Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

This is a very satisfying article on an interview with Wim Wenders and Mary Zournazi in The Saturday Papers.

The notion of space is a fundamental ingredient in both Wenders’ and Zournazi’s notions of peace, explored through the connections created by – and between – people. In film, allowing the watcher to see what the other is seeing provides a gentle push to take into account and perhaps even momentarily assume the point of view of the other person.

Wenders believes that the true acknowledgement of another’s existential space negates the potential for conflict. “As soon as you consider someone’s space and you see that space around him or her, you have in a way eliminated the possibilities of war or violence, because respecting someone’s space almost pulls the carpet out from under any violent act.”

I suggest to both authors that there is a striking absence of opinion or judgement in the book. After an uncomfortably long silence, Wenders says: “An opinion is a violent act very often. An opinion is superimposed and very often neglects or denies the space or the right to a space that person has. You have an opinion of someone because he is a foreigner or belongs to that group or that group and immediately that person’s void of their own space. It obliterates them.”

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This is a very thought-provoking article from Elias Isquith in Salon on the return of the “view from nowhere” in political journalism.

Probably no one has devised a better definition of the phenomenon than Rosen, who describes it as “a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer.” According to Rosen, the view from nowhere “places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position ‘impartial.’” As Rosen himself will grant, this inclination to be “objective” is not always bad. Indeed, journalism is impossible if its practitioners don’t acknowledge the existence of at least some kind of baseline objective reality. But the view from nowhere is more often a self-flattering and ass-covering gimmick, one that is intended to protect the journalist from receiving criticism for partiality but often leaves the reader less informed as a result. Paul Krugman has a famous joke headline about the view from nowhere, one that’s only a slight exaggeration of the practice at its worst: “Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.”

I see something similar happening in Australian political writing at the moment with some people on the left continually criticising actions and responses by others on the left while staking out the ground of reasonable.

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I’ve written a lot about maternal desire here and how poorly understood that motivation is.. but I’ve not considered paternal desire much before.

All through this research, Edin says, she’d never been interested in studying men. “It’s fun to write about people with a strong heroic element to the story,” she says. “Women have that. Men don’t have that. [They're] more complicated; they’re dogged with bad choices.” In addition, she admits, “I felt hostile after writing about the women. I really had their point of view in my head.”

It was Nelson who, after years of working on a book about religious experience in a black church, convinced her otherwise. Together, they spent several years canvassing Camden in search of dads to interview. They stopped men on the street and asked if they’d talk—sometimes right there on the spot. They put up flyers and worked with nonprofit groups and eventually knit together a sample of equal parts black and white men they interviewed at length over the better part of a decade.

Again, what they discovered surprised them. Rather than viewing unplanned fatherhood as a burden, the men almost uniformly saw it as a blessing. “It’s so antithetical to a middle-class perspective,” Edin says. “But it finally dawned on us that these guys thought that by bringing children in the world they were doing something good in the world.” Everything else around them—the violence, the poverty, their economic prospects—was so negative, she explains, a baby was “one little dot of color” on a black-and-white canvas.

Only a small percentage of the men, black or white, said the pregnancy was the result of an accident, and even fewer challenged the paternity. When the babies were born, most of the men reported a desire to be a big part of their lives. Among black men, 9 in 10 reported being deeply involved with their children under the age of two, meaning they had routine, in-person contact with their kids several times a month. But that involvement faded with time. Only a third of black fathers and a quarter of white fathers were still intensively involved with kids older than 10. Among the reasons, Edin identifies unstable relationships with the mothers—the average couple had been together only about six months before conceiving a child. The men also frequently struggled with substance abuse and stints in prison.

From “What if everything you know about poverty was wrong” by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones.


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Recognizing the problem is not the same as fixing it, though. I asked Kahan how he tries to guard against identity protection in his everyday life. The answer, he said, is to try to find disagreement that doesn’t threaten you and your social group — and one way to do that is to consciously seek it out in your group. “I try to find people who I actually think are like me — people I’d like to hang out with — but they don’t believe the things that everyone else like me believes,” he says. “If I find some people I identify with, I don’t find them as threatening when they disagree with me.” It’s good advice, but it requires, as a prerequisite, a desire to expose yourself to uncomfortable evidence — and a confidence that the knowledge won’t hurt you.

