The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'majoritarianism'
The Age has a piece on another cultural trend in Howard's Australia: the transformation of Australia's obsession with sport into an aggressive, militaristic conformism, intolerant of dissent from the majority view:
It was being used as "gang colours", the producer said; "racism disguised as patriotism". There had been reports of people the previous year, hot on the heels of the Cronulla riots, bullying others into kissing the flag and pledging their allegiance -- and shouting the sportscry "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi oi oi!". Not only the slogan but the whole attitude of barracking seeps across to other things. Eggheads (probably a less derisory term in Australia than intellectuals) are castigated for holding thoughts and attitudes divorced from those of the mainstream. Questionable, but isn't that what intellectuals and artists occasionally do everywhere? Tolstoy no more passes for a typical Russian than Shakespeare could pass for a typical Englishman.
But, as the barracking mood has spread across the country, there has been an exponential growth of the idea of something or someone being "un-Australian". Not part of the team. This idea has become so entrenched that people have been deported who have spent virtually their whole lives here but were infants elsewhere. Undesirable, not ours — although they may have been almost entirely shaped by an Australian upbringing.
The notion of being "un-Australian" is a silly one and should be sent back to the America of the Cold War, where it belongs. If we are truly a nation, then every citizen is a member, enriching it with the narrative, patterns and choices of their lives. Whoever heard of anybody being called "un-French", or even "un-English"? "Un-New Zealand" wouldn't even get to first base — not only because it's a mouthful, but because neither Maori nor Pakeha can claim the whole.Adding to this is a creeping militarisation of Australian public life:
The barracking mentality has become more prevalent at the same time as a deepening khaki tinge has entered our national life. We don't hear much now of Australia as a pioneer of democracy: it's Gallipoli, the Western Front, Kokoda. Our history has been militarised. Then there's our military Governor-General, who does quite a good job (when he's allowed to). There are also things like the recent advertisement for Boags, which has a soldier in uniform, saluting, with his glass of beer. Or The Australian deciding that the Australian of the year should be the digger — advancing democracy around the world. You would think it was 1942.
But now the link (between sport and the military) is much more explicit. It is used to fire up sportspeople. Cricket teams off to England to play for the Ashes have stopped off at Gallipoli. And at the Athens Olympics, one of the girls in the softball team enjoined the others to "think of the Anzacs". "It lifted us," commented another. "It really lifted us.""Think of the Anzacs" could also be a good motivational phrase to encourage Australians to knuckle down and accept the American-style working conditions being brought in as part of the government's industrial relations laws. When you're working longer hours, competing against your coworkers not to be dismissed, think of the diggers who had it much worse.
A military presence has become part of the scene at major football matches. Four days before last Anzac Day, a Hawthorn-Carlton match began with the two teams lined up before an enormous Australian flag, the crowd being asked to stand while two buglers played the Last Post. Then there is the special Anzac Day match: although only 13 years old, it is presented as being as traditional as Waltzing Matilda. War planes flew overhead, veterans were whisked around the ground in a lap of honour, while on television the army logo appeared throughout — along with an advertisement for recruitment. The risk is that sport and militarism are becoming increasingly aligned to produce a blunt equation: sport + patriotism = the military.This could bode ill for other aspects of the local culture:
With the virtual collapse of high culture, and the weakening of its local forms (which looked so promising 30 years ago), we may be left with little else, particularly as sport is so deeply Australian. Most of our popular cultural icons have been sold off. But in becoming more sports-obsessed, the country could also become increasingly illiberal and increasingly militaristic.If the article is true, Australia is in danger of turning into a latter-day Sparta, a muscular, militarised, fiercely conformistic nation with no place for those who aren't part of the team.
Attendees at the Sydney Big Day Out have rejected the organisers' call to leave flags at home; the festival was a nationalistic show of strength, with flags everywhere, and an underlying atmosphere of jingoism.
However, political leaders rejected his appeal, and today many fans on their way to the event appeared to be ignoring his request as well.
