Friday, June 24, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
For anyone that hasn't heard about it already, at the start of last week Four Corners and Animals Australia exposed the gross mistreatment of Australian beef cattle in Indonesian abattoirs. In the wake of this exposé, came a targeted campaign aimed at banning the live export of these cattle, in the hope that Australian cattle will not feel this level of suffering again.
The Gillard government’s reaction to all of this has been fairly admirable. Initially, they banned Australian cattle from being sent to twelve abattoirs in Indonesia deemed to be unfit for Australian cattle and this week, they have followed it up by halting live export to Indonesia for up to six months until the proper treatment of Australian cattle can be guaranteed. Animal welfare has been made paramount.
Obviously, the meat industry is not happy with the loss of income and some people are quite worried about how this will affect their rural communities. The Mayor of Cloncurry in outback QLD, went as far as saying that ‘Once again, it doesn't really matter about the old fella in the bush.’ In another article, Grazier Mike Thompson makes the ignorant comment that, ‘we've got a Government who's run by academics, no-one's ever felt what it's like to be in business and be vulnerable to going broke, because they'd all feel like the north end of Australia does at the moment - sick in the guts.’
In contrast to the government's response, some people seem ignorant of the fact that this is primarily an animal welfare issue. They fail to realise that their loss of profits does not excuse suffering. In one article I read, they interviewed a property owner who claimed that we should be more worried about how fish are treated on trawlers, ‘How about those people go and put their cameras on a trawler. They have ... cruelty to fish every day of the year. They are just dropped on the deck to die, run out of breath, suffocate ... something that you would never do to cattle.’ Because a cow being alive after having it's throat slit is really any more humane than what he described and even if it was, one example of worse suffering does not make other suffering exempt from inquiry.
As I write this, I am reminded of one of Al Gore's stories in The Inconvenient Truth. He talks of how his family used to be tobacco farmers, but when they found out about the harmful side effects of smoking, they left the industry. He claims that they felt a moral obligation to remove themselves from what is essentially a blood trade: profits reaped off the back of suffering.
He obviously uses it as an analogy for the moral duty we all have to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and embrace a cleaner future, but I think his point is very poignant here too. What these farmers and their champions are failing to realise, is that they are part of a blood trade. If I ignore my own personal beliefs here and say that slaughter in Australia is a just and humane way to slaughter an animal, they are still part of a blood trade by sending their cattle to Indonesia. Their profits are created through the endless suffering of Australian cattle in Indonesia. They have a moral obligation to protect these cattle and if that can't be done, they can find their income (or lack of income) elsewhere.
What makes this all the more sinister (and really makes me feel for the farmers and livestock workers now caught up in this), is that Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has been working in Indonesia to improve the conditions for Australian cattle, for the last decade.
The Four Corners program showed that they have sent auditors to some of the same abattoirs that Four Corners and Animals Australia visited. However, their auditors came to the conclusion that the animals were treated quite well. A decade of 'improvement' and the conditions shown by Four Corners still exist.
This complacency indisputably shows that MLA does not care about the treatment of these cattle. I'm sorry, but it's not the Gillard government who sold out these farmers, like MLA are claiming, it's actually quite the opposite. Through their continued inaction, MLA has shown that they do not care about the welfare of Australian cattle and they have failed to create an environment where decent treatment of these animals would allow for a healthy long-term industry for everyone involved. If they’d done their job properly in the first place, Four Corners would have had nothing to report and so many people would not be in hot water right now.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Now that I've had more time to look at how 'looking out for #1' has affected my own life, I've come to the conclusion that my words were immature and ill thought out. A stain on what I think is normally a very fair and just view of human interaction in this world. (conceited hey?) I still believe that looking out for one's self first has it's place in certain fringe situations (that I may be inclined to explore at another date) but I think in the majority of situations, a compromise that mutually benefits all parties involved is the preferred outcome. I do not believe it is safe to preach or condone a self-centered worldview because a selfish need to 'win' at the expense of all others, is generally not a healthy longterm outcome. Even more so when it can be interpreted as the belief that one can do whatever they want, without the need to consider how their actions will affect other people.
I refuse to believe any longer, that our 'command and conquer' nature is an excuse to step on others to get to what we want. As much as we can continue to try and hide behind the fact that we're 'just animals', I'm not going to fall for it. Empathy is an innate part of the human condition that exists inside everyone (that isn't a sociopath). To ignore it, and marginalise the discourse of those whose faces end up underneath our boots, is to deny what makes us human. I refuse to accept that selfishness is a valid response to the world we live in.
