Dr Peter White's Blog

Thoughts and comments from Dr Peter White -- political, philosophical, spiritual, musical and more

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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

I am retired from the Uni. of Queensland, and have numerous interests inside and outside of the uni. I play classical, bluegrass, country and folk guitar (hows that for a mix?) I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and am currently branch secretary of the Mt Coot-tha branch. I'm also involved in developing virtual reality builds and websites. Never bored!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

On Migrants

Ausralia is a land of migrants.  Unlike other countries, where people fled to escape persecution, or to gain great wealth, Australia started out as a penal colony.  It was this  original endeavour that more or less set the tone of the place over the 200 years or so since its inception.

Since than, people have come from all over the world to  Australia: Ireland, Scotland, England, the USA, China and others as well.  Different Australian  colonies were settled by slightly different groups of people, mostly from the British Isles.

It wasn't an easy run by any stretch.  The Irish were loathed by the English.  The Asians were loathed by the whites.  Everyone  loathed the Aboriginal people.

Through all of this, though, the country grew and prospered -- due mostly to  immigration.

The last wave was after WWII, when we took migrnts from all over Europe, much to the dismay of the Anglo-Saxon purists who  had foisted the White Australia policy  on the nation.  But nontheless, Greeks, Italians, more English, and more recently from the Balkan states, Turkey and VietNam.

They all made Australia a multi-cultural nation, rich in its diversity and its overall  ethos.

Most recently with  the traumas in the  Middle East, we have had a large number of immigrants from there: Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, the Gulf States, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.  These settlers are primarily Muslim.

And now we have - as in the past - a pushback against immigrants, particularly  by the people who feel most threatened by this latest  wave, who are also aided and abetted by political bigots and rabble rousers.

The prejudice and dislike of new Australians (aka immigrants) has grown apace, and one major  cause of this has been the entry of the "boat people" into Australia.  This began after the Vietnam war, when thousands of fleeing Vietnamese were welcomed into Australia by the Fraser Liberal government.

The next wave was Middle Eastern refugees from the carnage what we helped cause there.  Many of these refugees were stateless, arrived by boat without passports, visas or any paperwork at all. And Australia's response?  John Howard's "We will decide who comes into this country..."  This supposedly shut down the "boat people".

However, people smugglers were swift to move when the policies were relaxed.  This brought about the Abbot government's "Stop the Boats" campaign which was a big hit with voters who were poisoned against "illegal" immigration.  Amazing what a three word slogan can do if repeated often enough. 

This also gave rise to the formation of the Border Force, and a Department of Homeland  Security, and the development of overseas detention centres to house those unfortunate few who were caught  by the border people and sent offshore to Manus Island and Nauru. 

So now we have the scapegoats of boat people held for over 5 years in captivity while "legitimate" migrants are coming in by the hundreds of thousands.  Ah, but wait!  Our vaunted border force and their minions, such as the private mercenary army  Serco, have pounced on hapless refugees who have been battling to get their permanent visas approved.  One day over their visa, and they're gone. 

Somehow we've got this all ass-about.  We are in violation of the human rights conventions.  We are very choosy on which refugees we do take legitimately.  And of course, if you've got the money and connections, you get a nice first class welcome to Australia and no doubt a membership in the Liberal party. 

We have been a nation of migrants and we continue to be so.  The argument now becomes how many can we take and remain environmentally and economically sustainable?  In the meantime our boat people still languish.  It's a national disgrace. 

I don't know where all this will go; will our leaders do something sensible?  Will our refugees and those in our detention centres be released to re-start their lives here or elsewhere?  Will our environment allow for more people?  Will our infrastructure allow for more people? 

Wait and see... 

BTW, I am a migrant from the USA, coming here in 1973. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

On Trolls

The Internet officially began in Australia in August of 1990.  At that time it was a really novel, mystical method of contacting people from across the world.  We all had telephone modems then, with the breakneck speed of 2400bps or if one was really spoiled, 9600pbs. 

One of the unwritten rules of the Internet at that time was that it was open to all, free, and also free of advertisements, commerce, and most importantly, trolls.  Well, in the nearly 28 years since those aspiring beginnings, things have changed dramatically, and while technologically marvellous, everything else appears to have gone downhill.  Trolls are now an unfortunate feature of the Internet. 

What is a troll?  IMHO, it is someone who slanders, insults, offends or denigrates another person under the cover of the anonymity of the Internet.  It really doesn't matter if the offensive matter was posted via email, the Web, Twitter,  Facebook or any of the myriad apps that now grace the airwaves.  Trolls use the medium of their choice to spread their poison. 

Trolls are cowards, and further, as we are learning from Mr. Mueller's investigations in the US, they are also highly damaging to social and political processes throughout the world.  Would they stand up to scrutiny if they were unmasked publically?  I don't think so. 

Trolls are liars.  They offend someone else with unproven allegations and murderous suggestions.  Of course, if they were found out, there would be rigorous denials, and very difficult to prove.  Recently there was a tragic case of a 14 year old girl who was so badly trolled, with suggestions that she ought to just  go out  and kill herself. 

