Promises, Promises.

A few years ago, I did a Masters thesis on German Greens politician, Petra Kelly. I was inspired by her energy and commitment to green issues, but also how she and her colleagues made the move from activist to politician. As someone who certainly railed against the idea of the establishment, I was interested in how they made this transition, and realised that the trade-off was not as simple as I might have thought. Working at a grassroots level, Kelly and her colleagues were easily able to get involved in protests, or participate in acts of civil disobedience. They had a fluidity of movement which came from their widespread connections with other activist groups, and were motivated by the need to speak out about changing the status quo.

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The Frequent Frolic.

I made hot cross buns for the first time this week and it was AWESOME. I can highly recommend making them yourself, especially if your household is anything like mine in which a half-dozen buns disappear in one sitting. And it’s wonderfully appropriate weather for hot cross buns, too — cool and rainy.

I’m off to a birthday party with Third and Fourth Offspring this morning, so while I’m eating cake, please enjoy the links!

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Saying Nice Things, or Saying Nothing At All.

I wasn’t going to write about Cory Bernadi today.  I had something else on which I was working, and there were other reasons, as well.  I haven’t read his book, so I’m basing my thoughts on this morning’s article, plus others.  I also figured that there is going to be a chorus of indignant voices raised in response to this article, so why add mine to the mix?

Well, that’s never stopped me before!  And the article this morning really ticked me off. If I write about it, I’ll get it out of my system, and then perhaps I can focus on other topics, which I feel are more worthy of my time.

I know that the ABC has likely cherry-picked quotes to ensure the article is read and shared by the greatest number of people.  On the other hand, the quotes are certainly not out of character for this politician.  Formerly the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, he resigned and headed to the back bench after claiming that allowing same sex marriages could encourage bestiality.

Now he has written a book in which he has managed to offend a whole new group of people.  Or perhaps that should be ‘groups’.  Or perhaps that should be ‘huge great swathes of the population’.

Bernadi argues that the abortions in Australia are a ‘death industry’, and that ‘traditional families’ are superior to other kinds, such as stepfamilies (and basically any other in which the parent/s are not married, or heterosexual, or whose children are not conceived ‘naturally’, or are not biologically theirs).  He also claims that one of the threats against Christianity and traditional values is the ‘green agenda’,  placing the value of animal and plant life over that of humans.

I was trying to identify what exactly it was that I found so annoying about Bernadi’s arguments, or at least those quoted by the ABC website. I mean, he’s gone to so much trouble to list his issues with what has gone wrong with our country, it seems a shame to choose just one to refute, doesn’t it? But in fact, all his arguments boil down to one assumption.

Bernadi is like every other right wing idealist, in that he seems to believe that all the problems of our modern society would go away if only we were to return to some golden era, where men were men and women were women and they married (and never divorced) and had children and all was right with the world. A time when there were none of those pesky homosexuals, when abortions didn’t exist, when everyone went to church, when humans were confident of their rightful place in nature (at the top of the food chain, and not part of it).

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to that time? Wouldn’t it just make things so much simpler? Oh, if only! And we could be rid of this confusing mess in which we find ourselves, which is destroying us from within!

But there was never such a time. There might have been, for some members of society, but only because they chose to ignore that there have always been unhappy marriages, or infertility, or unwanted pregnancies, or unhappy people unable to have the relationships they really wanted. The problems with our society are not because of some failure to attend church, and not because people are divorcing–or not marrying–or having children via IVF. The problems we face are because we’re humans, and we bicker with each other, and are greedy, and take a long time to learn from our mistakes. But we do evolve. Ever so slowly, but it happens. And in our evolution, we begin to ask questions about equality, and our place in the world, and how we treat others, and how we want our future to look.

Cory Bernadi wants to court a small part of the population and argue that their worldview is under attack, when all that is really happening is that this worldview is having to share the stage with others. Perhaps the saddest part of this is how he throws his religion into the mix. In a country like Australia, where church-going is hardly the Sunday past-time of choice, (whether or not they believe in a Christian god), most people are not going to be swayed when he claims that our country is suffering because we have strayed from the path of Christianity. And I can’t help feeling a little dismissive of his views, when he says that faith and Christianity are under threat by environmentalists and Islam. Under threat? Just how fragile is his faith, if it cannot withstand challenges such as other religions or a different political perspective? The last time I looked, people from different faiths and political persuasions challenge each other all the time. Sometimes–wait for it–they can even respect each other, and get along.