Rather than the flag being a victim, as it was portrayed in arguments about its use at the Big Day Out, academic Roger Bell believes it was used as a heavy hitting weapon by over-nationalistic aggressors at Cronulla, and that this mood carried through in the weeks leading up to BDO.Could this be more evidence for the hypothesis that today's youth have rejected the left-wing values of the 1970s and 1980s and shifted dramatically to the right (see also: Vice Magazine, Hillsong) and line up on the Howard government's side of the culture war, or even that Howard's Australia is developing a US-style culture of flag-waving jingoism, coupled with the intolerant, aggressive majoritarianism that has been on the rise?
"People I know were in the audience last year and witnessed people basically being made to kiss the Australian flag and if they didn't they would get their head beaten in," Ms Ashworth said.I wonder whether one could be beaten up for wearing one of those Dangerfield "Worst Prime Minister" T-shirts to Big Day Out.
The Guardian looks at the history of
soccer football in Australia, from ostracised pastime of immigrants to its new acceptance by the mainstream, itself a result of recent changes which wiped out the ethnic-sectarian undercurrent:
But the 'ambush' sprung by 'real' football tells a deeper story, of the great changes Australian society has experienced, post-war. With the southern and eastern European migration came soccer, a game derided as 'wogball' by the chauvinistic and racist society of the late 40s, 50s and 60s. It was played in dirt paddocks, not on groomed sports ovals. There are anecdotes of immigrant schoolboys being caned for daring to play the game, as well as for speaking in their parents' tongues to each other, in the playgrounds.
Australian sport was dominated by cricket, rugby union, and rugby league, as well as another code called Australian Rules football, a cross between a pub brawl and gaelic football. This ethnic 'obscurity' persisted, and the administration of inwards looking soccer clubs and teams became mired in ethnic rivalries.Which rings true; it wasn't that long, from what I recall, that various regional soccer clubs were strongly affiliated with ethnic communities, and from time to time, the clubhouses of clubs associated with ethnic feuds (think Serbs vs. Croats or Greeks vs. Turks) would be torched. This went on until the soccer league collapsed and was rebuilt, with ethnic identities and the word "soccer" banished.
The Age looks at the Australian government's push to prevent official recognition of homosexual relationships, interviewing various prominent gay public figures, including Kerryn Phelps, Bob Brown and small-L-liberal columnist Margo Kingston, whose columns have been taking up the "anvil" side of the culture war for years:
Margo Kingston, a self-confessed Howard hater, argues it is a piece of executive arrogance. "Caesar Howard," she says. "Yes, it's a sensitive issue; yes, there are people of many opinions, but this is absolutely gutless and indefensible. The basic 'liberal' position is that whatever you do in your bedroom is private," says Kingston.Therein lies the rub. Kingston makes the mistake of assuming that Australia is a liberal society. Australia, as envisioned and reengineered by the Howard government, leans significantly more towards majoritarianism than libertarianism than most "liberal" societies (think Britain, Canada, the US blue states, and the northwest of Europe). The key distinction is that in libertarianism (not to be confused with Libertarianism, of the guns-and-Ayn-Rand stripe, but I digress), what individuals say or do privately is their own business. Under majoritarianism, there is one set of community/national values, in areas such as propriety, culture and sexual morality, and deviation from those values is seen as inherently corrosive and harmful and thus officially disapproved of and disincentivised. The majority of Australians are heterosexuals, hence tax breaks for having children, subsidised by higher taxes paid by non-breeders (both gay and straight) and official non-recognition of non-heterosexual lifestyles, making noises about "moral values" to pander to the reactionary heartland (and build up a US-style evangelical powerbase) whilst stopping short of outright persecution (as per Peter Costello's statement that gays in Australia are lucky because homosexuality is not a crime).
