Ending Rape Culture: An Immodest Proposal

In view of tragedies like this one – oh, and this one. And this one. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. In view of such tragedies, where innocent rapists are shamed and prosecuted for their criminal actions in defiance of their sacred and constitutional right to complete moral irresponsibility, it is clear that there is a problem here that must be addressed.

But I have devised a solution, one which would prevent the continuation of such rapes and abuses, forever.

You see, if the victim is to blame, just like the victim of a tornado or a rabid dog’s bite is, then it logically follows that the rapists are incapable of bearing moral responsibility, like a dog or a tornado. And like a dog or a tornado, there are only two solutions: they need to be either forcibly restrained or decently put down. (We don’t do this to tornadoes yet because we don’t have prisons or guns big enough. Yet.)

Now, since putting down rapists is obviously not a possibility, that leaves us with restraining them. But how can we know who will commit the next rape? It’s not enough to restrain the rapists we know about already – we need to restrain all tomorrow’s rapists too.

Logically, we need to imprison all men, segregating them from women at all times except when vitally necessary for procreation or organ donation – and even in these cases, advances in medical technology should reduce the need for contact between the sexes even in these situations.

Only when they are imprisoned behind unbreachable walls and prevented from ever seeing, hearing or smelling anything that might inspire a rape can men be truly free of the responsibility for preventing its occurrence.

But until such a utopia can be created, I guess men everywhere will just have act like decent human beings, and hope for a day when they are freed of the crushing responsibility of not being a evil shit.

Starting at the Top

There’s a phenomenon that happens across all media that I always find bothersome, as much as I also see it as more or less a historical inevitability. It’s that people try to introduce other people to media – in this case, I mostly mean ‘to a particular genre’ by giving them the wrong starting places.
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How WikiLeaks needs to improve

WikiLeaks is an excellent idea, but like all ideas, its actual execution has been somewhat flawed. Not fatally, but badly enough. Here are five suggestions for what they can do to make WikiLeaks better for everyone.

Broaden your selection of targets

So far, WikiLeaks has done a great job of embarassing the United States government and certain of its allies. But the US government, big and tempting target though it may be, is not the only government out there. There are many other governments with dirty secrets of their own, and often with far more repressive political cultures. WikiLeaks can and should be trying to hold China, Russia, and every other country down to Liechstenstein or San Marino to account.
Moreover, to assume, as WikiLeaks appears to, that political power is the only sort of power in this world is to sorely misunderstand the nature of power. WikiLeaks should also be targetting corporations, organised religions and assorted other groups. Imagine what WikiLeaks could do if they turned their attentions on the Catholic Church’s assorted sex scandals, for example. Or on the internal processes of Monsanto, or BP, or McDonalds. Hell, if they paid some attention to the Essendon Football Club.

Protect your sources
There’s two very good reasons why Edward Snowden mostly hasn’t bothered with WikiLeaks, despite his actions being exactly the kind of thing that makes them salivate: the first of them is Bradley Manning. WikiLeaks has done nothing to aid Manning – it provided not protection, and hasn’t even tried to help him in his legal defence. This sort of attitude to their sources isn’t likely to endear them to any future would-be leakers or whistleblowers, and in the long term, WikiLeaks will lose its reason to exist without these people. To be fair, they have tried to provide some assistance to Snowden in his attempts to remain at large, but in general, this is an area in which they lag sadly behind traditional media institutions.

Do the work
The other reason for Snowden’s lack of involvement is that WikiLeaks, in its short history, has proven very willing to pat itself on the back. The organisation – and most especially its front man, Julian Assange – often gives the impression that they’re in it far more for the glory than the actual work. Which is fine, except that real people like Bradley Manning are suffering while members of WikiLeaks play at being revolutionaries. If they’re as serious about the work as they claim, they need to actually do the work, regardless of the glory.
WikiLeaks needs to understand that it is the messenger, not the message; the tool, not the work. And its actions need to reflect this understanding.