From Ezra Klein in Vox with “How politics makes us stupid”.

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I just love Peta Credlin

“In conversation, he was quite prepared to defer to her. Adler remembers one business lunch at which talk turned to art. “He said something like, ‘Art should be about beauty.’ And Peta said, ‘Don’t be silly, Tony. Think about modernism. It’s about challenging ideas.’ Then she gave him a concise lecture on the history of modernist art.”

From “Ms Fix-It” in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jane Cadzow. And no-one ever looks more exasperated with Tony Abbott than Credlin.

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Portrait of John Howard by George W. Bush.


Portraits of lapdogs by George W. Bush.

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My latest article for Daily Life.. it was also lead story on The Age today:

How to stop child abuse and sexual abuse is not as simple. But as an observer you have this frustration, this helplessness and this stomach-churning revulsion and so, I understand the temptation Joe Hildebrand feels in making the solution simple, though he is mistaken. Only those with incredible strength and patience work in the field of family violence and child abuse because the problem is just that nightmarish and crafting the solution is that protracted as a process. If you can’t handle the complexity, if you’re feeling yourself beginning to break, beginning to reach for big dumb hammers to crack this nut then you have to step away, you’ve become part of the problem.


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You have to write with conviction when you write about the things you believe in but I agree with Roxane Gay, who is such a generous writer, that your argument is much richer if you allow yourself to take in your opponent’s perspective. Here she is being interviewed in Art Talk:

NEA: I recently read an interview in which you talked about the sense of surprise you felt with An Untamed State when you realized one of your characters was more central to the story than you’d initially thought. Do the same sorts of surprises happen when you’re writing nonfiction pieces?

GAY: In nonfiction the surprise always come when I come to the realization that I’m not as right as I think, that the other point of view is as valid. I think that we get so defensive and deeply entrenched in our arguments that we forget to respect the opinions of others. So, for me, it’s always a valuable surprise to see [where the other person is coming from] even though I disagree, and I can try and acknowledge that respectfully

This is similar to Dennett’s guide to successfully composing critical commentary .

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I like everything almost about this article by Eva Cox in The Saturday Paper, “Has feminism lost its way?”… except the title. Not just feminism, all social progress movements have been diluted, discredited or distracted by neoliberalism to some degree over the course of the last two decades. Yes, feminism needs to reorientate itself but let’s not let the discussion of individualism become one of feminism bashing pleeeease.

The shift to market models meant many women’s groups focused on raising the status of women via access to power in current macho terms. More women in male-defined areas of power – in politics or on boards – was erroneously claimed to be the route to feminist change. But we failed to see they were promoted because they posed no threat to the system that allowed them into the tent to share some of the power that men controlled. There are active women’s groups with current demands for remedies to violence and exclusion, access to childcare, improvements to bad media images and solutions to female poverty and lack of representation. But these are not radical demands and are defined as “women’s issues”, not general problems for society. The overall agenda creates protests but does not analyse why we make no progress in these areas or offer alternatives.

At the same time, there are signs of political discontent and distrust that signal a need for a rebalancing of the policy agendas to restore the focus on the contributions that make up our connected, collective lives outside the workplace and economy. New policy options need to be designed to target good social outcomes, which overlap with feminist interest areas. We need to increase trust, social capital, good feelings, care, generosity and other parts of the social glue that are a mostly feminised area. These are areas that cannot be commodified and therefore are not counted in gross domestic product.

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This from Sarah Joseph in The Conversation is perfectly argued. Says everything I think on the issue and more. I really love the way she framed the issue.

I note that criticisms being made about this protest action by artists were remarkably similar in nature to criticisms made about feminist activism, generally, in Australia in recent times. Why the preoccupation by some in the left with constantly tearing down actions by others in the left? The consistency of the targets for attack have begun to reveal some interesting inconsistencies in the framework of the critics. It looks personal.

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