'Be the change you want to see in the world.', Gandhi
'Since I replaced the I in live with an o, I can't remember who you are.', Thursday Tomorrow I'll Be You
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
go download this song here, album of the millenia.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I often feel too apprehensive with my writing. I’m so scared of not producing perfect output that I just sit there and write nothing, failing to realise that writing nothing leaves you with well… nothing. Writing down rough ideas at least gives one a base to work with.
There’s so many topics in my head that feel like they’re stuck there squeezing on the inside of my skull because they’re too dense for me to ever feel like I can capture them properly on paper and I really don’t talk about a lot of things with people anymore.
As much as I’ve always believed in honesty (and still do) I find I keep more of the important stuff to myself these days. I don’t really feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of many people anymore. My ideas and even a lot of my surface level frustrations, I throw out all the time but my emotional responses? Well I keep those to myself. I could write a thesis based on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, so I’ll leave that point for another day.
Today, I’m thinking about my father a lot. I find that as I get older it’s something that has started to bother me a lot more. I guess the reality of the fact that my father will probably die before we have any kind of proper adult relationship starts to become more and more realistic as I’ve gotten older. When I was 15 or 16, I was never really thinking about the longterm, it always seemed like things like this could be left to the idea of ‘tomorrow’. I think I believed that in the future life would just sort itself out.
(Sometimes to my detriment) I’ve fought hard for a lot of things in my life, but in this situation, sadly I feel like a defeatist. I seem content to just be sitting here writing about something like this instead of actually doing anything about it. I think it stems from the fact that it feels too late. This life has gone on so long that the only father I know anymore is a failure and I think that even the most powerful epiphany in the world couldn’t save him from the hole he’s dug himself into or give us the time to ever develop anything real.
Sadly, I think a lot of people don’t understand my relationship with my father and how it’s affected so much of my life. I’m not saying that as some kind of dig to anybody, it’s just sad that I’ve spent most of my life taking it all on alone. From my mid teenage years till now and on into perpetuity, I’ve been propelled/will continue to be propelled through the world based on the need to, in as many ways as possible, not be my father.
The part of this that most people are familiar with is why I don’t drink. It’s hard to justify even having one drink when you think of the life you maybe would’ve had if it didn’t exist. The only father I can remember from the last at least 5 years of my life is an alcoholic, before that I don’t think I would’ve been aware enough to notice.
I think everything else it has caused in my development isn’t really as obvious.
I feel like a lot of pressure rides on my shoulders. I’ve always seen my father as a man with great potential that never got there. I think he’s more intelligent than I am. I’m mainly theoretical, whereas his practical knowledge surpasses anything I think I will ever be able to obtain in my life. It’s criminal that he never had any further education than his trade certificate and a large part of the reason I have always tried to push myself academically is because I hope that I will reach the height of my potential that he never did.
I can remember my mum telling me that dad always made excuses, ‘oh I only drink because I’m doing night shift’ and I’ve heard him with my own ears always having someone else to blame for everything that has gone wrong in his life. Anything to avoid having to look inside and maybe realise that anything has fallen apart based on him.
Because of that, I’ve spent a whole life finding the things I have done wrong and blaming myself first whenever anything falls apart, all in the hope that I never end up like that. Sometimes when I mull over everything I realise that things aren’t my fault but I don’t want to ever blame someone else for something that fell apart because of me.
In some ways my life feels like one big journey to become the best father I can be. I don’t drink so I can never become an alcoholic. I study engineering so I can (hopefully) have enough money to allow me to not have to worry about money when I’m raising children. I have spent my whole life (and probably will continue to spend the rest of my life) trying to be humble and understand sustainable ways to interact with people in the hope that it means I have a healthy home life for myself, my future wife and my future children.
I don’t think many people understand how serious all of this stuff feels in my head.
I know this is a bit personal for a public blog but I just wanted to clear my head. I’ve been meaning to cover it in more depth (and may in the future) but I think half the reason I write in the first place is the hope that through words I can somehow calm some of the storm in my head (cliché I know) that threatens to devour me some days, so if that is the manifesto, I guess this fits in well with that.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
Choice is an integral part of the free world. It is the practical application of freedom: A framework that allows one to live out the life they please, on every level, as long as it doesn’t harm their fellow man. The issue I have with the ideal of choice I just mentioned is that the reality of it is rarely this pure. Throughout my life I have seen enough examples of one’s choice being subtly thwarted by another to believe that just living in a world where choice is available really means anything.
