Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fury Follows Aboriginal Tent Embassy Protest

From Australia Day: Fury Follows Aboriginal Tent Embassy Protest - my roundup for Global Voices:
Australia Day ceremonies are usually the dullest of events. But not when Australia’s political leaders are together just walking distance from a gathering at the contentious Aboriginal Tent Embassy. When the crowd there heard a report that earlier in the day Opposition leader Tony Abbott had suggested its removal, a spontaneous protest took place at the Lobby restaurant where Prime Minister Julia Gillard was awarding emergency medals. 
The fracas quickly turned to farce. Developments have included: that Mr Abbott’s remarks were misreported; the original tip-off came via Tony Hodges, one of the PM's media advisors (who has since resigned); accusations of a media beat-up of violence; a shoe lost by Ms Gillard was returned after suggestions of an ebay auction; a go-between was named followed by strong denials. At least that’s the best guess at the moment. 
...Perhaps modern politics is more about image than about reality. And a contest amongst both media and commentariat to be the most outraged. Ironically too many were ready to chastise the tent embassy crowd for reacting hastily to incorrect information, only to do the same thing themselves to media reports.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kochie on Racism: Same Story Same Ignorance

David Koch's Angels panel discussed racism on Thursday this week on Seven's Sunrise.

It's not the first time that Kochie has run the line that we are less racist than other countries, in particular our neighbours:
"Every nation is racist. Every nation has an element of racism. We live in a region surrounded by mono-cultures. Talk about racism. Go to Japan. Go to Malaysia. Go to the Philippines. No comparison. We're pretty tolerant." When Ignorance Equals Racism.
He's even using the same songbook: "Every country's racist , Bec. It's just the degree. We're surrounded in this region by monocultures. Japan is way more racist than we are. The Indonesians are. That's not to say it doesn't happen here and it's still unacceptable."

The idea that we are surrounded is clearly emotive piffle. Images from the 1960s of the yellow hordes spring to mind. His definition of culture is unstated but if it includes ethnicity, language or religion then his ignorance of nations such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines is astounding. If he is to judge Japan then Koch should also include India.

A few stats from the CIA World Factbook:

Ethnic Groups

Indonesia: Javanese 40.6%, Sundanese 15%, Madurese 3.3%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Betawi 2.4%, Bugis 2.4%, Banten 2%, Banjar 1.7%, other or unspecified 29.9% (2000 census)

Malaysia: Malay 50.4%, Chinese 23.7%, indigenous 11%, Indian 7.1%, others 7.8% (2004 est.)

Philippines: Tagalog 28.1%, Cebuano 13.1%, Ilocano 9%, Bisaya/Binisaya 7.6%, Hiligaynon Ilonggo 7.5%, Bikol 6%, Waray 3.4%, other 25.3% (2000 census)

Singapore: Chinese 76.8%, Malay 13.9%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4% (2000 census)

India: Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3% (2000)


Indonesia: Muslim 86.1%, Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, other or unspecified 3.4% (2000 census)

Malaysia: Muslim (or Islam - official) 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, none 0.8% (2000 census)

Philippines: Catholic 82.9% (Roman Catholic 80.9%, Aglipayan 2%), Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (2000 census)

Singapore: Buddhist 42.5%, Muslim 14.9%, Taoist 8.5%, Hindu 4%, Catholic 4.8%, other Christian 9.8%, other 0.7%, none 14.8% (2000 census)

India: Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.1% (2001 census)


Indonesia: Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay), English, Dutch, local dialects (of which the most widely spoken is Javanese)

Malaysia: Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai
note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan

Singapore: Mandarin (official) 35%, English (official) 23%, Malay (official) 14.1%, Hokkien 11.4%, Cantonese 5.7%, Teochew 4.9%, Tamil (official) 3.2%, other Chinese dialects 1.8%, other 0.9% (2000 census)

Philippines: Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects - Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan

India: Hindi 41%, Bengali 8.1%, Telugu 7.2%, Marathi 7%, Tamil 5.9%, Urdu 5%, Gujarati 4.5%, Kannada 3.7%, Malayalam 3.2%, Oriya 3.2%, Punjabi 2.8%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.2%, other 5.9%

Koch added that, "We have to work hard to get better at being more accepting." Part of getting better is to work at overcoming our ignorance of other countries, rather than just lumping them together as monocultures.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ecowar: “All wars are fought over natural resources”

