Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Kevin & Malcolm Show: Q&A Ozland

So, today is the last Q&A of the year for Ozland.

It will probably be a letdown after last week, which gave a convincing demonstration of why one would want to watch shows such as Q&A, and what is missing all too often in dispatches from the commentariat. Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Helen Ridout and Judith Sloan are four highly intelligent, well-informed and engaged citizens of planet good sense. The conversation was respectful, insightful and even entertaining. Contrast this with the turgid, ideology-driven, bumper sticker type drivel which all too often passes for social comment.

And isn't it an indictment of the current Australian parliament that two of the smartest people in it are largely on the fringes of their parties. In the case of Malcolm T, he is (as he says) in the shadow cabinet...but it must surely be one of the great stupidities of the ALP that they have relegated Kevin Rudd to the backbench. The nastiness, pettiness and pure childishness of the campaign against Kevin Rudd by his own party is sure to go down as a perfect example of a party engineering its own downfall. And they wonder why the electorate has lost faith in them!

What utter nongs!


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Not-so-private lives: The digital living room.

Stories about celebrities finding themselves in the doggy-do because they have tweeted, blogged or put out into the digital space offensive or inappropriate comments are a dime a dozen these days. The current brouhaha in the UK about Lord McAlpine and the libellous comments made by public figures is a case in point.

Meanwhile, individuals who have made deeply offensive comments on the internet have even landed themselves in jail.

It's an interesting conundrum. How do we balance the freedom of the internet with the need to protect the rights of others? What do we do about it? Well, first of all, we have to understand it.

One could see it as a form of narcissism whereby the speaker is so wrapped up in their own agenda that, like a toddler, they feel that their wishes and perceptions actually do constitute the world itself (and yes, the internet can seem abuzz with precisely that!).

However, one major aspect of the problem is probably purely neurological i.e. that our brains have not caught up with the fact that a seemingly private action (sitting at one's computer or using a mobile phone) is actually a public one.

Our brains still respond to a conception of the public/private divide which more matches that of an 18th century English village than the global village in which we now find ourselves.

Therefore many people fail to recognize that the public space (whether the physical or the digital world) is not their living room, and that actually their living room may be in plain view to the often disapproving gaze of that world. Most of us have had the excruciating experience of being forced to listen to a stranger's mobile phone conversations - often about deeply personal topics, that quite frankly we don't want to share! It's as if these folk feel they are warm and comfy, feet up, on their lounges not in the railway carriages, buses, restaurants or cafes that they share with us.

The disease of our times is an almost wilful reduction in the notion of privacy, yet that sense of privacy, of the need for personal space, our right to it, and the limits of it, is key to political theory, to creativity and self-expression, to solitude and philosophical introspection, to maintaining healthy personal relationships and to just staying sane!

While TV shows like the Kardashians take people into the private lives of strangers, our own are (ironically) in danger of being eaten up by the ongoing push for "transparency".

We need to find a way to share the public space of the digital world, while not giving away the precious private space of our own souls.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Wanted, Spiritual Leader...

Is anyone else surprised that the latest Archbishop of Canterbury is an ex-oil executive? It made me think of the qualifications a person needs to be a religious leader. I mean if you are choosing a Dalai Lama you are free to educate the four year old into an appropriately learned man but most religious leaders have lived before discovering their vocation and what is one looking for as a selector?

Sometimes people's pre-vocation lives can be a great embarrassment to their reconstructed selves--think of Saint Augustine's bastard children or Pope Benedict's unwilling stint with the Nazis--on the other hand it's hard to imagine a former hermit making it at the top in any field.

Maybe a man who has been successful in the corporate world really is just the person to lead the Anglican Church. Presumably he has skills in negotiating and focusing on important goals at the expense of other intentions.

Good luck, Archbishop...


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Politics of Apathy

I said in my last post that I felt foreign opinion on Australian politics was meaningless, so I'll restrict my comments on the American election to the most general terms. Sometimes elections are close because both sides have inspiring energising platforms. And sometimes elections are close because the electorate has great difficulty getting excited about either candidate. This American election reminds me of the last Australian election--except with voluntary voting! How is democracy meant to work when most people aren't interested? I haven't a clue...But it is a bit sad when you consider how important the issues are.