An interesting take on swine flu panic

3 June, 2009

I read a piece today, “In a crisis, knowledge is not power” authored by the Brisbane Institute’s Dr Martin Leet. Some very interesting points made so I thought I’d share it. Some excerpts for the time-challenged:

  • While it is understandably a concern, the spectre of “swine flu” also demonstrates just how easy it is to whip up hysteria in contemporary society. Constant updates, often issued with an alarmist tone, force the subject upon people. The media dramatises every latest development, even when that development is scarcely noticeable. Amid the warnings of catastrophe, we occasionally hear that swine flu may simply be a variation on the constantly mutating virus to be dealt with every year, probably no more menacing than the normal flu. Swine flu is undoubtedly a worry, but it is very difficult to find a sense of proportion about it while frenzied confusion reigns.
  • In the effort to cover every angle, give a voice to every perspective, and attend to any and every piece of information, all that is amassed is an extremely jumbled picture of what is actually happening. […] There is a hypervigilance involved in the responses to these and many other issues. Whenever something happens, it is immediately documented, analysed and critiqued ad infinitum. This process is probably driven by a fear that we will be unable to cope unless we amass every piece of available data. But hypervigilance really amounts to an incapacity to think and act clearly, and it has become a characteristic feature of contemporary culture. Its roots lay, paradoxically, in the modern pursuit of knowledge and science, which was heralded as a way of freeing people from superstition and ignorance.
  • It is often said that knowledge is power. But we are overburdened with knowledge and information, rather than being freed or empowered by it.

Returning to activity…

28 May, 2009

The time’s finally come for Interlogue to come back from its slumber and comment on the affairs of the state and world and the random views of its correspondent. My exile in RealSpace was productive – I’ve earned myself 2 TAFE certificates – but the world and the country have gotten interesting again and I occasionally get asked if I’m going to return to blogging. So, yep, here I am. With a brand new computer too – that will be the subject of at least one future post.

What’s changed since 2006? OK, the Americans proved us all wrong and elected a decent bloke as leader. While Bush and his occasional weirdness and turns of phrase were fun to laugh at, he was taking the world in a dangerous direction and, while I didn’t initially support Obama early in the primaries, I came to the conclusion somewhere in early-mid 2008 that he was the best hope at present for the US and he has achieved better than my expectations to date.

Australia’s federal government – we no longer have a government in an obvious state of terminal decline federally.The former Liberal government, once seen as almost untouchable, are now seen as beyond salvation, with a bunch of shadow ministers and a leader with no alternative vision but to keep saying “no” and to defend against all logic the policies of their rejected administration, and attack the Government for doing exactly what they did when they were in government (often requiring deft backflips and incredible dodges). The poll numbers do not to me suggest a hugely above-all-expectations successful Government, they indicate an Opposition which has failed the democratic process by not putting forward an agenda of any kind.

However, the Rudd government hasn’t delivered quite as its supporters expected – perhaps due to the precarious Senate situation where, thanks to the unexpected 2004 election result, the Coalition can still give them pain. The biggest controversies, strangely enough, are issues where Labor is not being left enough for the public to tolerate. The apology, though, was a big step forward – maybe they will put some action behind it and abandon the intervention, which was simply an attempt by Howard to create a Tampa 2007, much like UK record companies create {insert 80s song here} 2008 with a few new mixes to squeeze a few more bucks out of their geriatric artists.

The WA government bored everyone despite doing well, had a top level management who clearly failed PR 101 and then executed the worst election campaign I’ve ever seen by an incumbent government (right down to failing to activate the base, leaving all its big announcements – none of which were THAT big – to the last week, and running hamfisted local campaigns with untested candidates) which saw nobody win and the Liberals and Nationals fill the vacuum of power. They’ve since been very good at figuring out what to cut or what fish licences to issue, but not very good at governing (in fact, I’ve yet to see them try).

And amidst the yawn value, the failing media present us with folk heroes like Corey Worthington, Clare Werbeloff and the likes – people so desperate to be famous and a media so desperate and bankrupt as to want to assist them. Never mind that poor 13 year old kid from a council estate in the UK whose entire sexual history (and his partner’s sexual indiscretions with other boys) became worldwide topics of discussion. I’m not pretending the media used to be better – we after all had Wawa, the Paxtons and cash for comment – but I think the Internet and the instantaneous nature of communication makes it more obvious today when the emperor has no clothes.

Anyway, signing off. Will be back soon with something more substantial at the weekend.

Andrew, enjoying the great British summer?

