30 April 2015

#Istandformercy BUT...

I get that talking about the death penalty to kids is hard.  I do.  But why are we only talking to our kids about human rights and unjust deaths when Indonesia or Egypt does it?

What about Ms Dhu? What about Ms Locke? What about Reza Barati?  What about the kids being sexually and physically abused in concentration camps of our making? Why aren't you condemning those who break the law when it is our government doing it not drug runners?


Don't fill your Facebook feed lamenting the difficulty of explaining the death penalty to your children when you don't afford the same dignity to those whose human rights are violated in your name but with less airtime, media or celebrity backers. Just don't.

Don't defend Tony or Bill or their gallant support for Chan and Sukumaran's human rights when you don't demand of them that level of integrity for the human rights of every single person.  Don't tell me your heart bleeds for their mothers and families if you don't change your profile photo in support of the mothers and families of asylum seekers or the first Australians or the women dying every three days at the hands of their partner.

Don't just give a shit because it's got a hashtag and Ben Quilty and lots of media attention.

Don't just give a shit because Chan and Sukumaran were a pastor and an artist. Give a shit because they were humans. Criminals sure but never ever deserving of state sanctioned murder. Give a shit even if they lacked remorse and had spent the last ten years sulking in the corner of the prison.  

Don't just give a shit because the media made a circus of their families grief. Give a shit because you believe that compassion is more powerful than retribution. 

Don't run me the spiel about they knew what they were in for when they broke the law. Just don't. Because that proves nothing except you are an arsehole with the exceptional good luck never to have died when you broke the law jay walking or speeding or drinking too much. We all know what the consequences are for dumb ways to break the law it's just that generally we are lucky enough to get away with it. 

Don't tell me the death penalty is fair for the families that lost their families to drugs. Especially if you just used the they know the consequences of their actions argument because that makes you illogical and your point of view null and void. 

The execution of those eight prisoners is heartbreaking because people have been killed. 

Deliberately. 

Because politics. 

That's what you should be telling your children - that the violation of a person's human rights is absolutely wrong. Every time.  And that violating the human rights of somebody for political purposes is weak, pathetic and wrong. Very, very, wrong.

Tell them that no matter how horrid a person is, how poisoned their soul might be, how mean, how nasty, how criminal, how differently thinking, how differently believing they might be - they have rights.  And it is our response to another individual's human rights - no matter how great the provocation - that matters.

Justice is not vengeance.  Retribution is not punishment. Power is not strength. 

Tell them it doesn't have to be like this. Tell them the world can be a better place. Tell them there are always choices. Tell them people in charge can be weak but that we live in a democracy and that we have the power to demand better of our own government as well as governments across the world. 

Tell them that every life matters. Tell them that to say nothing is to condone it. Tell them that the world is a chaotic and crazy place but that the actions of every individual ripple across the universe making a difference. Tell them actions speak louder than words. 

Tell them... no. Scratch that. 

Get the f*&k out there and show them. 


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28 April 2015

We'll weather the weather

As we flew into Sydney from Dubai last Monday morning, my Cassidy was shrieking with excitement as we bounced through the turbulence during descent.  The lady across me, gripping her husbands arm in a grip that would surely leave a permanent imprint, was not having such a great time.

"It's just like a roller coaster" yells the small person, giddy with excitement.  "This is such fun!!!"

The lady turned a greener shade of green and was not having fun. Thankfully she was too busy not vomiting to be able to give death glares or tut loudly but it's unlikely Cassidy would have been deterred.

Turns out we were flying through the start of the storm that would sweep through Sydney, the Hunter, the bit up the coast, the bit inland and the bit to the west, knocking down trees, flooding properties, removing roofs, flooding creeks, buckling train lines, decimating roads, sweeping away cars, closing schools, reshaping beaches, demolishing houses, repositioning boats and killing livestock.  

Over $2 billion worth of damage and 8 people dead in under 72 hours. 

It was a doozy of a storm. Cyclonic they said.  It absolutely dominated the papers for a few days and we giggled at the plethora of umbrellas abandoned, shook our heads at the idiots driving without lights, and felt absolutely heartbroken for the families who lost loved ones and homes.  And then the sun came out and we were on to another news story.

These paddocks were six feet under water

Which of course is very chipper of us and things like the Nepal earthquake, the Bali Nine executions, Princess Kate being four days late and Bruce Jenner coming out as a she all fill up the news feed pretty quickly and are important too. Yes. 

But for a lot of people, the storm didn't just interrupt their commute to work or leave them without power for a week. It's destroyed their livelihoods.  Animals have been killed, fences destroyed, feed is going sour due to water logging, crops annihilated.   

Boats sit in paddocks hundreds of metres from dams, carpet is being scraped from floors and thrown onto bonfires alongside dead cows, pigs and chickens.  Irrigation pipe lies tangled with flotsam stuck in barbed wire fences and beneath an enchanting blue sky, property owners are stripping it all back, counting the rising costs of uninsured loss.


This is a boat in a paddock. Not on purpose.
Because it is not financially viable for most farmers to insure everything in the unlikely case of catastrophic winds and a once in a century weather patterns that got rewritten this past week as once in a decade.  You insure what is most likely to be damaged and hope that not everything gets damaged at once. And when you spend $6,000 on barbed wire fences, my brief experience helping take down broken barbed wire fences on the weekend tells me you need to spend about twice that on gloves.

It's not only the financial cost. Turns out it takes a really long time to tear down fences and put up new ones.  It takes quite some time to grow animals big enough to breed or be ready for slaughter.  Apparently animals are not born of the polystyrene boxes in which they appear in supermarkets! And many of these farmers do it alone, with help from partners that work full time and their school aged children and friends and family and complete randoms who show up with a few hours to spare and absolutely no feckin' clue. 


