Vol 22 No 9
East Timor's independence is from Australia
With East Timor marking ten years of independence on Sunday, it is relevant to ask which nation in particular it is celebrating independence from. In one sense East Timorese value independence because it is a reminder that they do not hold ties and obligations to Australia, which might have become their neo-colonial master.
Re-balancing authority in the abusive Church
Church structures are riddled with patriarchy, clericalism and deference, and these were at the centre of the abuse problem. Repentance, then, means changing these. Lay people in particular, who are less subject to Vatican strictures, need to bring to the table their skills and knowledge to drive this change.
Multiculturalism's answer to terrorism
Multiculturalism's answer to terrorism
The concept of multiculturalism is under severe strain, with German and English political leaders going as far as declaring it a failure. Melbourne academic Des Cahill sees multiculturalism as an effective means of promoting harmony, and lessening the likelihood of terrorist acts like that of Norway mass murder Anders Breivik.
Suicide is the new leprosy
A common public response to suicide is very similar to earlier attitudes to leprosy. The latter makes invisible people who need to be seen. The former makes silent people who need to speak. A recently published collection of writing by relatives and friends of people who had taken their own lives breaks that silence.
Rape ambiguity in India
It remains unclear whether the encounter was consensual, although the power imbalance in the relationship makes such an encounter ethically dubious even if it was not strictly rape. If it was rape, it is inconceivable that she later becomes her assailant's willing lover.
The many sins of Brian Doyle
I missed my cousin's funeral because I had weekend plans with a girlfriend that I was not man enough to break; and this beloved cousin was a nun.
THE MEDDLING PRIEST
Reconciliation in the homes of war criminals
As we drove through the village of Prek Sbeuv in Cambodia, the parish priest who accompanied me, Fr Jub Phoktavi, matter-of-factly pointed to Pol Pot's old house. I remain in awe of Cambodians who have been able to be reconciled, committing themselves to the common good of their nation.
Abbott's big guns
Prayer is a walk in the park
When I feel the day is turning, I go — without a dog or child — to pray and walk the corridors of light and shade.
Tony Abbott's class war
One way of conducting class warfare is to accuse your opponent of conducting class warfare, as Abbott did in his Budget reply speech. It is no coincidence that over the period when talking about class became the political equivalent of breaking wind, the actions of governments of both stripes have accelerated social inequality.
Hockey and Thatcher's 'no entitlement' is bad economics
Joe Hockey provoked outrage with his recent suggestion that we should rely on families rather than the state for social welfare. His premise that high social spending leads to debt and decline reflects the GDP fetish of fundamentalist economists that Joseph Stiglitz blames for Europe's current economic problems.
Diplomat priest built bridges to China
As the diplomatic crisis unfolded between the US and China over the fate of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, hard questions re-emerged regarding how the West should best relate to China. A Jesuit missionary who died 400 years ago offers a tantalising alternative to the cycle of comprehension and mystification.
Time to re-imagine the Australian flag
The readiness of Australians to design a flag that is agreed to and honoured ought to be on the agenda of any forward-looking party. Otherwise a day will come when a design will be foisted on us that no one likes and has no distinctive meaning. One only has to listen to the national anthem to know Australians are capable of embracing second best.
Warm bums and nuclear activism in Tokyo
I took the train into central Tokyo, my bum warmed by the heated seats. Each time we stopped, the train's engine shut down briefly, and the bum heater switch off for a few seconds. Over the loudspeaker I heard 'Setsuden chu', the catchphrase meaning 'We're currently using less electricity', which is posted all around the city.
Budget leaves baked beans for Struggle Street
The Budget confirms one thing that both sides of politics agree on, and that's their belief in the existence of an undeserving poor. There's nothing wrong with bringing home the bacon for middle Australia. But the people living at the rough end of Struggle Street are trying to get by on baked beans.
THE MEDDLING PRIEST
US bishops' toxic tussle with Obamacare
The bishops intend a campaign of civil disobedience against aspects of the Obama Administration's health care plan. Many have been critical of this law on the ground that it might contribute to more abortions. The toxicity of the atmosphere should make us wary of adopting a similar campaign here.
The other side of suicide
When I was 15 I decided not to kill myself. I am still sometimes prone to baseless bouts of depression, but that ragged dark hole has never engulfed me. The main characters in two recent films are notable for deciding to live, rather than lie down and be overrun by dark emotions and events.
Shaky surpluses and dirty nappies
You could you call it coincidence that the week I'm asked to write on budgets, ours blows out. I call it life. Such is the cyclic nature of our 1.5-incomes-and-two-kids lives that just when we think our savings are safe, a new enrolment fee is due, the kids' jeans are suddenly a size too small and I've run out of nappies.
Spinning the Budget
Swan slights jobless
When budgets are tight, governments seek savings by moving people from an expensive payment to cheaper payment categories. By moving a larger number of single parents from parenting payment to the cheaper Newstart allowance the Government will effectively remove $686 million out of the hands of low income families.
When humanity came second to research
The experimenters' intent was to observe the capacity of first year students to inflict pain by electrically shocking others. Many of the subjects were traumatised as though they had in fact committed acts of torture. Paradoxically the latest revelations may mean the researchers themselves need counselling.
Spoor of a soul
At sleep's near edge I busily ask myself — redundantly, rather — where soul might have its home: Like the golden tumbling apricots right next door attending on Christmas, my body has attained what another age would have called a certain age.
Big media's NBN convergence challenge
The end of big media businesses such as Seven, Nine, Ten and the newspapers would be bad for media proprietors like Kerry Stokes and Rupert Murdoch, but not necessarily a great loss for the rest of us, given the NBN's empowerment of small media enterprises and the diversity that implies.
No easy cure for 'cost disease' in Australian schools
The Productivity Commission Schools Workforce report released on Friday does contain evidence of the dire state of productivity in Australian schools, but it is largely neutered. It's as if the Commission was anxious to avoid stating too plainly a disease for which it can suggest only palliatives.