Saturday, October 21, 2017

Across the ditch

Labor leader Jacinda Ardern will become the next Prime Minister of New Zealand. Ardern, 37, will become New Zealand's third female Prime Minister, after Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark. While she will not be that country's youngest ever Prime Minister, she follows in the footsteps of other youthful world leaders, such as the 45 year old Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and France's 39 year old President, Emmanuel Macron.

Ardern assumed the Labour leadership back in August, so she has risen rapidly to the top of New Zealand politics. Younger party leaders seem to have a built in appeal to younger voters. Younger voters, engaged by social media and other mass media, typically tend to think that just because something is new, they automatically assume that newness means superiority. I have gleaned from social media discussions that they often arrogantly perceive older voters as being backward looking and ignorant. This is chronological snobbery. 

As a conservative, I will watch Ardern's career with great interest. While she may prove to be a competent and capable leader, I hope that the younger voters who supported her haven't put style over substance. She has already flagged that her government will make significant investments in social programs. That all sounds well and good, but as Australians know all too well, these programs are often mismanaged and rorted.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Dubliner

The other day, I was shocked to hear the news of the passing of Irish comedian, Sean Hughes. I have fond memories of watching his comedy series, Sean's Show. It was broadcast on late night television in the summer after I finished high school, and before I started university.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

I'm special, so please affirm my uniqueness

I wish to invite my reader into the murky world of Internet conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are nothing new, having existed for many decades, but the Internet has given them a wider audience to disseminate their ideas to. I find them too frustrating to engage with directly. Writing about them on here is the only way I can comprehend what influences them, on my own terms. By choice, I have had little to do with such people, keeping my distance from them, and only read their ideas to inform myself about them.

If memory serves me correctly, my initial exposure to conspiracy theorists happened one day I was walking through a pedestrian mall in Melbourne's central business district. Various groups are permitted by the city council to set up trestle tables to distribute literature to passers by. I was bailed up by a member of the Citizen's Electoral Council (CEC). He persuaded me to pay ten dollars of my hard earned money for a copy of their monthly news magazine.

On April 28, 1996, Australia's worst ever gun massacre took place at Port Arthur, Tasmania, when a lone gunman killed 35 people. The magazine claimed that the gunman was brainwashed into carrying out the massacre by an intelligence agency. After the massacre, the federal government passed gun control laws, outlawing semi-automatic weapons. These were the same types of weapons that the gunman used in the massacre.

The CEC is a controversial political organisation, described by its opponents as racist and anti-Semitic. It isn't hard to put the pieces together, and see that this is not slander. It is true. They claimed that the Port Arthur Massacre was a false flag operation, deliberately staged by the Australian government so that it could pass laws to disarm citizens. The CEC opened my eyes up to the worldview of conspiracy theorists.

I now know that the CEC is not the only group to promote these ideas. It also had a counterpart in the Australian League of Rights. I thought that they might have folded, but they maintain a (badly designed website), so I guess that they are still active. Fast forward a few years, to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the subsequent emergence of the so-called "truther" movement, which claims that the attacks were an inside job, used as a pretext to start wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to curtail the civil liberties of American citizens. These truthers are another subgroup within conspiracy theory circles.

Every time a shooting massacre takes place, or an act of terror takes place, Internet conspiracy theorists take to social media platforms to predictably and sensationally claim that these are also false flag operations. These are designed to move the world towards one world government. This happened again in the days after the recent Las Vegas massacre. As of today, I have yet to find a satisfactory answer why this line of thinking only seems to apply when these things happen in the United States, and not in the non-white world? In the minds of these people, what is so special about the United States?

I had to ask myself this question. Is there a common thread that links groups like the CEC, and internet conspiracy theorists? Doing a bit of research shows that whether they realise it or not, these conspiracy theories originate from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. This is a fraudulent document that appeared in the early 20th century. It outlines an alleged Jewish master plan to dominate the world. It was further promulgated by Nazis, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, and in parts of the Arab and Islamic world. Disarming the populace and creating false flag terror events are two aspects of this so called plot.