The Australian government has agreed to legalise ripping CDs and recording TV programmes, which had been illegal since the new US-designed copyright laws, as well as introducing US-style fair-use provisions. However, it will come at a price: a zero-tolerance crackdown on file sharing on the internet:
Police will be able to issue on-the-spot fines and access and recover profits made by copyright pirates. Courts will be given powers to award larger damages payouts against internet pirates. Civil infringement proceedings will apply to copyright pirates who make electronic reproductions or copies of copyright material.The surveillance part of it is easy enough: I once heard that in Australia, all internet connections legally have to go through points where the police may access them, and as such, cable ISPs block customers on the same access point from connecting directly to each other. (Incidentally, this was in the late 1990s, before the Homeland Security Age.) The on-the-spot fines sound trickier: will police determine, on the spot, whether a file downloaded is copyrighted, or will the act outlaw all use of file-sharing software? (The latter sounds like a very Australian majoritarian approach: given that, anecdotally, only a minority of files shared thus are licensed to be done so, the Australian thing to do would be to cut the Gordian knot of liberal free-speech handwringing and outlaw it altogether, much as they do with controversial films and video games and the proposed internet firewall.) And will the police aggressively prosecute, say, people sharing copies of long out-of-print recordings?
The anti-immigrant right in France has adopted a new tactic: handing out pork soup to the poor and hungry, pointedly excluding Muslims and Jews from their charity.
With steaming bowls of the fragrant broth soon passing through the crowd, Odile Bonnivard, a short-haired secretary turned far-right firebrand, climbed atop a dark sedan with a megaphone in hand and led the crowd in a raucous chant: "We are all pig eaters! We are all pig eaters!"
The movement began in the winter of 2003 when Ms. Bonnivard, a member of a small far-right nationalist movement called the Identity Bloc, began serving hot soup to the homeless. At first, she said, the group used pork simply because it was an inexpensive traditional ingredient for hearty French soup. But after the political significance of serving pork dawned on them and others, it quickly became the focus of their work.
Australian treasurer Peter Costello to gay marriage activists (paraphrased): "Shut up and just be grateful we don't criminalise gay sex":
Mr Costello said: "I think we do recognise the rights of gay and lesbian people in Australia." "We do not criminalise conduct or behaviour."
"I thought that was appalling. It was offensive. I found it suggesting that we were lucky that we weren't being thrown in jail," Ms Stricker said outside the Sydney Institute meeting. Prof Phelps, also offended by the comment, said it would be like saying to Mr Costello at the Sydney mardi gras: "You are really lucky that we don't lock you up because you are heterosexual." "That's as offensive as his comment to people who are in a committed same sex relationship," she said.I wonder whether not criminalising homosexuality is a policy issue which will become negotiable as those outer-suburban evangelical megachurches grow in political influence, and the government starts looking for minorities to bully to retain their favour.
If this article is to be believed, the young people who grew up in John Howard's Australia have taken the Tory government's values wholly to heart:
The language of the Howard Government on religious minorities and refugees has resulted in a generation desensitised to the very human realities and manifestations of global inequity and ethnic difference. When Howard talks of "queue jumpers" and "illegals" to describe refugees, there is a knee-jerk tendency among young people to apportion blame rather than feel empathy. This is a state of affairs that Howard has personally overseen, a significant paradigm shift that entrenches a deep and pernicious ethos of social hierarchy and privilege.
Simultaneously, there is a tendency of young people to flock to evangelical religious movements in the past five years, particularly in the outer suburbs of our capital cities. Without wishing to speak disparagingly about young people seeking spiritual depth, we can say that within these new popular religious movements disengagement with mainstream political reality is fostered. To many of these groups, "family values" becomes a code for being anti-gay, anti-euthanasia and anti-abortion. It is alarming to hear how frequently young people today embrace this kind of neo-conservatism, almost like a race to see who can be more right-wing.
Moreover, with Howard's constant talk of a very white-bread brand of traditional family values being paramount to a good society, we have seen a sudden rush of young people to get married early, get a home loan and shift to the suburbs at the first opportunity. This obsession has even extended into the gay community, which after fighting for 30 years to keep the government out of the bedroom, now appears to be fighting for the approval of Howard for their relationships.