The issue of choice has returned to my head because of the burka ban recently coming into effect in France and the talk of a hijab ban as well. Basically, under the premise that the burka (and other Muslim veils) are oppressing women, they have been banned in public in France. The response has been that these women have a choice. They choose to dress in this way and the government should not be telling them how to dress in a ‘free’ society. I don’t think it’s all this simple.
The reactions described above serve to remind me of one thing: the fact that so many people filter the world through their own naiveté. They seem to lack the ability to realise that for some people, things aren’t so clear-cut. Do people really believe that just because someone lives in a free country means they enjoy the complete legal freedom that that country offers? A society based on freedom has no way of guaranteeing freedom for its inhabitants and it’s obvious why: because most people live out of their lives in sub-societies, where the beliefs and laws of the sub-society became the most important. These laws have no requirement to be based on freedom and not everyone has the strength to oppose them. There is a very big difference between having choice and feeling strong enough to exercise it.
This is also an obvious point to convey: it has to do with what is at stake. A decision to go against the status quo can have humungous repercussions for some people. I know it can be hard for some people to imagine (because I too think it is a basic human right) but not everyone exists in a situation where their individuality and opinions are seen as positive creations. I’m not too familiar with the practices of Muslims so I’m going to mainly use a Christian example here, but the principles are the same.
Let’s take me for example. I’m an atheist. I have not lost anything in my life by making this decision because my home life was not religious based. Neither of my parents seem religious and they don’t seem annoyed that I’m not either. I’m a baptised Catholic but only to please my grandparents, who have actually never asked if I’m religious or not. The sub-society of my home life was generally based on freedom. As long as I put the effort my parents expected into my schoolwork, I was within reason allowed to do whatever I wanted in my free time. I was expected to do tertiary education, but I was allowed to choose whatever I wanted. I was never told to think a certain way.
Now let’s explore the theoretical counter-example. His name is John. John is 21 years old, the same age as me. John was born into a Catholic family and from a young age was told to identify as a Catholic. He was taken to church every weekend and was sent to a Catholic school with other Catholic children. He met all of his friends through the church or through his Catholic education. He is now studying at the Australian Catholic University to be a teacher. He identifies himself as primarily a Catholic. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary theory. He believes the world is 10,000 years old. He has no urge to have sex before he gets married. He still goes to church every weekend and he has just started dating a girl, Jane, that he met through church.
Now let’s fast-forward a decade. John is now 31. 7 years ago he married Jane in their church and they now have 2 beautiful Catholic children. John teaches Maths and Science at a Catholic high school, Jane teaches English at the same school. Lately, John has been having his doubts about religion. Jane’s parents were just killed in a horrific car accident; he wonders how God could’ve let this happen to two kind Catholic people. He keeps his doubts to himself though; his whole life is based on his faith and he can’t imagine a life without it.
Now, after reading all that theorising, who is willing to put their hand up and say that in that situation they’d be willing to choose a life without religion? John’s whole life is part of the Catholic sub-society, where he is expected to believe in Catholicism. He has invested 31 years of his life into a Catholic existence. He is employed at a Catholic school. His wife is Catholic. His children are Catholic. His siblings are Catholic. His parents are catholic. His friends are Catholic. If John gives up his faith he potentially loses all that. 31 Years. I wouldn’t blame John for just burying his doubts and continuing with his life as it is. John doesn’t exist in a sub-society where choice is championed and without even realising it, he’s made the stakes so high that he’s virtually stuck in it.
I have no doubt that for some Muslim women, it all feels similar to John’s life. Raised in a household where your mother and your grandmother wore the burka or hijab, where you father’s wife and his grandmother wore the burka or the hijab. Where your friend’s mothers wear the burka or the hijab. Where your mother’s friends wear the burka or the hijab. Where further down the track your husband will expect you to wear the burka or the hijab. When you exist in a sub-society where every woman wears it, do you really have a choice to not do the same? Are you strong enough to face the opposition?
In most situations choice is not as clear-cut as we’d like it to be. A proper understanding of the ramifications (or even just the perceived ramifications) involved is important before any judgment can be made as to how ‘free’ some people really are.