30 August, 2007

Rather random for a comeback, I guess, but the title of this post originates from a delightful email I received from a bus company. Clearly unable to recognise from the .au in my email address (given I’m fairly sure no human being ever saw this email prior to my receipt of it) that I am, short of secret possession of either a lot of stowed away cash or a teleporter, completely unable at present to enjoy the great British summer (who said it was great anyway? this site suggests it’s not exactly balmy…)

Which brings me to the entire question of how they got my email address – I once enquired about one of their fares. Note – enquired. Not bought. 3½ years ago. Unless an hour in Heathrow Airport trying to find my way around and buying a copy of the Guardian (which I suppose is a somewhat British thing to do) counts as visiting England, I’ve never been in the country long enough to use their bus service.

I think the thing that always kept international junk mail from getting preposterous was the cost. Mind you, it took me 4 years to stop Canada Post (known in our household as “Mail Poste” as that was what was written on the front of their garishly coloured stamp bulletins) from sending us stuff after we once ticked “yes” on an Australia Post offer to send us information about stamps back in the early 90s. Unfortunately with the advent of mass email, it’s entirely possible to spam one’s customers endlessly with offers of things they couldn’t buy even if they wanted to, no matter how cheap they are, for reasons like being 14,582 kilometres from their base of operations through no fault of their own.

This, for the record, is the same company who nearly brought Melbourne’s public transport to its knees when they decided that running away and paying fines for defaulting was better for their international business plans than running the train/tram service as they were contracted to do (I’ll leave the merits of radical privatisation of public transport services to another rant post). So I’m not absolutely sure I can trust them with my £2 fare to start with.

If, however, you are enjoying the great British summer (balmy or otherwise) and reading this, I wish you the best. For the rest of you, I’m hoping to get this blog going again, it’s been in hiatus for far too long as I’ve had so many things to occupy my time. I’ve been asked by a few people what I think of Rudd and various polls indicating at different times precisely opposite things for no good reason, as well as goings on in Western Australia, the daylight saving debate, and other such things.

Another view of the Rudd/Burke/Campbell/Bowman/Santoro mess…

18 March, 2007

The amount of mud flying around at the moment is utterly ridiculous and really not doing anyone any favours. Santoro had to go for many reasons, and I suspect his departure was hastened by links drawn between him and complaints leading to the raids on three lower house MPs. While I’m keen to see corruption exposed, I don’t think *that* particular incident was anything more than minor incompetence on somebody’s part (probably a staffer or two).

An interesting thing that seems to have come out of this – have you noticed how when someone finds something about someone, it seems to be there’s a neutralising, opposing argument that claims somebody’s job on the original firing side? It’s as if they hold onto these long term as a kind of investment and if someone breaks the silent code and releases something, they soon find out very publicly what the other side has on them (be it the other side of parliament or of their own party).

I hope politics gets back to issues soon – this stuff is becoming tedious and annoying and I’m sure I’m not the only voter (Labor or Liberal) who thinks that.

More on daylight saving

18 March, 2007

It seems the West has finally turned a corner in its reporting on this issue. After the Nationals’ poll, which now has 37,000 signatures demanding an early referendum for daylight saving, and the former Liberal leader Matt Birney’s desire to modify it to run only from October to December (does this mean Gloucester Park has to spend twice as much each year?), along with Channel Seven and other community polling suggesting between 60 and 75 per cent opposition, the West has launched a profoundly parochial broadside at the effects of daylight saving, clearly recognising the needs of its advertisers the small businesses which have been affected by daylight saving. Apparently 65% of restauranteurs intend to vote against it in 2009 (or earlier if held then).

The last couple of months has amply demonstrated in my view exactly why we should not have daylight saving. I am not against the concept as such, but I am against it as it applies in Western Australia. Especially in Perth, where I now have to go to uni in the dark and can’t get to sleep at night without my airconditioner because Perth in effect already has daylight saving, being about 6 degrees, or 20 minutes, west of the 8-hour meridian, and the areas which actually do need it actually have their own way of resolving the problem.

I’m glad that these real issues are getting debated now in the media, where they should have been before our anti-democratic government decided to shove them in our faces with the media triumphantly in tow.

As for my quietness to the present, I think I underestimated how busy I was going to be with offline priorities! I’ll repost something I wrote elsewhere in a sec regarding the current “crises” and the like.

Nationalism on the loose… again

22 January, 2007

Firstly, sorry for quiet over past weeks. I intend to get this blog going at full pace again in about two or three weeks, but have had a lot of offline stuff to sort out prior to reenrolling at university for the first time in a while. Career changes are interesting, but a lot of paperwork.