Other times, they fight wars.

What does Cory Bernadi want to do? Get along, or fight a war? Considering the way in which he has clashed even with members within his own party, considering he has already lost one job and is willing to jeopardise his place in his political party, I guess he is willing to fight. I think he wants to foster a strong conservative future for Australia; I believe he is fired up and ready to step up to defend his faith and his right wing values from the rest of us, who obviously have lost our way, because we simply want people to be able to live their lives and be content. Cory Bernadi is ready to stand up for that in which he believes, and do whatever it takes to battle this out.

Call it typical Australian apathy, but I’m not sure many of us can really be bothered taking him seriously enough to fight back. Lucky for us, we’re in the majority.

Now let’s see what we can do about that green agenda, and same sex marriage, shall we?

State Politics and the Big Picture

It was our state election on Saturday.  There were no real surprises in the results, and I knew it was probably going to go that way before I voted.  But I walked down to the local primary school and stood in line anyway, youngest child strapped to my front.

An older woman stepped into the line behind me.  I was busy people-watching and didn’t pay her much attention until I heard someone say, ‘You won’t be able to take that into the voting area.  It’s considered electoral material.’

I turned around to see the young volunteer for the Greens talking to the woman behind me, who was also wearing a vivid green t-shirt with ‘The Greens’ printed on the front.

‘You’ll have to change your shirt,’ the younger woman said, not unkindly.

The older woman looked confused.

‘Or maybe cover it up, somehow?’ suggested the young volunteer as the other shrugged and held up her hands.

‘Aha.  You need one of these!’  I joked to them, pointing at the baby on my front.

Both women laughed.

‘I can probably use my bag,’ the older woman offered.

It was agreed between them that that would likely be acceptable.  The line moved forward.

I spent the next few minutes looking over the political posters on the walls and feeling a little cynical about the whole situation.  Voting in Australian state and federal elections is compulsory; you are fined if you don’t show up to have your name marked off the list.  I’ve always thought that this was a kind of enforced democracy, and I can never decide if Australians’ lack of enthusiasm for politics was due to an innate apathy or simply because they didn’t need to even bother thinking about showing up.  When it came to decision-making, at least the decision whether or not to vote was taken out of our hands?

As I pondered my electoral freedoms, the baby began to smile and coo at the woman behind me, who responded in kind, and I turned around to make small talk with her.  Usually, it’s a little weird to talk to other voters, while waiting in line, because you never know if they’re going to be completely opposed to your political perspective.  However, I knew her persuasion already, so we chatted a bit about the election, and the weather, and she mentioned that she was going to volunteer at another Polling Place after she had voted.

‘Last election,’ she told me, ‘when I was volunteering, a man from Iraq came up to me, and said, ‘Are you the party for peace?’  And I just smiled and said, ‘Yes.’’

I wondered about this as The Handsome Sidekick and I drove with the children to a park by the beach later that morning.  I tried to imagine what it must be like to come to Australia from a place like Iraq.  The infrastructure, the health and legal and education systems — coming from a nation which has seen so much conflict, especially in recent years, they must find it ridiculous, how much we take for granted.

Whenever there is an election on the horizon, all sorts of issues come out of the woodwork.  This or that interest group pays for ads to sway the public in one direction or another; there are complaints about how the government doesn’t do enough for roads, or hasn’t been tough on crime or drugs, or isn’t paying teachers/nurses/police officers enough.  

It’s not that these issues are invalid or unimportant.  We *should* be concerned that our government is listening to us, and they should be ensuring that our roads and communities are safe, and that those who serve us are getting paid fairly. Politicians should be accountable to us — we are electing them on that premise and we pay their salaries.  It’s just that we should also ask where they stand in the big picture.  What is their party doing to prevent hunger and homelessness?  Where do they stand on climate change?  How are they promoting peace?

We have so much here, that we can afford to busy ourselves with the daily minutiae.  So we should also take some time to remember that it’s not just good luck, but good management, which keeps something like peace as a constant backdrop.  It probably rates a mention, now and then.  Especially around election time.