Julian Assange

Speaking of tools, WikiLeaks’ single greatest liability is its Bond-villain-wannabee leader. The cult of personality that has grown around this man only goes to demonstrate my preceding point even better. Assange gives every impression of wanting the spotlight more than the actual struggle – indeed, in recent interviews, he’s seemed jealous of the attention currently being paid to Snowden.
WikiLeaks needs to reduce his importance to the organisation, so that his obvious egotism and arrogant personal style will not get in the way of doing the work. The world at large needs to understand that WikiLeaks does not equal Julian Assange, and vice versa. That way, the personal fortunes of Assange will not unduly impact the work of WikiLeaks, as it appears very much that they currently do. Perhaps the simplest way to do this would be to designate spokespeople other than Assange, preferably more than one of them so that the same situation does not simply recur with Assange’s replacement.

Eggs and Baskets
And it’s not just multiple voices that WikiLeaks needs to speak with. There are more things in it that could stand to be multiplied.
While I am quite sure that WikiLeaks has many, many backups for its data, it would also be better if the organisation itself was backed up. Multiple smaller WikiLeaks-like organisations, which could pool knowledge and funds for defence and distribution, would present a more difficult prosecutorial target (think of the ease of stopping Napster, as opposed to Napster’s successors), while also making the base activity that WikiLeaks depends upon more attractive to the people they depend upon to leak things to them. The danger with this are mostly territorial: no group should specialise in particular types or geographical sources of leak, and politics between the groups themselves must be aggressively prevented.

The Error of Cory Bernardi

I think I’ve finally worked out why certain Christians can’t seem to separate bestiality and homosexuality. Why they seem to think that men having sex with other men must inevitably be followed by men having sex with animals.

It’s because in the Bible – more specifically, in the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 18 – it literally happens that way:

  1. You must not have sexual intercourse with a man as you would with a woman; it is a detestable practice.
  2. You will not have sexual relations with any animal, becoming unclean by it. Nor will a woman present herself before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.

Note: sourced from the Common English Bible.

You see? In the Bible, bestiality follows homosexuality as naturally as 23 follows 22.

So the next time you encounter one of these logic-challenged bigots, remember: they may be hateful and homophobic, but at least they can count and read.

Forgiveness and Forgettance

(Yes, I know forgettance isn’t a real word. But it should be. You knew exactly what I meant by it, didn’t you?)

Last night, I ran into an old friend and an old enemy. They were the same person, of course. This wouldn’t be interesting otherwise, would it? We were friends for a long time, there was a falling out (I felt that I had been betrayed), and then we were enemies for not quite so long a time. And then we were… we were nothing much, I suppose. Acquaintance seems too strong a term.

A large reason for this is my attitude to forgiving and forgetting.

A digression: I value honesty, but I cannot help but admire a well told lie. And whoever first formulated the words “forgive and forget” in that order was an absolute fucking genius of dishonesty and manipulation. Because the whole thing is sheer brilliance, if what you really want in life is to never be held accountable.

Because the way most people have come to interpret the phrase – and the way I’m damned sure it was meant to be interpreted – is that the person asking for the forgiveness (and, implicitly, the forgettance) is actually asking for a blank cheque. They want to not be held accountable for this time (the forgiveness) and they want to be free to do it again (the forgettance) – and ideally, they want the same lack of consequences next time.

Yeah, fuck that.

I don’t care for it at all.

I’ll forgive the first time – depending on the scope at least (some things are too large for second chances). I might perhaps forgive a second with sufficiently extentuating circumstances. But a third? I’ll eventually forgive that, at some point, because I don’t think that holding onto grudges is good for me, but by that point, enough time will have passed that it won’t matter to either of us.

But forgetting? That I won’t do. You get my forgiveness, but that’s a second chance. It’s not a blank slate. It’s not a second first chance. Fool me once, shame on me – you know the rest.

And it amazes me that anyone ever does things any differently.

