Vol 24 No 14

21 July 2014


Japanese pilgrim enters the void

31 July 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki MurakamiIn his native Japan, the name Haruki Murakami has immense currency. In the first week of its release his latest novel Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage sold more than one million copies. Coming from a traditional culture where assimilation and social order has been a historical imperative, perhaps the book's themes go beyond the intimate to acknowledge the soul-eating, conformist nature of society.


Christians and Muslims exchange Middle East kindness

31 July 2014 | Ruby Hamad

Al Jazeera article headline 'Muslims join Christians in declaring 'I am Iraqi, I am Christian''As an Arab-Australian it's difficult to watch the events in Syria, Iraq and Gaza without a sense of guilt and shame. To outside eyes, it must appear that the Middle East is driven by hatred and bloodlust. In fact there is a long history of persecuted members of one Middle Eastern faith finding safety in the places of worship of those that are often cast as their enemies. This is the Middle East, at once unconscionably cruel and unbearably kind.


Theologians should face Peter Singer's challenge

31 July 2014 | Peter Vardy

Peter SingerAt the least, religious philosophers and theologians should further engage with the challenge to traditional ethics that Peter Singer's position provides. Singer puts forward a powerful case and it is one which, in the current climate where people seek happiness and quality of life above everything else, will find increasing support particularly with the difficulty of funding medical care for those who are old or disabled.

An adequate response to child sexual abuse

30 July 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

'Reckoning: the Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse' by Chris McGillion and Damian GraceWe might expect that research into the causes and history of sexual abuse will continue and increase. As part of its owning of the crimes that have flourished within it, the challenge for the Church is to take such research seriously, particularly when it touches on the part played by such aspects of Catholic life, culture and governance as clerical celibacy, attitudes to women and sexual morality, and clericalism.


How to trap a terrorist

30 July 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rachel McAdamsThe German port city of Hamburg was the place where Mohammed Atta and his collaborators planned the September 11 attacks. A sense of hyper-vigilance stems from this fatal embarrassment and pervades the current events. Betrayal is weighed against betrayal, and ethics and morality are calculated using the sliding scale of a greater good that is dubbed, not without irony, as 'making the world a safer place'. But safer for whom?


Ukraine endgame?

30 July 2014 | Tony Kevin

Conflict in UkraineThe shooting down of MH17 by insurgent anti-aircraft missiles has now been swallowed up in the wider drama of the fierce civil war raging in Ukraine's pro-Russian eastern region. On 24 July, the International Committee of the Red Cross proclaimed Ukraine to be in a state of civil war, appealing to all those involved to respect the humanitarian rules of war or face later indictment as war criminals. The burning question now is, what will Putin's Russia do?

What will survive of us is love

29 July 2014 | Gillian Bouras

Detail of Arundel Tomb in Chichester CathedralSo there the marble figures lie, grey and blurred, and with an infinite capacity, I think, to touch the heart. The tomb was radical for its time, in the sense that Richard had decreed that his effigy should not be higher than Eleanor's; her figure also appears to lean towards his, and most moving of all, Richard's has one gauntlet removed, so that his bare hand holds that of his wife. Her feet rest on a little pet dog, his on a small lion.


The truth about Jonathan Moylan

29 July 2014 | Thea Ormerod

'Big Coal: Australia's Dirtiest Habit' by Guy Pearse et al.I am a grandmother of six, a practising Catholic and for some years was our local Catholic youth group mum. I was drawn to protest actions because other ways of protecting the future for my grandchildren were proving fruitless. Having stayed with the protesters and seen them in action, I have been impressed with their disciplined dedication to an ethic of peaceful non-violence. It is not 'violence' to frustrate mine workers and annoy the police.


Morrison's refugee rodeo

1 Comment
29 July 2014 | Fiona Katauskas

In Fiona Katauskas' cartoon 'Morrison's refugee rodeo' the Immigration Minister sits backwards on a horse and delivers a group of lassoed Sri Lankan asylum seekers to the Indian consulate

View this week's offering from Eureka Street's award winning political cartoonist.


Time to take on the welfare sceptics

28 July 2014 | Catherine Magree

7.30 Report on ABC1 with the headline Job Snobs?Imagine how the quality of the debate would improve if those who blamed the victims of poverty and illness for their plight were publicly labelled welfare sceptics or denialists, and forced to back up their claims. Social research academics would be thrust into the spotlight. If this issue received the scrutiny it deserves in the media there would be a sea change in attitudes to poverty, unemployment and income support over time.