Coupled with this, we have witnessed in Australia a new kind of hyper-consumerism. The social centre of town on any given evening is now the local shopping centre. Young people are all too eager to get the biggest credit limits possible, and max their Visa cards out with the casualness of a walk in the park. Indeed, the Howard era has brought us closer to US style ultra-materialism, where "retail therapy" is the new buzz word. Feeling bored or depressed? Better get to Chadstone shopping centre. The so-called metrosexual male has become little more than a crass marketing ploy.The lack of empathy, hyperconsumerism and devil-take-the-hindmost mentality could be the same Hobbesian muscular nihilism witnessed in the United States. Though the rise of US-style right-wing evangelical churches and acceptance of conformistic ideas of "family values" is more alarming, especially coupled with the thread of intolerance for difference hinted at. Australia may be changing, on a deep level, into one large Red State, one in which nonconformity is something to be punished and straightened rather than embraced.
In this Australia Day edition*: John Howard claims victory in the culture war; in his personal aircraft-carrier-off-the-Californian-coast moment, Australia's conservative Prime Minister has asserted that the forces of relativism, debates about Australian national identity and the Marxist-Keatingist "black armband" view of history have been decisively vanquished; consequently, Australians are free to feel no guilt over the past, to not apologise for anything, and gleefully ignore the fact that effete, garlic-eating Euroweenies and latte-sipping traitors in their own ranks see them increasingly as ugly, gormless redneck cowboys. Howard also called for a "coalition of the willing" to fundamentally change how Australian history is to be taught; his view is basically centred on the Western cultural tradition, with, as one would expect, a lot of emphasis on "Judaeo-Christian values" and other things conservatives fawn over, as opposed to, for example, the post-Enlightenment liberal-secularist tradition or pluralism.
Another sign that, in Australia, the conservatives may have won the culture war: sales of Australian flags have increased by 300% in the past five years; perhaps Howard's campaign to socially engineer a US-style culture of flag-waving jingoism in Australia (witness the recent federal requirement for schools to have flagpoles and flag-waving ceremonies) has borne fruit?
* referring to it by other names, such as "Inv*si*n Day", may be seditious under Australian law.
Apparently, next week is National Singles Week, an event to highlight the growing proportion of the population that is uncoupled, dispel myths about all singletons being desperately unhappy, and push for the government to reform laws that penalise people for being single. (Note: this is the British government; the Australian government firmly believes in the absolute supremacy of the nuclear family and is as likely to look favourably on alternatives as it is to sign the Kyoto protocol or start inviting controversial art-house filmmakers to screen their wares on its relaxed and comfortable shores.)
About 48 per cent of the adult population is now single, and by 2010 more than 40 per cent of households are expected to be occupied by single people.
(Is this one-person households? Being uncoupled I can understand, though I can't imagine 40% of households in Britain being occupied by people who can afford to live alone. Not unless they redefine bedrooms as separate households or somesuch.)
The survey, timed to coincide with National Singles Week, which begins on Monday, found that 82 per cent of those questioned said that being single gave them "an opportunity to try new life experiences" and 89 per cent said that travelling alone "boosted their confidence" and allowed them to be more spontaneous and adventurous.
"There are disadvantages to being single. Apart from some financial ones, there are social ones as some couples think of single people as predatory and many older single people are lonely," Ms Knowles said.
A court in Sicily has overturned a decision by road authorities who suspended a man's driving licence because he was gay:
In a written ruling released on Monday, the Sicilian court said: "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."
The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance".
Homosexuality is legal in Italy, but openly anti-gay comments from politicians and officials rarely cause a stir.