She did. 

Trolls are amoral.  By hiding their identity, or using another anonymous identity, they  promote their hatred, scorn and bigotry to any and all who are their targets.  They must really get off on their sadistic postings, feeling safe in their anonymity.

I recently had an experience with one of these humans, inside a virtual world environment.  This person used a number of aliases so that it would have been difficult to trace and/or to call him/her out for their comments. 

A close friend which whom I have been working for over 10 years was the unfortunate recipient of this person's vitriol.  My friend had just undergone a serious traumatic experience and was just  recovering from this when the troll struck.  Needless to say, there was a lot of grief and anger.  My friend is recovering again; let's hope that this troll doesn't strike again.

There has been a lot of lipservice and hand-wringing on how to deal with trolls in the Internet and its various applications, but there is little or no movement or policing.  There is no recourse, even within closed environments, to deal with these people.  What few protections there are appear to be either pitifully weak, or burdened with the "onus of proof" so that they are are essentially useless. 

Do I have a solution?  No, alas, except to say that in this age of Trump, where ugliness is the norm, all we can do is look out for each other, and call out the trolls for who they are. 

It seems that one of the most cherished beliefs of numerous spiritual and religious paths -- the golden rule -- appears to have been forgotten for the benefit of the cheap and  malicious thought. 

Perhaps it's time that we used that wonderful word "respect" with each other a lot more often. 

I said in my last post that this current post would be about migrants.  Next time, for sure. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Midas Touch - In Reverse

If you are close to the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, chances are you will have noticed that the current Coalition government doesn't have your best interests at heart.  Considering that we are experiencing very flat wage growth, notwithstanding a growing jobs market, it does seem that most people are doing it tougher than previously.  News article after news article stresses this point.

Perhaps it might be because of the infamous Reverse Midas Touch, where everything that the  government touches, turns to dross (or another good Anglo-Saxon  word).  How this so?  Let me provide some examples.

The latest changes to early childhood care means that people on middle to lower incomes will be paying more, if they are fortunate enough  to get child care at all.  This  is in spite of early childhood specialists from around the globe state that early childhood care provides a terrific boost for the young.

University fees are going up, because the government believes there are too many useless  courses and hence reducing payments to the tertiary sector so  universities can tighten up.  This is despite the fact that a university education is critical in today's workforce.  And of course, the students are being punished by having a lower income threshold where they have to start paying off their (increased?) student loans due to rising  fees. 

Technical and further education was "privatised" a number of years ago, and what we have  seen  since is a virtual collapse of the sector, as many of the private colleges took the money and ran.  But then, that's the capitalist way.  The building and construction industry, to name  but one, is crying out  for well trained trades people, and are finding they are rather thin on  the ground.

If you are on a pension or some form of benefit, you are being punished.  The vaunted  "one stop shop" AKA Centrelink, is underfunded, understaffed, and under-morale.  Is it any wonder that people attempting to contact them have to take a cut lunch to the phone while they wait?  That's just for starters.  It seems that Ebenezer Scrooge is running the system, with fewer benefits and payments available, and those  being reduced.  Leaners and Lifters, folks.  

However, if you are in the "big end of town", drawing down a lovely salary  + benefits, you will be OK.  Our corporate sector is gonna get a lovely tax cut, which of course will mean more Jobs and Growth.  We all believe that, right?

There are some examples.  I'm sure you can  find a lot more without needing to look very  hard at all.

In our next blog, we will be looking at migration.  Ought to be fun... 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Democracy or Neo-Feudalism?

The current Davos corroboree by moguls and their minions and politicians and their policy wonks got me thinking: whose movie is this? 

On the biz side we have corporate CEOs and on the other, presidents, prime ministers and chancellors.  They are there to set the economic agenda for the planet, or at least to have a mighty whinge about how poorly things are going.  Or -- are they?

Add to this the recent zombie resurrection of the TPP in Oz and surrounding  Pacific states -- touted how marvellously wonderful it will all be when we sign on.  Or -- is it? 

We have the Australian Treasurer, Scott Morrison (aka ScoMo), selling corporate tax cuts hard.  How wonderful it will be if the corporations don't pay as much tax.  Their savings will be poured into investing in new jobs, factories, innovations and higher wages. 

Sorry, ScoMo, but very, very wrong.  We need not follow the US.  Here's a prime example of why: 

Reports from economics writers in the daily press comment on just this issue. 

This leads me back to the  topic at hand:  democracy vs. neo-feudalism.  Consider that corporations are in effect feudal enterprises, but with very different titles.  Not barons, earls, or counts, but CEOs, Presidents of Boards, etc.  This 'nobility'  looks after its shareholders financially, while creaming a goodly percentage off the top for their own nest-feathering. 

Consider democracy, universal suffrage, one person, one vote -- the whole shebang.  The voters are going out backwards financially.  Report after report states this.  Flat wages, economic stagnation for the vast majority, and in some nations actual piracy of public infrastructure for private profit, often euphemistically known as 'privatisation'.  