Nolite timere

The Latin motto “nolite timere” translates as “be not afraid”. It is the personal motto of Archbishop George Pell, three words said repeatedly by Jesus in the Bible, notably at Mark 5:36, where he also amplified “Be not afraid, only believe.” As admonitions go, it falls a little short of “trust me” or “this will be our secret”, but it has a similarly child molest-y vibe.

Quite apt for Pell, who has definitely had an interesting week. His accustomed air of saintly naivete has been tested to the absolute limit by his four hours of testimony before a Victorian Parliamentary enquiry this week. Despite it all, he comes across as still convinced that the Catholic Church is being singled out, and that this is all just persecution.

Never mind that, as he himself told the enquiry, there were numerous coverups, and that he himself had participated in some of them. Never mind that, in numerous other cases – notably those of Gerald Risdale, Ted Dowlan and other Catholic clergy in Ballarat in the Seventies – he claimed an ignorance so profound that he can only be regarded as either terrifyingly incompetent at his assigned jobs or the most mendacious liar currently active in the Australian media. Never mind that Pell is absolutely infamous for his lack of empathy to those whose lives are destroyed by his actions and inactions. Never mind that he still has the temerity to threaten Parliament with dire consequences if they continue their current investigations. Never mind that he claims that there is “no moral obligation” to increase the size of compensation payouts, because obviously, we should all take the word of a man with the demonstrated morality of His Eminence, George Pell.

None of this matters, because as far as can be told from Pell’s statements, what’s really important here is the good name of the Church. Pell’s major defence of the coverups, after all, is that they were motivated by fear of scandal. The fact that coverups are, in and of themselves, scandalous, seems not to register with him. The fact that, in lying and bullying, he’s betraying the very same ideals that his service in the church is supposedly based on, every bit as much (and every bit as damagingly) as those who carry out the actual abuse.

I’ve spent most of this week writhing in disgust and rage, wishing there was more I could do, fearing for all the children still in the clutches of an organisation that increasingly seems to think that all it’s done wrong is get caught.

One of my most cherished ideals is that of the presumption of innocence. I think it’s a basic foundation of any civil society, and I have since I was old enough to think about this stuff. (Hell, one of my greatest regrets is a friendship I blew up one night when in the heat of the moment I forgot to be guided by this ideal.)

That said, I’d like to see every single member of the Catholic clergy in this country dragged before the bench and asked to testify. Asked to swear on a goddamned Bible that they were going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because I’m sick of the child-molesting elephant in the room – and I’m sick of it throwing its weight around.

I have a personal stake in this, you see. If you click here, and scroll down to the testimony of “Jamie” (not his real name, and I won’t be telling you what is)…

…I knew Jamie. I was in the same class as him at Cathedral College. I even attended the confirmation ceremony he mentions – some members of my extended family are still involved with that particular parish, in fact. I didn’t know about it at the time, but even then, there were rumours about Ted Dowlan. And that was just in the one school – we didn’t know anything about his history.

Unfortunately, that was all I knew when Jamie called me up, shortly before the case came to court. He asked me to testify, and I had to apologetically tell him that I didn’t know anything except hearsay. The most help I could give was help him get in touch with other boys from our class, whom we both hoped would know more.

Even now, nearly twenty years later, just thinking about this – the mere mention of Dowlan’s or Jamie’s names – fills me with outrage for the past, and fear for the future. “Nolite timere”? I don’t think so.

And so I freely confess that this particular post comes from a place of absolute hatred. Of contempt and loathing, and of rage and fear…

But not, I think, from a place of factual inaccuracy.

Apocalypse Next?

Well, if you’re reading this, it looks like all the people who thought that Mayans were predicting the end of the world (rather than just the end of the calendar) were wrong.

