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!

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...