The corporations in the TPP want to hold nation states to ransom: that is, feudal lords and their vassals (aka shareholders) in battle with  freely elected national governments.  Who's gonna win? 
Your guess is as good as mine. 

If  we look at the Pfizer comments in the illustration above, we may just get an inkling of what is to come. 

It's not pretty. 

I do worry  about our  democracies: how well can they hold out under seige by the new-feudals? 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New Age of Ugliness

Have you noticed lately that civility appears to have gone out the window? 

Or, have you noticed that being a "Type A" human is seen as carte blanche for being a total a**hole? 

Or, maybe, you have been held captive by shock jocks and/or right wing theologies that says that it's OK to hate your neighbour?

If so, you have entered the new Age of Ugliness. 

Witness the American president, and the Rethuglican Party syncophants whose lips are firmly gripping the presidential butt, excusing and forgiving racists, bigots and "patriots"  wrapped in a flag, so long as no one touches their cash. 

Or witness the trolling via Facebook and Twitter which has caused at least one young woman suiciding. 

Perhaps, you might  also recall the Prime Minister of our vaunted nation:
  • Completely disregarding the Statement of the Heart from our first peoples;
  • Using cheap political rhetoric to monster a minority group;
  • Flatly stating that Australia day is a day when we should be all together celebrating, when in fact a goodly percentage called that particular date Invasion Day. And a recent poll stated that a majority of Australians didn't really mind when Australia day was. 
Then we have our "Reichsmarshall", Peter Dutton, who continues to destroy the lives of bona fide refugees in our concentration camps, to name but one of the atrocities he is foisting on the citizenry.

On top of all of this we have a nasty, misogynist subculture creeping out from under rocks to belittle and revile women, just 'cause they can. 

It all  seems a bit much, really.  I think we can thank the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave (if you can afford it), and their "leadership" for letting the genie out of the lamp.  It's gone viral, unfortunately. 

So, may we all consider civility and respect?  And practice it too. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Beating up on people

During the  season of "brotherly love" and good will to all, our illustrious government of reactionaries managed to, inter alia, trash the reputation of the Sudanese community.  This  of course, made headlines across the nation in the daily press, the ABC and other outlets.  Our illustrious minister for all things police and immigration, Herr Dutton, put his big, flat foot in it as well, exacerbating the whole issue. 

If they didn't have a "Sudanese gang" problem  before the excrement struck the rotating machinery, chances are they will soon.  Thanks, guys.  Well done.

Now in other news, the Prime Minister put out a 24 hour thought bubble about  hosting another plebiscite for an Australian republic.  Once the media got wind of this, it was immediately put on the back burner -- again.  That unfortunate burner must be suffering considerable overload...

I was reflecting on the conservative government, and make no mistake, this IS a conservative (read reactionary) government.  However, they are blessed with a front man who is good looking, and is an outstanding orator.  Sadly, neither he, nor his side of Parliament, seem to have a policy or an idea to bless themselves with.

Ah, but wait!  I hear you cry.  They  do have a serious, underlying philosophy of government.  It works something like this.

1.  In order to keep the heat off us, let's beat up on:

    * The poor.  After all, they are poor bacause they can't get off their backsides and work, or study, or look after their numerous children.  They want the  government to do something.  And we are:  we're  cutting benefits, health services, education and community infrastructure -- 'cause we gotta balance that old budget.  And in the meantime, spending more on doing less.  (Can't figure out how they can do that...)

    *The refugees.  Five years Nauru and Manus Island have been prisons for refugees with apparently no hope of release.  Herr Dutton will not send them to New  Zealand, although Ms Adern said they were happy to take a fair few.  They are waiting for Der Trump in the USA for  their prisoner swap.  This, candidly, is an  indelible stain on  Australia's international reputation, and I cringe every time I hear the cantrip of "We don't want any drownings at sea."  It is nothing more than excuse to continue the torture.

    *The Labor Party.  Whenever things get a bit sticky for the government,  invariably they pull out some sort of idiocy and then blame the Labor  Party.  It's like a kid being hauled before the Principal:  "Not my fault, they did it first!" Or, "Quick, hide, you don't want Mr Shorten to be Prime Minister!"  Or, inventing some sort of "commission" to look into the nasty unions and their underhanded dealings with business.  The latter, of course, is completely excused.  And on it  goes.  Aha!  Now I know why this government is spending more while doing less.  It's all the commissions, royal or otherwise.  The lawyers are happily paying their yachts and Rollers. 

2.   Now we have a non-policy called NEG (how apt!) which is supposed to address the ever- increasing climate change issue, while doing less.  Remember how, earlier in the year, when South Australia was being beat up by the Coalition?  Now, Mr Musk has installed his giant battery, and things seem to be working along just fine. 

We also have the Australian public voting with their wallets and getting more and more into solar, and even home batteries for their residences.  Sales of electric cars are slowly starting to grow more rapidly.  Some state governments (notably Labor governments) are putting their money where their mouths are and funding large infrastrucure projects for energy. 

And the federal goverment still is  pushing  coal. 

That's it for this rant.  Welcome to 2018.  May we all survive it. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy 2018 -- I think