless to overcome it and, even when given a chance to do something else, they feel there is no longer any use in trying.

    Regarding ivory poaching, and the killing of any other animal for reasons other than survival, I tend to get quite passionate. When I was younger, I went so far as to advocate the hunting of such poachers. A few more years has added a little tempering to my outlook, and I no longer believe this would be a proper reaction / solution. A public flogging with a horse whip for anyone caught poaching, along with prosecuting and imprisoning those providing a market for the animal parts is what I advocate these days. In particular, the people who obviously have too much money on their hands, that they can afford to pay hunters to go poaching these animals, need to be put in prison: and all that extra money of theirs should be confiscated and put into the creation and maintenance of wildlife preserves.

    • I’m sorry to hear you’re not well, but glad that I could come through with a Sunday post to take your mind off it!

      Will be back tomorrow with a proper response to all your points 😉

    • Wow, I’m sorry it took so long for me to get back! We’ve just had illness go through our house for the past ten days, too (so far, the Handsome Sidekick and I have been largely immune, thank goodness!) so I’ve had a little less time for the internet!

      I also worry about the lack of reflection about the report into torture. I read one response which indicated that releasing this information was just going to increase danger for US citizens and those of other countries implicated, and I thought, ‘but how are we ever going to be held accountable?’ Let’s face it, those who were tortured knew for certain, the rest of us had an inkling. It’s not such a big surprise. But it is necessary that we look at our crimes and try to ensure that they don’t happen again. Because who will hold us accountable? Who will hold the US accountable?

      Finding the time to cook (and having the skills in the first place) is absolutely an issue – and if you’re poor, you’ve the added disadvantage of trying to find good food and a low price. Shopping for the best bargains also takes time, and when you’re poor in both time and money, then it is no wonder that hunger is such an issue.

      I just can’t stand poaching. I don’t even understand why people would ever buy ivory! You would think by now, everyone would know where it comes from and how cruel it is. I’d be well in favour of stripping all the money from those who profit from it and putting it into conservation – and education to help people avoid a criminal life.

  2. Pingback: A Hike, Here and There. | ugiridharaprasad

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