Then one day it’s gone


One good thing recent protests have done is to draw out the government. After the protests last week Morrison made a speech condemning their actions and questioning the rights of the protestors, further suggesting that legislation may be required to limit the damage of boycott action by basically making it illegal.

It’s laughable in a way. How do you police that? If I choose not to buy one brand of beer or jeans or choose not to shop at a particular shopping chain, then what’s the difference between freedom of choice and a political boycott? How does the Gestapo make that distinction – or is guilt simply assumed and applied en masse?

Of course, it’s ridiculous but much more than that it goes against our democratic principles. I’m putting a lot of faith in that statement – our democratic principles – for while I believe they remain true to the people, and intrinsic to our democratic history, there’s real doubt that the government of the day cares for it at all.

This is not news, though perhaps it’s only now that people are waking up to it. The statements by Morrison have been condemned and rightly seen as an attack on our right to free expression. This attack has been building for years, and the truth of it is that today we lack many of the rights that we had a decade ago. Government policy has become much more intrusive and repressive, all of it justified by contrived threats on our national security. Today the government can read our emails and track our movements. I was reading yesterday about facial recognition technology being used in some schools. There’s a push to have a national database of identity drawing on all states data and, most importantly, the photos taken for various licence categories. We’re but a hop, skip and a jump from being a surveillance state.

Add to that a generally inept media which is, nonetheless, constrained from reporting so much in the national interest because of government restrictions – witness the recent raids on journalists by Federal police. Then there is the absence of laws to protect whistleblowers, who are more likely to be prosecuted by exposing corruption and fraud than be rewarded for it.

Much of this has happened by stealth – an opposition too afraid to oppose, and generally a media either compliant (News Corp) or inneffectual, means that the interrogation of these policies hardly occurred. There was little of it made in the press, and even less that disturbed the general torpor of the Australian electorate. And that’s how it happens. Little by little, you lose your liberties until one day you wake up and find you have precious little left.

It suits the government because they control the narrative then. These are politically motivated. If you can shut down the avenues for free expression and identify the dissidents then who is left to oppose you? With a feeble media and an enfeebled middle class, where does the resistance come from?

I remember I was embarrassed when Tony Abbott became prime minister. He was everything I didn’t believe in, but I recognise now that at least he believed in something. Then Turnbull came along, a great hope for those of us passionate about society. Here was an intelligent, decent man, who also turned out to have no idea what was happening behind his back. What a disappointment he turned out to be. Now we have Scott Morrison, and I’m not sure, but it’s possible that I hate him most of all.

I don’t know that Morrison believes in anything but his own personal god. He is pure politics. A cynical Trumpian. He governs only for advantage and isn’t a leaders arsehole. There’s something particularly soul-numbing about people like him. He likes to get around and to be seen as a man of the people, but the reality is that his sole ambition is for power. He leads a do-nothing government more intent on wedging the opposition Labor than developing policy, more intent on serving his industry donors than the Australian people. (As I’ve been arguing a long time, we as a people lack true representation. It’s the opportunity that Labor are too timid to grasp – break the nexus and do what is right rather than what is merely politic.)

Then there’s Peter Dutton in the background pulling all these strings. I reckon the average man in the street has a better idea of Dutton than his party colleagues do. This is a man fundamentally lacking in moral decency. He’s a despot in waiting. I have no doubt that he has his eyes on the top job still, and if ever he achieves it, then Australia will become a tyranny.

People are objects in his world-view. They are tools to be exploited. He has the rigid perspective of a dictator – anyone who isn’t for him must be against him. It’s an attitude that informs recent calls by him that the unemployed found protesting should have benefits stripped from them. Here combined is the vision of a society where surveillance is so pervasive that one can’t protest without being identified, and so punitive that to do so is to have your rights denied. That’s effectively a police state, and a senior minister is saying it. How does this opinion go unchallenged? And yet, more or less, it’s gone unreported.

The scary thing is that this is the man who runs Homeland Security! A man like this shouldn’t be in parliament, and he should certainly be nowhere near running our security agencies. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.

We’re the frogs in the pot of water. For years now the water has been getting warmer, but we’ve become acclimatised to it. What would have been shocking before is but the temperature of the times now. I wonder now if finally, we’re starting to feel the heat? I hope so. As a humane, open society, we can’t survive much more of these oppressive policies. Time to make a noise.

How not to protest


For most of the week, there have been quite violent protests at the Convention Centre where an international mining conference has been in progress. Hundreds of protestors have picketed the place hurling abuse and accosting attendees, upset at the impact mining has on climate change. Dozens of police, some with horses, have wielded batons and pepper spray fending off the protestors.

Right from the start, let me say it’s protests of this type that give me a sick feeling. I’m sympathetic to the cause and believe our politicians, and many of our industries are climate criminals. However, I think protests of this type are close to imbecile.