It is not palatable to explicitly name Jewish plotters in these theories, hence the need to refer to them using veiled references to international bankers, the Illuminati, or the New World Order. This doesn't make them any less offensive, not just to Jewish people, but also to all the victims of shooting massacres and terrorist attacks.

What motivates these conspiracy theorists, then? They're not all racists or anti-Semites. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, "people are drawn to conspiracy theories because of an underlying need for uniqueness.  In other words, a need to be different from other people by embracing beliefs that are out of the ordinary. Just as this need for uniqueness can cause people to develop unusual hobbies or seek out experiences that set them apart from the crowd, conspiracy believers adopt unusual beliefs about the world that make them feel special or above average. Our sense of social identity comes from the groups to which we see ourselves belonging."

Additionally, "for conspiracy theories, one of the factors that makes their belief so strong may well be the sense of personal identity that comes from belonging to a particular group, i.e., the minority that "knows" what is really going on, may cause them to reject any evidence that might shake that belief. This can also cause them to look down on people who may not share their beliefs, i.e., "the sheeple" who are easily fooled."

I also wonder if at least some of these people are isolated loners, and spread these theories to get attention from their peers, who them affirm their self perception of themselves as being special or above average for having this special knowledge about world events. I also have no doubt that some of them must also suffer from paranoia. If that is the case, they don't need encouragement, but compassion, and to be carefully challenged and rebuked.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Quite quiet

With the closure of Toyota, Australia no longer has a car manufacturing industry. This article from the business section of today's Herald Sun noted positively that at least some former automotive workers have transferable skills that can be used in other industries. On the other hand, some graduates needs to improve their skills. An industry figure is quoted as saying, "we regularly find that graduates are not quiet as well trained in these areas as is needed."

While employers often report that graduates lack verbal communication and people skills required in the modern workplace, and may be quiet people, this is clearly a typo by a subeditor. The graduates are not quite as well trained as they need to be.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Using your nous

It can often be difficult to keep one's mind active in retirement. That's why organisations such as the University of the Third Age (U3A) are a great idea. Not only do U3A groups provide intellectual stimulation through promoting lifelong learning, they also give retirees a social outlet.

Back in 1988, all of the U3A branches in Australia held their first national conference in Melbourne. They got around to publishing the conference proceedings three years later in 1991. The conference was supported by the Australian Bicentennial Authority. This was a government body set up to plan and coordinate commemorations of the 200th anniversary of European settlement of Australia.

Look at the front cover. The word bicentennial has been spelt incorrectly. The correct spelling is B-I-C-E-N-T-E-N-N-I-A-L. If I wanted to be cynical, I could ask if remedial spelling classes are on the U3A syllabus. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Occasionally, when I have too much time on my hands, I like to discuss religion with others on online chatrooms. It can be very instructive. One user adamantly asserted that the Bible commands cannibalism. I asked him, or her, as the case may be, to give me the passage. He referred me to Jeremiah 19:9.

"I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them."

This is another case of creative hermeneutics. The context makes its clear that this is a prophetic passage. God is declaring judgement against the Israelites for disobeying Him. The Babylonians will invade their land and besiege Jerusalem, cutting off their food supplies. They will resort to cannibalism. 

Other references to cannibalism are found in Leviticus 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53, 2 Kings 6:24-29, Lamentations 2:20, 4:10. Again, in context, these references are either declarations of judgement for disobedience, or descriptive. It should be absolutely clear to the reader that these passages are not prescriptive. As I have written on this blog before, you often learn what the Bible says by what it doesn't say. 

Friday, September 08, 2017

Like it matters

Warwick Capper (6049408160)Earlier in the week, the Victorian state government announced that it would end its $1 million annual financial support for the TV Week Logie Awards. Best thought of as an inferior, tackier version of the Emmys or BAFTA Television Awards, the awards have been held in Melbourne for most of their history.

From 2018, and possibly beyond, they will be held on the Gold Coast, in a casino ballroom. Maybe they could be hosted by former football star, and former colourful Gold Coast identity, Warwick Capper?