An interesting piece (from a US ex-Republican) positing a single axiomatic principle, originating in the Puritan experiment in the American colonies, from which all conservative ideology can be derived. Similarly, the first principle of lifestyle liberalism, which says basically that punishing "deviants" from the one true lifestyle is unnecessary and/or unfair, and what conservatives don't grasp about liberal economics (here "liberal" is used in the US colloquial sense, and basically means everything other than "strict user-pays" and that old Reagan/Thatcher trickle-down voodoo). (via tyrsalvia)
California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger moves against gay marriages, which have been taking place in San Francisco. Make your own Terminator reference here.
So, since "marriage" is only for a man and a woman who want to make babies, is staying childless a reason for the government to break up a marriage? What about people like myself and my partner? We're married, but have no intention of children. Worse yet, with three cats we're actually helping the survival of another species, which must make us some sort of traitor to the women-are-for-making-babies school of thought.
(You can never trust these cat-owner types; they dress funny, read too many books and have unorthodox ideas or lifestyles. I wonder whether keeping cats (or having cat litter/cat food in one's supermarket purchase records) would increase one's score in TIA-style dissident-profiling systems. But I digress.)
He also points out anointed successor Costello's opposition to gay marriage, a bit of a step back from his lofty speechifying about his visions for a tolerant, indeed, liberal, Australia. I wonder whether it has anything to do with him falling out of favour as the next PM (something Nick Economou mentioned on 3RRR recently). Perhaps he was put on notice that if he kept that sort of thing up, the succession would go to Tony Abbott or some similarly staunch hard-liner?
Colour me surprised. Our enlightened PM lines up alongside the Axis of Medieval, ruling out giving gay relationship status equivalent to marriage, which is "one of the bedrock institutions of our society" and "very much about the raising of children". Howard insists that this is not discriminatory, even though unmarried couples pay extra taxes and are not entitled to certain benefits, in effect subsidising those whose lifestyle meets the approval of John Howard's god. (Australia is a liberal democracy; you have the right not to be relaxed and comfortable, living in the suburbs in a state-sanctioned heterosexual breeding partnership, pumping out children to fight for God and Empire and spending your weekends polishing the Holden Commodore in your driveway or punting the footy to little Darren in the backyard, but you'll pay extra taxes if you do as that sort of thing should not be encouraged. Make it easier on yourself and conform.)
A fascinating article from Clay Shirky on why A Group Is Its Own Enemy, exploring some of the patterns of human behaviour in groups (in the context of "social software").
The article makes some interesting points: there are 3 patterns which pop up in groups: sex talk/flirting, vilification of external enemies (e.g., Penguinheads railing against Microsoft, or indeed left-wing and right-wing bloggers accusing each other of eating babies) and quasi-religious veneration of figures beyond criticism (i.e., try criticising part of an author's work on a group full of his fans and you'll get flamed for your diligence). Also, anarchy doesn't scale, and neither does naïve direct democracy; any group beyond the limits of a small social group (which Shirky doesn't mention, but which Malcolm Gladwell places at 150 people in The Tipping Point) needs a constitution, some form of hierarchy with different strata of participation and decidedly undemocratic and perhaps authoritarian powers for the core group (the "Listmoms" of a certain mailing list I'm on would be one example), in the interest of defending the group and its culture. Examples of the failure of egalitarian direct democracy include a 1970s bulletin board having been shut down after becoming infested with high-schoolers, and a campaign by Chinese Internet users to vote down the creation of soc.culture.tibet:
Imagine today if, in the United States, Internet users had to be polled before any anti-war group could be created. Or French users had to be polled before any pro-war group could be created. The people who want to have those discussions are the people who matter. And absolute citizenship, with the idea that if you can log in, you are a citizen, is a harmful pattern, because it is the tyranny of the majority.
Shirky also makes the point that users should have identities (or "handles") they can invest reputation in, that there be some sort of member-in-good-standing mechanism, and that there be barriers to participation. And he knows; having been on Usenet since the early nineties, he watched it implode under the influx of The September That Never Ended.
All in all, an article well worth reading, whether you're a social-software/smart-mobs digerato, an anarchist/libertarian social theorist, a scifi writer looking to build a plausible fictional utopia, or just a student of human psychology. (via Graham)