Things I’ve been reading: October 2016

Racism, Asylum Seekers, Australia

As one of the many Australians who want to see our country’s treatment of asylum seekers be more reflective of humane, human rights-affirming, healing action, it can be a source of constant despair to read about our nation’s treatment of people who are fleeing wars. It seems that the vocal majority are opposed to assisting asylum seekers.


October 2016 – Update

The last time I shared anything on my WordPress blog was in August 2016. Scheduled art posts aside, I can’t believe it’s been that long. As I mentioned then, we were evicted from our house. I don’t know what the rental laws are like in other parts of the world – I’ve heard that parts of Europe tends to be a lot more protective of tenants’ rights – but here in Victoria, Australia, they’re pretty awful. It was only in the last couple of months that the Victorian Supreme Court made the decision that properties must be maintained in a liveable condition. That’s right, up until very recently, landlords were allowed to rent dangerous, derelict properties to tenants. It took a woman from a low socio-economic bracket and her Legal Aid lawyer (Legal Aid being a free legal service for poor people who need access to assistance) to fight the monster that is rental laws in our state, and I thank God for her willingness to take this fight to the highest levels. Someone had to.


Australian Federal Election

The Australian Government has announced an early Federal election for the 2nd July 2016. I know, I know. It’s easy to fall back on the belief that it’s a crummy system, the two major parties can appear almost identical in their seeming incompetence, and we have had so many Prime Ministers in the last few years that it’s getting difficult to keep up (Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull… did I miss anyone?). So I get it, presented with those options it doesn’t seem awfully appealing to vote. However, in Australia we don’t get a choice, as such. Voting is mandatory for most Australian adults so if you’re over 18 years old this is an appeal to check if your enrolment details are correct.

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum, my uni studies were in were in the fields of sociology, journalism and political science. For reasons that are still unfathomable to me, my extended family have largely interpreted that to mean that I’m a qualified as a social worker and / or psychologist. Firstly, I can’t think of worse torture than to have to deal with other people’s problems – I have more than enough of my own. Secondly, they are vastly different sets of qualifications. There is some overlap (people I knew studying social work when I did my sociology degree often had to take sociology units for their course, but the reverse was not true). But it seems to fall on deaf ears when I try to explain that the reason I talk a lot about politics, society, culture and social issues is because it’s very hard to not do that after taking two university degrees in those fields.

The point being that learning about politics personally made me realise that while it is unreasonable to ever expect an election or government to result in a utopian society, it is extremely valuable for the people to let their voice be collectively heard. When we consider that people in other parts of the world and through history have risked their lives for the freedom to elect their government, we in Australia are really in a privileged place. We have a collective voice that others could only dream of. Choose the lesser evil, if that’s how you need to frame voting for yourself. Even better, actually reflect on the policies of a few different parties to see which ones best align with your own reflexively examined value system. Cynicism and despair are understandable, but surely that just shows how important it is that you contribute? What if everyone who’s despairing could be, I don’t know, a potential Labor voter, say because you’re feeling frustrated at attempts to remove weekend rates from your wages? It could change the ultimate outcome of the election.


Image Source: Australian Electoral Commission Facebook

Books: Laudato Si’

At some previous point I already noted that I read Pope Francis’s 2015 Laudato Si’: On care for our common home. It is available for download at the Vatican website (see HERE for the text, PDF and other language versions).

I haven’t really got the words to fully do it justice. It is an appeal to all people – not just Catholics – to reflect on our relationship with the Earth, nature and cosmos. To consider how our actions of consumption, greed, control, and for many Christians, a theology of Dominion, deplete and damage the world of which we are a part. And that it is the poorest of the poor who experience the worst effects of environmental degradation. This Papal encyclical is a God-send for me, as a person of faith with a university degree in Environmental Sociology, and who tries to live a minimalist lifestyle (somewhat unsuccessfully) and who makes an ethical and ecologically-conscious choice to live on a plant-based, wholefoods diet (“diet” in the sense of a lifestyle of healthy eating, as opposed to a temporary fad to effect extreme weight loss), and who is deeply concerned with the sociological impact of theological perspectives on ecological conditions.


On Star Wars, meme-based worldviews and critical thinking: A holiday rant from your friendly neighbourhood geek. Or, a thinly veiled ode to Kylo Ren. Contains spoilers.

A friendly reminder to readers: I write in Australian English. Hence the spelling. I will use “s” more often than “z,” and we pronounce that letter “zed.”

First up, I’m going to talk about Star Wars. In light of the new film (which is freaking amazing, if you ask me, and even if you don’t ask, I’m going to tell you), I wanted to write something about the impact of Star Wars on my own life. Then I’m going to connect it to some recent anti-Star Wars negativity I’ve encountered and how my personal working theory on this is that it’s representative of a deeper problem: the way that we use social media and memes to develop and inform our worldviews. I’m calling it “worldview by meme.” I don’t know if anyone else has coined that term or developed it as a fully-fleshed theory. I am using it as a shorthand reference to a set of ideas I am pondering based on the social media behaviours of acquaintances and total strangers alike. I have not done extensive research on it, as yet, but if time allows, I may try to develop the idea in the future.


The Force Awakens

Let’s talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for a moment. There are plot spoilers in this so if you’re a fan, and you haven’t yet seen the film, do yourself a favour and go into it with no preconceptions about who or where or what it will entail. If, like me, you’re one of those who devoured and more-or-less memorised the Expanded Universe Canon, I can say that while in a sense I “grieve” the alterations and dramatic changes that have taken place, I am so enamoured with the new story arcs that all is forgiven. Like so many fandoms that have gone before (I’m thinking of Batman and the Marvel Universe, for example), I am choosing to take the option of allowing the disparate universes to co-exist as alternate possibilities.