The original orphan

28 July 2014 | Tony Kelly

Old man facePoor old fellow, angular, pinched awkward man, taut and pink-faced ... Everyone hesitates to take him in, wincing at his eagerness, and protecting conversation from his fantastic interruptions ... recently he discovered the name of his mother, long dead, and found some brothers ... Now a gush of communication after the long legal amnesia, he reports a big barbecue to celebrate the discovery of belonging after all.


Indonesia's new paradigm must include the past

28 July 2014 | Pat Walsh

Jokowi meets his volunteers at Proclamation Monument in JakartaThe day after the result of Indonesia's presidential election was announced, I joined crowds of excited Indonesians in central Jakarta to celebrate Jokowi's election as Indonesia's seventh president. Did you see the rainbow? asked a supporter. I hadn't, but even if the heavens had opened and soaked everybody to the skin, it would have been taken as another sign that God too had voted for Jokowi.


The enemy is AIDS, not those who live with it

27 July 2014 | Michael Mullins

AIDS logo

Rates of HIV infection are rising, while stigma is in decline. Some believe the only way to contain the virus is to maintain the stigma against those living with it. But the majority view is that those suffering should be empowered. If the law and the media support them, there is hope that the community will move rationally towards an end to the crisis. 

All eyes on our MH17 mourners in chief

27 July 2014 | John Warhurst

Mourner in Chief Abbott and entourage in St Mary's CathedralOur national mourning following the recent airline tragedy is spontaneous and scattered but also requires leadership. This is primarily a job for our elected or appointed leaders. This means Prime Ministers and Premiers and Governors-General and Governors. The awful tragedy comes at a time when the federal government is lagging badly in public opinion. It will be fascinating to see how their performance is judged in the next polls.


What makes a girl beautiful

24 July 2014 | Catherine Marshall

Young smiling dark-skinned girlThere's something satisfying about subverting society's idea of what constitutes beautiful: female-led campaigns that flood the media with images of representative faces and bodies reinforce the absurdity of current 'beauty' standards. But this isn't really liberating. No longer is it only the physically exquisite who can pose naked; the plain and the imperfect must be welcomed, too, into the sacred circle of female objectification.


More to tertiary education shake-up than $100,000 degrees

24 July 2014 | Neil Ormerod

Scott Ludlum holds a poster reading '$100,000 degrees? I din't vote for this'Christopher Pyne's proposed changes to tertiary education place many theological providers in an interesting situation. We have seen a number of theological colleges enter into relationships with universities to assist with their financial bottom line, in the face of falling support from their church constituencies. If private providers are to receive government funding directly, we could see some of these arrangements begin to fall apart.


Blood, tears and ethics in Gaza

24 July 2014 | Matthew Beard

ShellsThis week in the Wall Street Journal, Thane Rosenbaum argued that Palestinian adults are, as a whole, legitimate targets of attack because they were involved in electing Hamas to power eight years ago. There is no need for more blood or tears in Gaza, but there is a strong case to be made for higher ethical standards. Based on the manner in which it is presently being conducted, this war is unjust on both sides.


Loner's gifts to the lonely dead

23 July 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Eddie Marsan lying on the grassSome years ago my then next-door neighbour attempted suicide. Had it not been for the fortuitous arrival of his teenage son, and the heroic actions of another neighbour, the incident would have had a tragic outcome. For an individual to die alone at home amid the crowd of suburbia is one of the sadder, and sadly common, scenarios of modern Western existence. Italian-born British filmmaker Pasolini explores this phenomenon in Still Life.


Magnanimous memoir of a 'dead canary' bishop

23 July 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

'Benedict, Me and the Cardinals Three' by Bill MorrisIn mines, where bad air could be lethal, miners used to bring canaries with them. If they fell ill and died, the miners had warning to get out. The recent book by Bishop Bill Morris, replete with documentary evidence, tells the story of a canary caught in the shafts of Vatican culture. His early expiry date pointed to something amiss in the governance of the church, heralding the larger disclosures in the Royal Commission on sexual abuse.