“All wars are fought over natural resources”
Benno Hansen’s self-published book Ecowar: Natural resources and conflict explores this proposition in his usual energetic and thought-provoking manner. Readers of his blog EcowarNotes on links between conflict and natural resources’ will be familiar with the territory he explores.
The book covers:
  • an historical review,
  • a look at current conflicts influenced by natural resources,
  • an overview of academic research,
  • and a prognosis for future development.
It’s available in hardcopy and as an e- book. Details are available here.
Historical review
The historical review is wide and by its nature very selective: from Akkadian droughts to the slave trade; from the spice trade to the Opium Wars, from he U.S. dust bowl to Rommel’s North Africa oil campaign. He looks at correlations between climate changes and war. Ironically for a climate change advocate, he maintains that the highest war frequency has occurred in cold phases. However, he notes that the current mixture of anthropogenic and natural causes of global warming is different and “highly unpredictable”.
Current conflicts influenced by natural resources
More recent hotspots range across the continents including:
  • the Himalayan glaciers,
  • oil drilling in Peru,
  • the impact of global warming on the Arctic region,
  • Somali pirates,
  • the worldwide land grab spawned by bio-fuels and the food crisis.
Benno explores research into causality and theories related to peace and war. Recent events have given added relevance these remarks about the Dutch Disease:
"…before Nigeria began exporting oil it had a thriving agricultural sector and was a food exporter. Now they have only the oil and email scamming, it seems."
The concluding sections of Ecowar look at possible future scenarios and some predictions. Is the choice between dystopian ecowar and utopian ecopeace? War for oil, water disputes, nuclear issues, “peak everything’ and climate change are some of the challenges he confronts.
Benno concludes:
"Resource scarcity is beginning to affect our lives and our geopolitical choices. And everyone knows. Everyone from activists and experts to journalists and bike repairmen knows - or should be able to realize: All wars are fought over natural resources."
Fact as fiction
Spinkled though the analysis are eight semi-fictional pieces or ‘Interludes’. My favourite was the strange death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, seemingly at the hands of the British. His Danish roots ensure that there are ample references to matters Scandinavian.
Benno’s love of a conspiracy theory should not frighten potential readers away. This is a treatise without inflexible dogma. He is not “trying to prove the dominant role of any single root cause of human conflict”. He is asking us to engage with his tentative diagnosis of the origins of conflict and war, not to accept easy answers or solutions.

If you don’t know, then get a copy of Benno Hansen’s Ecowar – Natural resources and conflict.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Politician Sprayed over Migrant Deodorant “Dog-Whistle”

From my Global Voices roundup:

Australia: Politician Sprayed over Migrant Deodorant “Dog-Whistle”

Cartoonist Jon Kudelka: "Opposition spokeswoman Teresa Gambaro has cracked the age-old question of why we all can’t just get along, and the answer turns out to be deodorant. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge

I'm joining the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge

My level: Franklin-fantastic (read 10 and review at least 4 books) Dabbler (more than one genre)

Bayside Council Library has 8 copies and 56 reserve requests for Anna Funder's All That I Am, so I'm looking for another starter. Any suggestions?

Please consider being a part of the challenge.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Evotourism: Selective Itineraries


There is something just a little unsettling about trademarking evolution. The involvement of the Smithsonian Institution with a commercial travel arm also seems a touch bizarre. Welcome to the world of EVOTOURISM.

Fittingly, they have 6 classifications: families, history, fossils, urban, adventure and photography. Australia's Kangaroo Island is tagged for History Buffs but really is a must for the image conscious, whilst England's Jurassic Coast rates five tags.

Darwin's Home

Missing from their initial promotion is Down House, Darwin's home and laboratory. It was one of the highlights of our recent U.K. trip.

Secular Cathedral

A place not to be missed is the Natural History Museum - the atheist's secular cathedral where the larger than life statue of the great man sits be-throned atop the stairs.

Debating Our Origins

Another real gem is the  Oxford University Museum of Natural History, which describes itself as a 'cathedral of science'. It's in front of the wonderfully eccentric and eclectic Pitt Rivers Museum collection of archaeology and anthropology.

A dramatic piece of science history was locked behind this door:

The plaque beside the door to the Radcliffe Library of the Oxford MNH reads:

HELD 30 JUNE 1860

Take a trip with science!