Category Archives: Culture


You’d think that in the wake of violent clashes that garnered worldwide attention, a local council would want to investigate the processes and decisions that led to that occurrence, right?

Not if you’re Melbourne City Council.

This afternoon, Occupy Melbourne protesters attended a meeting of the council to watch Councillor Cathy Oke introduce a motion for an independent inquiry into the events leading up to, and including the eviction of protesters from City Square. A secondary motion sought a council report detailing all council actions leading to the eviction.

Both were shut down by the council, and in particular by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, who was a vocal critic in the days leading up the eviction and who has taken much of the credit for bringing in the Victorian Police to remove protesters.

There will be no questions asked. There will be no examination of process. There’s no way to know what legal advice was given to Robert Doyle regarding the removal of the protesters, besides that which he claims in TV and radio interviews.

An event that traumatized those who were kicked, struck and capsicum-sprayed and shocked even more will, in essence, only have one representation – that recorded by the media and those with recording devices. on that Friday morning.

This is another kick to the belly of an open democracy and transparent governance. Simply, this is a weakening of your ability to go out and make your voice heard when you believe something needs fixing.

You may not agree with the Occupiers.

You may think they’re lacking in direction and focus.

However, if they’re willing to go to this much trouble to cover their tracks and obfuscate the decisions leading to the eviction of a bunch of the ‘usual suspects’ when times are good, you can be sure they’ll do a hell of a lot worse when the chips are down and things really go to hell.

Many have been shrieking about the ‘death of democracy’ in the wake of the passing of the carbon tax legislation. It’s nothing of the sort. The passage of a piece of legislation reaffirms democracy. It is the kind of  sneaky, underhanded, undemocratic tactics that were employed tonight that end up bleeding our system dry, slowly but surely.

You may think that the Occupiers had nothing to be mad about. This is something to get mad about. This is something worthy of getting back out into the streets outside of the City of Melbourne building and howling the place down.

We claim to not to do things like this in the country. We need to make sure that’s the truth of the matter, not just something we tell ourselves.

Now, it’s up to Ron Merkel QC, the man who took on and beat Andrew Bolt, to challenge the City of Melbourne, question the legality of the processes used against Occupy Melbourne and strike a blow for free political expression in this country.

In the meantime, I’m glad we’ve got those guys sleeping in the park. In the simple act of sleeping on a patch of lawn and defying the council, they’re doing something not many of us have the stones to do.

Something different, like computers for sale online

This entry was posted in Australia, Culture, Current Affairs, Opinion on by admin.


Suicide is an ugly word in the mouth, a sickly kind of sweet. It’s such a benign-sounding term for an awful, destructive act. Even so, it’s a word we like to hide behind euphemisms, such as ‘taking one’s life’.Newspapers and television reports go so far as to avoid talking about italtogether, speaking of sudden deaths as ‘not suspicious’. It’s almost as if the word itself is contagious, a viral, spreading blackness. Don’t say it, don’t think it and it won’t happen. Don’t let the children see. Keep it bricked up.

It’s a word we need to drag out from behind the euphemisms and have the courage to say out loud. It’s a word we need to use inconversation with each other and especially adolescents, where it is second only to motor car accidents as the leading cause of death. Shine a light on it,treat it not as some smoky spectre lurking in the periphery, but as aconsequence of a solvable, treatable medical condition.

A fortnight ago, I was part of a Headspace forum discussing youth suicide prevention in Parramatta alongside Patrick McGorry and representatives of youth, the medical profession and the sporting world. Afterwards, having spent an hour discussing what we’d like to see done within our respective fields, a couple of parents milled around to talk with me. I was prepared for some specific questions, but what I got was frustration, a struggle to articulate that suicide was something they feared for their children. They churned and floundered through euphemisms, pain written large across their faces. Haunted is the best word I can find to describe their appearance. It was their expressions that kept me awake that night, pondering what it is that prevents us from more freely talking about suicide.

There are many initiatives to get people, especially the young, thinking about mental illness and learning to recognize the signs in their peers. As a nation, we’re making steps in service delivery. Most people, if asked could name organizations such as Beyond Blue, Headspace, Sane, Lifeline or Reach Out as places they could turn if depressed. However, we won’t- can’t -progress in reducing number of those killing themselves unless we shake this medieval, nigh-superstitious view of the feelings that drive suicide as this dark malevolent force. We need to re-medicalize it, take away the sick romance surrounding it. It’s not dark and deep and mysterious, it’s preventable death.