Catholics face Good Samaritan dilemma on Christmas Island

23 July 2014 | Mike Bowden

Tim McDonaldThe implications of the Good Samaritan story are clear on Christmas Island. The evil of child imprisonment is of the Government's own doing, and it must be shamed into remedying it. Is the Catholic Education Office in Western Australia right then to provide education to these children? Catholic agencies that alleviate the harm done to those imprisoned should also make clear their condemnation of the evil of that imprisonment.


World woe

22 July 2014 | Fiona Katauskas

In Fiona Katauskas' cartoon 'World woe' the world tells a counsellor 'Lately I just feel so conflicted'

View this week's offering from Eureka Street's award winning political cartoonist.


Rules won't restore the Church

22 July 2014 | Chris McGillion and Damian Grace

'Reckoning' by Chris McGillionIt is widely assumed that rules are the solution to transgressions such as those being investigated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Rules are useful. They can be framed to aid compliance and deter wrongdoing. It is no argument against them to say that people will still offend, but if rules are more legal requirements than the expression of genuine morality, they will have limited effectiveness.


Dubious heroes of Wikipedia

22 July 2014 | Philip Harvey

Robots churning out Wikipedia entriesSwedish physicist Sverker Johansson has reportedly written over 2.7 million articles on Wikipedia since 2001, at an average of 10,000 articles a day. Phil Parker is purported to be the most published author in history, successfully publishing over 85,000 physical books, each of which takes less than an hour to 'write' — 'patented algorithms enable computers to do all the heavy lifting'. But the real work begins after they have finished.

Central American ganglands spark child refugee crisis

22 July 2014 | Antonio Castillo

A Special Forces officer of the Grupo Reacion Policial guards an alley during a raid against gang members in El Salvador.The exodus of thousands of unaccompanied and undocumented children from Central America countries to the US — via Mexico's unforgiving northern border — has become a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented dimensions. While organised crime continues, economic violence remains unresolved and the US doesn't get its migration policy right, such children will keep risking their lives.

Beware of political posturing after MH17 tragedy

21 July 2014 | Justin Glyn

MH17 wreckageThe horror of the crash that killed 298 people was not a day old before blame was being vigorously assigned by all sides. Not only is this deeply unhelpful and disrespectful, it obscures the fact that, whatever actually happened, a terrible tragedy is at risk of being compounded by the hot-heads on all sides calling for more war and escalation of a conflict in which both Russia and the United States have acted with rank opportunism.


No longer thumped

21 July 2014 | Isabella Fels

Young people kissFirst kiss was kind of crass. Like a big bite on the bottom. Not bliss. Not my idea of a wish. I could have crossed it off the list ... You only get one life. For some women it's all about being a wife. I stay away from the conventions of life.


Australia's diplomatic role amid MH17 fallout

21 July 2014 | Tony Kevin

Putin Initially I was uneasy about Abbott's strong anti-Putin rhetoric. Why was Australia so upfront, so early? I thought he was jumping to conclusions too soon. It is clear now though that his response was based on the same satellite imagery intelligence that John Kerry and Hilary Clinton cite as evidence that it was a Russian missile fired from Russian-supported insurgent territory. He was right, and Bill Shorten is correct to support him.

Bittersweet victory for the Mothers of Srebrenica

1 Comment
20 July 2014 | Binoy Kampmark

Women hold a banner that reads SrebrenicaLast week the Dutch Supreme Court found that the Netherlands was liable for the deaths of over 300 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in Bosnia-Hercegovina in July 1995. They had been part of a group of 5000 refugees, who had been sheltering with Dutch UN peacekeepers known as Dutchbat and were handed over to Serb forces in exchange for 14 Dutch peacekeepers. A historical arrangement had been writ in blood.

Elegy for the 298 of MH17

20 July 2014 | Andrew Hamilton

Malaysian airlinerThe deepest questions raised by the deaths of those on the plane shot down over the Ukraine are the unavoidable questions that face us all: questions about the patent precariousness and vulnerability of our lives, about what matters to us when our grasp on the future is so tenuous, about the mysterious conjunction of love, loss, pain and gift, and about the capacity of the human heart for evil and the terrible consequences that follow.


Abbott Government blind to social capital

20 July 2014 | Michael Mullins

Human capital imageThe Coalition glorifies business entrepreneurship, which is promoted as a good that trumps social inclusion. It is paradoxical that there is more appetite for social entrepreneurship in the USA, which is known as the land of the self made man. The explanation is that investing in social capital ultimately makes good business sense.