There were no peaches on our visit to the country this time

We can't fix everything in the world. I get that.  I do, but it seems to me that sometimes we move right on when we no longer see something or it's not being rammed down our throats.  We focus on the big big things that are going wrong and Colin knows we can't keep up with Mother Nature's ill humour lately.

But we can remember to ask if people need help locally as well as overseas. We don't need to cancel one out with the other. We can give of our time even when it is entirely not the right time for us. Because it never ever is. We can take a moment to check in and make sure our neighbours are okay once the sun comes out or the tree on their house is removed or they've burned their cows. 

Because it takes time to recover from the unimaginable.  Lots of time.  And gloves.  

And it does us well to remember that. 

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2 April 2015

Of bearded men and running

I know this could be as controversial as the anti-vax conversation but I need to get it out there.  I don't think people with beards should run.

Ever.

Unless they are being chased by a bear.  A big one.

I keep seeing men clad in lycra or baggy shorts barrelling past me on the footpath, their epic beards rippling in the the breeze, the grizzled hair tossed carelessly over the shoulder, small balls of sweat sliding down and flicking wetly onto the ground.

Their arms swing, their breaths are breathed, the rubbery slap of their sneakers dulled by passing traffic.

It's like they don't even know they have beards.

A beard need not, nay should not, be troubled by exercise.

An epic beard is a magnificent thing.  And strangely, often coloured completely differently to the hair on a man's head.  It highlights the cheeks and turns eyes twinkly automatically. It broadens the shoulders, straightens the back, gives gravitas. They invite big hugs and loud guffaws.  They are reassuring to babies and old people, balance out a motorcycle or a horse. Give credibility to smart cars.

A neatly trimmed beard alludes to precision, to detail.  Neatly trimmed beards speak of intellectual thought or spiritual leanings.  They whisper of things you wouldn't understand and emotional distance.  They may perch above a bicycle with serious intent and a hidden doping problem but they don't sign up for marathons because they are solving algorithms or making movies that transform the cinematic experience.

A hipster beard shaped with nods to yesteryear, rampant mutton chops or waxed tipped moustaches, speaks of stringed music, and tour buses, fashion shoots and lolling on tree branches above billabongs playing on smart devices without a hint of irony.  They talk rapidly of tweed musters, penny-farthings and music festivals.  They may dance, but they would never ever run.

Which is surely the point of a beard.  Whether you grow one in defiance of grooming or as an act of masculinity or because it's more convenient than wearing a napkin tucked into a white shirt, there is no longer any need to run. You win at life.

When people with beards run they change the shape of the universe.  They upset the natural order of things.  They take away the earnestness of exercise, the cult of self flagellation in pursuit of physical perfection.

When people with beards run they are basically laughing at the rest of us, showing up our vanities and manic obsessions with sweat for sweat's sake.

And because of the beard, we can't even fucking tell.

Bastards.


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1 April 2015

Dubai didn't have a big pineapple

Dubai has a lot of big and expensive things.  The world's tallest building, the world's biggest single aquarium, the world's biggest mall, the world's biggest airport, the biggest water slide, most expensive spa treatments, and so on. It is a city that appears to have everything you could possibly want in life, except sliding doors.

I'm not kidding - to get into the world's biggest mall, just by the world's tallest buildings, you have to pull open the door by yourself.

It might not seem like much but in a city that has been largely constructed in the last 10 - 15 years - it stands out as an anomaly.  Not the only one you'll encounter in Dubai, but certainly one that once you notice in one building you notice everywhere.

We're talking about a city that controls the waves on the beach to make sure they are just perfect for tourists who might want to stroll off the perfect white sand and have a dip.  The waterways and person accessible sea fronts all have water that is treated so that it's pollution free, stink free and the blue reflected from the sky frames the sandy coloured city so that it is perfect in every photo.

And it's the same all about the UAE when it comes to opulence and ease.  Abu Dhabi has the Sheik Zayed Mosque which is an breathtakingly beautiful building decorated with chandeliers made of Swarovski crystals, and the world's largest single piece carpet.  The walls are decorated with marble flowers and the dazzling white of the exterior requires sunglasses to be viewed directly.  Not far from there is the Formula 1 race track built to accommodate a 7 star hotel and yachts as well as the actual race.

But there is not one big pineapple. No big banana. No big prawn.  Big in the UAE is taken very very seriously.

But the anomalies are far greater than the lack of sliding doors.  The UAE is a country perched uncomfortably on the trinity made up of modernity, dogmatism and history.  While female tourists frolicked on the beach, swimsuits and voluminous flesh dotting the sand, the local women wear the niqab when out and about. The beach is not for them.

While everybody is welcome, there is a strict hierarchy of race starting with the UAE nationals, followed by white looking westerners, other westerners, Indians, Pakistanis, Philippinos and Africans.  Like the sliding doors, once you notice it in one place, you notice it everywhere.

Unemployment doest not exist because if you don't have a job you have to leave the country. Crime is incredibly low because, well, Sharia law. Women have no rights whether they are locals or expats. You can own a building but never own the land you build it on. And so on.

It is amazing to visit places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, spectacular cities that have literally risen from the sands in less than 15 years.  They are amazing testaments to what is achievable with money and serious intent.  They exist in a country that has an interesting and varied history and whose leaders could teach a number of people about how working together works out a lot better than arguing all the time.

But it is discomfiting also because below the shiny glass buildings there is still a dubious human rights records, behind the incredibly polite service at the mall there are a myriad of laws that could leave you undone and most unsettling of all, behind the tolerance there is judgement.

Sliding doors would actually make it much easier to slip from one reality to another. Those heavy doors you have to push might actually be in place for a reason.


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