The Null Device


Some (potentially) good news on the software-patent front; after the forces of darkness pushed a draconian software patent proposal through the European Parliament, the Dutch government appears to be listening to the mass geek protests against this, and is considering ordering its minister to withdraw his vote, something that has never happened before in EU history. If this does go through, it would force the EU Parliament to reconsider the software patent directive (which was basically rushed through with intensive lobbying by software corporations). Chances are those same lobbyists will have their daggers out for it, so it remains to be seen who prevails.

(There doesn't seem to be any such luck in Australia; the Dems have signed on for the US-Australian FTA (which, among other things, brings in the same software-patent regime that has worked so well in the US), and Labor seem to be running scared from being considered too "anti-American" to win the Silent Majority Of Suburban Battlers' vote (the Bush administration's insinuation that any Australia too hung up on its sovereignty may end up being thrown to the al-Qaeda wolves probably didn't help in this respect) that they'll be treading very carefully over anything that could be considered anti-American, and raising a stink about some obscure copyright issues that Norm and Sheryl of Nunawading couldn't give a toss about is probably too much risk for too little reward.)

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The Graun has published an extract of Germaine Greer's latest polemic, "Whitefella Jump Up". In it (originally published as a Quarterly Essay, and now reprinted by another publisher), she argues that to achieve nationhood, Australia should declare itself an Aboriginal Republic, replacing the head of state with "the Aboriginal people", and allowing anybody in Australia to call themselves "Aboriginal":

The second step in the journey is a second statement to the self in the mirror. "I was born in an Aboriginal country, therefore I must be considered Aboriginal." This is a tougher proposition, as long as Aboriginality is thought of as racial, but if we think of Aboriginality as a nationality, it suddenly becomes easier. It would not involve the assumption of a phoney ethnicity or the appropriation of the history of any particular Aboriginal people. The owners of specific dreamings would continue to be so still, and would continue to pass them on according to their law as it applies to those concerned.

Greer then goes on to argue that the Australian national character owes more to Aboriginal traditions than to the British character; that Australia's British settlers and their descendents gradually "went native" without realising it, adopting everything from the broad, nasal Australian accent to the egalitarian tradition, from backpacking and "feral" dance parties (which came from "going walkabout" and corroborees) to the tradition of telling exaggerated yarns, from the continent's first inhabitants; meanwhile, the gulf between Australia and Britain is vast:

Observers of white Australian life are struck by the degree of segregation between the sexes, which cannot be explained by the prevailing mores of the countries they came from. Aboriginal society, too, is deeply segregated; men and women are used to spending long periods in the company of their own sex. The more important the occasion and the larger the gathering, the more likely it is that women will gather in one area and men in another, just as white Australian men gather round the beer keg, leaving the women to talk among themselves. One explanation of the Australian mania for sport of all kinds is that sport is the only remaining area of human activity that is still rigorously segregated.

Funny that she mentions this, because none other than Jeremy Paxman pointed out (in his book The English: A Portrait of a People) the great degree of segregation between the sexes in English society (as compared to other European societies and/or America, undoubtedly). This has probably changed somewhat over the past few decades, though to say that Australian blokes' tendencies to watch the footy with a tinny of VB in hand while the sheilas talk in the kitchen about their kids/the last episode of Neighbors comes from Aboriginal customs of "secret (wo)men's business" seems more far-fetched than attributing it to how English society was in decades or centuries past.

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