How sad it is, to think that in a little over a decade, we’ve used up two really great dates to focus all our panic and dread of the future on. But we have, and short of restarting the calendar, we’ll never see 2000 or 2012 again. So now what date can we project our formless fears onto?
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Very Sore Legs; or, What I Did On My Weekend

It wasn’t the best weather in the world, in terms of predicatbility, but it’s Melbourne. You carry layers and extras and brolly (and sunglasses), and you assume that you’ll get to hone this quick change skills. Frequently.

That said, it was a wonderful weekend.

Friday night, I went to the final of this winter’s Docklands Winter Fireworks series. Which was okay, as fireworkds go, but rather repetitive in terms of the types and styles of fireworks they used. Later on, I saw another fireworks display from my backyard, which was smaller but much more varied.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early for this year’s Open House Melbourne. This was my second year volunteering, regarding which, more in a little while.

So I started by checking out the JA Substation in Little Bourke St (which was where I’d volunteered at, but not toured, last year). It was a very educational tour, and I now know more about the way electricity is supplied to Melbourne than I ever dreamed that I’d want to. More for the serious electricity geek than the idly curious, but well worth the time.

From there, I went on to the Myer Mural Hall, which I remembered visiting once as a child, and always wanted to see again. In fact, I’d been worried that they’d demolished it in their recent refit, but no, there it was, just as stunning (and as suprising to find) as I recalled it. Well worth checking out, if you ever get the opportunity.

Next stop was The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists – not somewhere I’d ever have chosen to go by myself, but the friend I was with was volunteering there, so we went there so they could start their shift. It was an absolutely beautiful building, and far more interesting in itself, its history and its contents than I would ever have guessed. Highly recommended, if they have it again next year.

From there, I went down to St Kilda to check out the paired attractions of the Esplanade (the road, not the pub): the Esplanade Vaults and the Palais Theatre. I was very curious about the former, and only really went to the latter because after travelling to St Kilda, I wanted to see as much as I could there. The Vaults were a little disappointing – the actual building is fascinating, but the photos and text there only provided a frustratingly small glimpse into their history – but the Palais was my surprise hit of the weekend. Sometimes I forget how much I love old theatres, but after this weekend, I won’t be making that mistake for a while.

Then I raced back into town, and took in the Capitol Theatre and the Athanaeum, but alas, too close to closing time to do either justice. I’m pretty sure that the Athanaeum does tours at other times as well – I will have to go to one if they do.

Sunday, I got up and started over, although given that my own volunteer shift was on Sunday afternoon, I didn’t have much time for it. Still, the stuff I saw was great.

I started with the Royal Melbourne Hospital Tunnels and Towers tour, and that was fascinating. As much as anything else, the sheer terrifying volume of all sorts of things that they go through on a weekly or annual basis is awe-inspiring all by itself. Plus, the view from the helipad was terrific, and the basements were an incredible display of planning for every possible contingency.

From there, I went to the wonderfully-named Melbourne Brain Centre, where alas I didn’t have time to go on the tour, but did check out the fantastic works on display in the Dax Gallery. I was particularly taken with the embroidered jacket – I won’t say more, but go to the gallery and see it if you can (if you work or study at/near Melbourne Uni, the gallery would make an excellent lunchtime activity).

Fibally, I went to the venue where I was volunteering: the Fitzroy High School, which I almost didn’t recognise – it’s changed more than a little since I used to play basketball here back in the Nineties. The major part of the tour there (which I went on, of course – I’ve learned something from last year) was in the new wing of the school, which was an incredible fusion of design, art, sustainability and pedagogy. It’s not hard at all to see why it won awards. The tour there was particularly good, because in addition to the employees of the school (most venues have employees running the tours), there was also a member of the architextural team that designed it, so we got to hear more about the goals of the design and the process of reaching them than we would have otherwise.

So, all in all, a great weekend, and aside from my very sore legs, I can’t wait for next year’s one.

What the ALP absolutely will not do next

Actually, that’s really quite simple. Anything that takes integrity. And anything that takes courage. This is a political party that is now so dependent on opinion polls and focus groups that it doesn’t cross the fucking street without market-testing whether it should look left or right for traffic first.

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