Anyway, to the latest nationalist bait of the week. Apparently the Big Day Out, realising that some rather nasty groups use the flag for purposes other than that which it was intended (usually as an excuse to carry out entirely anti-Australian activities like maiming non-“white” Australians, burning down their places of worship, and other such wholesome activities), have banned the flag. All of a sudden the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, NSW Premier, even the *Nationals* leader, have come out railing against the BDO, even calling for its banning. It’s starting to sound like the Camilla cheer squad from Big Brother last year all over again.

So I sat down and thought, after having attended 4 Big Day Outs and numerous other festival events (and never once having seen a flag there) – why would anyone *want* to bring a flag to a music festival?

1. I’m not entirely sure that a modern flag would fit on the Big Day Out rollercoaster rides
2. Flags aren’t cheap. It’s like wearing your best shirt to the weekend rugby scrum.
3. My experiences of being squashed and pushed into odd contortive poses in the front rows in past BDOs suggest that it’s not even a terribly practical way of showing one’s appreciation for the mostly overseas bands on offer.
4. Many of said bands would probably be quite curious as to why on earth people are waving New Zealand’s national flag at them, dismissing it as some odd local custom.

Gawd, you’d think from the intense reaction in the media to this that people weren’t allowed to bring beer in. Or water bottles. Or “offensive” t-shirts. Or food items. Or projectiles. Or deodorant cans. Or drugs. Or … wait, they’re all already proscribed. Funny, that. No beer! How Australian is that?

Thoughts (An update)

18 December, 2006

Thoughts on a number of key current issues:

Fiji – I am tired of the Australian government and media’s handling of the Fiji situation. I believe that history will eventually show what many of us who watch the Pacific scene already know, that Laisenia Qarase’s government was corrupt and racist, and was on the cusp of freeing George Speight, the guy who ran the last coup when his business interests weren’t being served by the new Labour government in 2000. People seem to forget too quickly that the hero of that situation was none other than Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who restored order and democracy in record time considering the bizarre circumstances. In my view, he has acted honourably in this matter and with a genuine view to fixing intractable problems that the constitution and democracy have proved useless in resolving (Qarase ignored the constitution for years in refusing to allow Opposition members to sit on Cabinet). The constitution Bainimarama has suspended was decried in the West as a racist document at the time of its formation, yet now the West (including Australia and, surprisingly, New Zealand) are condemning Bainimarama’s suspension of that very constitution. Alexander Downer’s incitements to violence from the floor of the Australian Parliament under parliamentary privilege, rightly criticised by the Commodore, show a government in this country that has as much respect for the rule of law and international diplomacy as they showed during the Iraq war. I think the coup is the best thing to happen for Fiji in some time, I only hope that the Commodore can control the actions of his men. One of my friends has refused to cancel her holiday there and from recent emails, seems to be enjoying the sunshine and the hospitality, cuisine and culture of the local people.

Rudd – Kevin Rudd has so far lived up to my expectations. While I don’t agree with some of the things he is putting forward, the fact he is putting forward a solid platform of ideas and benchmarks on a range of issues across the political and economic spectrum is the most positive thing the Federal Opposition has done since it lost the 1998 election. Howard is still a skilled operator and one mustn’t underestimate him, but I think Labor is really in with a chance in 2007. My own views on politics are that no party should be in too long at any level – especially if no serious opposition exists (as in WA at present), governments have a tendency to become complacent and arrogant. It happens to both Labor and Liberal governments and is symptomatic of the increasing polarisation of Australian politics and the weaknesses of the two-party system which mean it has to be one or the other, rather than the superior European systems which, although not always granting stable majorities, are true to the people’s wishes and ensure that politicians have to listen to more than simply their own constituency in the electorate.

Iraq Study Group – This was worth a full post when it came out but I was otherwise occupied. The actual report (519k PDF) is well worth a read, but basically it says what we’ve all known for years and requires something of a backflip by Bush in order to succeed – one that I sadly doubt is forthcoming. Colin Powell‘s statement broadly in support of the ISG report, that “it’s grave and deteriorating, and we’re not winning, we are losing”, is critical, but if he wasn’t listened to when in power, all this will do is persist in convincing a largely-convinced electorate that their president is aloof and out of touch with reality.

For more on Iraq, some very interesting comments at Didge – The View From Down Under.

Palm Island – Quick one. Why should murder or manslaughter be ignored by the law because the perpetrator is a police officer and the victim is an Aboriginal not being held for any major offence? This is a day of shame for the Beattie government in Queensland.