A national conversation about suicide prevention needs to happen, involving all levels of society. I’d like to think we could see some start here. Suicide is the awful, sudden end to a life. Suicide is something that destroys families and communities. It is a terrible, terrible bastard of a thing. However, it is also the consequence of any number of factors that have their origins in brain chemistry and trauma. It is something that need not be feared. Mental illness can be treated and managed, giving people the opportunity to live stable, fulfilled lives. We can only do that by switching on the lights and making some noise.

This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Health, Opinion on by admin.


That’s it everyone out of the pool. The last one out, go throw a couple of bags of chlorine in, padlock the bastard and stay the hell away. Filter the befouled, yellow-tinted waters of our Australian social media wading pool and leave it for future generations to stare at mournfully through the fence.

It used to be that the world of social media, Facebook, Twitter and blogging held a great deal of promise – a blinding white ‘n’ brush steel tomorrow where everybody was whisked along on a brisk, ever-changing daily narrative. Depending on person’s interests, they would encounter a constantly updating stream of content that challenged, inspired and energized in a way previous communication channels couldn’t match. Marketers the world over whipped themselves into a froth realizing that products could be sold in new and exciting ways, targeted to those most likely to buy. It promised an open, egalitarian space where we could all meet and solve our problems, building the architecture for a real-time, responsive, representative democracy.

What did we get?

Consider the cluster of screeching and gibbering falling under the banner of ‘political debate’ on places like Twitter. Consider ‘#Auspol’, where a small cadre of professional activists, right-ons and bleeding hearts find themselves locked in eternal, unceasing battle against a collection of conservative party hacks, middle-aged retirees and other creeps. It’s a stoush always bouncing back and forth across that line where ‘robust debate’ becomes libel, any discussion a few heated exchanges away from a legal threat. Consider their cousins over on Facebook, the hundreds of groups speaking of their opposition to the Carbon Tax in increasingly violent terms, the Tea Party wannabes run out of a home office in Ipswich, the ban the burqa cretins. Think of the status updates fairly dripping with stupid, claiming that marking your religion as Christian will prevent a million Muslims from making your neighbourhood their new home. Fear the bitter, acidic tang of fear permeating discussion and whipping it into a frenzy.

Elsewhere, like some additional terrace of Hell, sits the commentarat, amongst which, yes, numbers your correspondent. Each day an injection of what comprises some analysis and debate but what ends up being chiefly a stage for the professionally outraged and terminally insulted. Someone is offended by something said or done, writes about it and in return is slagged by others, forever and ever, in a recursive spiral to banality. Consider just this week the digital swarm of fireants scouring Mia Freedman over tweeting that she didn’t consider Cadel Evans a hero. Freedman, the clever minx, has been canny enough to turn the outrage into yet another opportunity to promote her growing empire but for many it’s only hypertension, RSI and the dream of column inches somewhere they can be paid for mouthing off into the ether.

Consider the contemporary conversational colosseum that is Q&A, the 60 Minute Hate to which the writer has become hopelessly addicted. Think of the hordes across suburbia, splayed across their couches, fingers flying, hoping the fleeting fame of a tweet on screen. Notice the same progression each week – 20 minutes carbon tax, 20 minutes Julia, 20 minutes of actual substance, punctuated under the #qanda hashtag with insults, snark and bald-faced hatred  Think of how it’s become the dream of every bedroom pundit to make the leap from a sizzling bon mot to a panel slot, next to the Coalition hate figure du jour, to be outrageous and make the leap into the cushy commercial space.

You’d hope that traditional media within the social media space would give some direction as to how to engage in civil discourse, if you’re hopelessly naive like me. On the contrary, above the din sit bored Fairfax and News journos, peering down to pluck anything that looks like it might generate a couple of thousand pageviews. News panels realise that there’s much more to be gained for running the divisive stories, the salacious Facebook photos, the same memorial page vandalism that draws the appalled, the oglers and the bored. Media minds, forever trolling, feeding off the fear and hate.

What we never realised when we took up Twitter, Facebook and other social media streams is that instead of making connections between each other, the technology enabled us to create a bigger and better echo chamber, to turn the telescope round the wrong way and focus on ourselves. We’ve always got to be right and we think we’ve got the right to be always have our views heard. The social media space is a accelerating maelstrom of me, me, me.

Or perhaps you dis-”Like”.

This entry was posted in Australia, Culture, Current Affairs, Technology on by admin.