Sunday, August 22, 2010

Election 2010, final thoughts until the actual result

And so, after an election in which we often heard about the unfairness of a Prime Minister being chosen by backroom deals rather than the majority of the Australian people, the election itself has not produced a government chosen by a majority of the Australian people, but chosen by whoever manages to offer the sweetest deal to the independent and Green members who hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives.

I'm greatly tempted to just ignore all Australian political coverage for the next few days, since I can pretty much guarantee that most of it will be a lot of bluster and trash talk about why one party should gain the support of the minor members and why the other party shouldn't get it under any circumstances, with little actual substance behind them. A few final comments for this election, then, before I switch off until we actually have a result...

I can hear the echoes of British and American elections gone by in this Australian election. The UK 2010 election was described to by me as one person that it showed that the UK public wanted Labour out, but didn't want the Tories in. I think a similar result can be read here: The Australian Labor party was voted out, but the public has not voted the coalition in. I am reminded also of the pain that occurred when the split between Bush and Gore in 2000 resulted in a victory for Bush by judicial ruling, which I suspect has greatly contributed to the hyperpartisanship in that country which persists even 10 years later. I doubt the result here will be decided upon by a judge, but I suspect the process of forming a minority government will be messy enough that some people will be sore enough to consider the declared winner illegitimate.

But in any case, there is no way that the government - whoever that may be - will be able to have things all their own way the way Bush and the Republicans managed it during their run. Even if the minors in the House of Representatives don't keep the minority goverenment accountable, come July 1st 2011, the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate. Issues-wise, that's probably the most interesting thing that's happened in what has been, issues-wise, an extremely uninteresting election. The implications of this have yet to be felt, by I expect them to be quite far-reaching when they finally do become clear.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The 2010 election and the illusion of reality

In this election, if there's one word that has really stood out for me in the sheer amount of its use by political parties of all types, it is this one: real.

The Liberal party slogan is "stand up for real action". In my local area, the blurb on handouts from the Greens in my area is "Let's really move Australia forward". The blurb on the flyer for sitting Labor MP for Grayndler (my electorate) is "real solutions". And of course there was the emergence of the "real Julia Gillard" a few weeks in after the Labor campaign was well under way, an open admission of the fakery that routinely goes on in election campaigns if ever there was one.

Why has the need to be "real" become so important in this election? It would be nice to think that this standing up for "real" whatchumacallits is a reaction to a public that's fed up with all the stage-managed spin and PR that is the basis of so much of what passes for political presentation these days. But it seems to me that what we're seeing in this election isn't a triumph of truth over political PR, but political PR that's trying to present itself as truth. As a very cynical aphorism puts it: "the key to success is sincerity - once you can fake that, you've got it made".

The act might be more convincing if so many of the political attacks by these clamants to truth weren't about things of highly questionable reality. Julia Gillard just claimed on ABC TV that if Abbott became Prime Minister on Sunday, WorkChoices would be back on the agenda on Monday. Um, not really: the Liberal party won't commit political suicide a second time, certainly not as quickly as within a single day, and the chance of WorkChoices-style legislation getting passed through what will probably be a hostile Senate is basically nil. Then there's the supposed "disaster" of Labor's economic record as claimed by the Liberal party, a record that's seen Australia get through a global financial crisis in a way that's the envy of the developed world. These exaggerated claims aren't the actions of people truly concerned with being "real".

So we have political parties insisting that they stand for something "real", but the behaviour suggests that this claim is just more spin. I guess that makes this the first truly post-modern election in Australia, where even trying to be real is just another illusion spun through the media. No wonder there's a feeling that this election isn't really about anything.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The origins of anti-gay sentiment in Western civilisation

A small snippet of writing by one of the earliest Christian writers suggests that many of the modern negative beliefs about homosexuality have a much older provenance than I previously realised.

This excerpt is from the writings of a man named John Chrysostom. Writing in the fourth century AD, Chrysostom reflects two of the beliefs about homosexuality that are a mainstay of anti-gay sentiment in the West even today: that only humans perform this "unnatural" behaviour, and that there is a real danger that homosexuality could realistically displace all heterosexual behaviour in the general public. From the excerpt:
A certain new and illicit love has entered our lives an ugly and incurable disease has appeared, the most severe of all plagues has been hurled down, a new and insufferable crime has been devised. Note only are the laws established [by man] overthrown but even those of nature herself. Fornication will now seem a small matter in the reckoning of sexual sins, and just as the arrival of a more burdensome pain eclipses the discomfort of an earlier one, so the extremity of this outrage [hubreos] causes lewdness with women, which had been intolerable, to seem so no longer. Indeed to be able to escape these snares [in any way] seems desirable, and there is some danger that womankind will become in the future unnecessary with young men instead fulfilling all the needs women used to..

Also of interest is the complaint from Chrysostom, also heard today, that it is the opponents of homosexuality who are the ones that are actually suffering because of the anti-gay stance they have taken:
And this is not even the worst, which is that this outrage is perpetrated with the utmost openness, and lawlessness has become law. For no one fears, no one any longer shudders. No one is ashamed, no one blushes, but, rather, they take pride in their little joke; the chaste seem to be the ones who are unbalanced, and the disapproving the ones in error. If [the chaste or disapproving] happen to be insignificant, they are beaten up; if they are powerful, they are mocked, laughed at, refuted with a thousand arguments. The courts are powerless, the laws, instructors, parents, friends, teachers all are helpless. Some are corrupted with money, and some are only out to get what they can for themselves. As for those more honorable, who have some concern for the welfare of those entrusted to them, they are easily fooled and gotten around, for they fear the power of the debauched.

The contemporary myths and lies about homosexuality that exist in Western culture are very, very old. I had no idea just how old until now.