I see two particular problems. The first one is that this is an indiscriminate protest. Had it been a conference of coal miners, it would have made sense. This was a conference of miners of all different types. Now you’d have to be particularly blind to suggest that all mining should be banned. Like it or not, the fabric of our day to day life is composed of materials very often mined from the ground. The cars we drive, the pots and pans we cook with and the plates we eat from, the chips in our phones and watches and PC’s, the planes and trains we catch, the buildings we live and work in – all this and much, much more, rely on our mining industry. I’d suggest every one of the protestors either carried on their person something that had been mined or had something at home. It’s just stupid.

Add to that, not everyone attending the conference was actively digging things out of the ground. I saw one person interviewed (after being abused and harangued by the protestors) revealing that they were actually a sustainability expert. And in fact, that’s what this should all be about. We can’t stop mining; we rely on it too much, and even if we could, the world economy would fall apart. What it should be about is sustainable mining – mining that has minimal impact upon our environment and ecology; and looking to source alternative materials to replace those mined.

So that’s the first thing – it’s a dumb protest. But secondly, how it was conducted was plain stupid also.

Wave your banners, cry out your chants, even non-violent obstruction, absolutely ; don’t, democracy in action. But when individuals trying to go about their business are abused and manhandled and spat on, then that’s a no-go. I may be showing my age now, but save that for the real criminals, not our fellow citizens. It’s plain bad manners, and it plays very poorly in the burbs.

That’s the real stupidity of this. The protestors are probably celebrating today, saying what a good job they did disrupting the event, when, in fact, their real achievement was to drive the wedge deeper between them and middle Australia. It’s all very well to be sanctimonious and be ringing with idealistic fervour, but I’d have thought the purpose of protests such as this would be to send a message to the average Australian that could be understood and appreciated.

If there was a message then it was lost in the general noise of the protest. Many of those middle Australians sitting in their lounge rooms watching the news would have been offended by the way the protest was conducted. Only the converted would have approved, and surely they’re not the desired audience? As someone broadly sympathetic, it’s this woeful stupidity that disappoints me most.

Unfortunately, that’s the flavour of the times. I’m perhaps a member of one of the last generations capable of discerning nuance. By nature, I seek to assess and understand, but few others do these days. Movements are broad tabloid headlines without subtlety or sophistication. They’re emotional rallying calls with scant relationship to the rationale that inspired them. Thus there is violence between opposing forces and very little debate. And so if I disagree with you, I’m not someone who has a different opinion; I’m instead an evil person to be despised and abused. There is no middle ground anymore, very little critical thinking, and bugger all civility.

I have to say this is one of the things that causes me the most disquiet these days. Not only because it is so ugly, though that’s true, more so that it’s virtually impossible to come to a reasoned understanding when we’re so caught up in hurling abuse. Like it or not, change has to be negotiated in a democracy. Make the argument, don’t just state it.

The protestors this week fell into the trap that much of the progressive side of politics has in recent years. It’s why Trump got elected, why Brexit twenty-year-olds for, and why Labor lost the election. The progressive extreme is violent and noisy, and they offend the average bloke. In a way, Morrison and his ilk are right when they speak of the silent majority. They can be persuaded, but they’re over being hectored and abused and told what to think and feel by the sanctimonious left. How do they react? They defy it with their vote, just as they’ll defy the purpose of this protest in their opinions.

Now I’m guilty of this as well. I was bitter after the election defeat here and despised those I thought responsible for it. There are many reasons that Labor lost, and I’ve articulated that previously, but a good part of it was that middle Australia was sick and tired of being talked down to by self-righteous twenty year olds. And it was the same in Britain before us, and States before them. In effect, it was a vote of protest.

If we intend to win these people over it must be through reason, but that’s why I despair, because reason is so scarce these days, and it’s not getting any better.

A complete individual


With Wimbledon on, there’s been a lot of talk in Oz about Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, especially relative to the new darling of Australian tennis – and world number one – Ash Barty.

Like, everyone, I think Ash Barty is a breath of fresh air. She’s unpretentious and decent and upfront. She just gets the job done and with very little angst. In some ways, she’s an old fashioned Australian sporting type, and maybe even a throwback to previous eras in tennis when it was nowhere near as hyped as it is now, and the egos were much more reasonable. Now she’s hit number one she appears to have established a rich form line which may well carry her to the Wimbledon title, and beyond. The test will come against Serena Williams – just about her polar opposite – but I think she’s clever enough to win that.

Like just about everyone I deplore Bernard Tomic. I think he’s a disgraceful human being. Clearly, he has issues that lead him to behave as he does, but he has to be accountable for his actions. I can find no redeeming features. He’s lazy, arrogant, disrespectful and, worst of all doesn’t have a crack. He’s derisive of others and petulant to boot.

Last week he made the news by losing in the first round and being stripped of his prize money for basically tanking it. I think this penalty is the cumulative result of many tournaments and matches where his effort is cursory at best. I think it’s fair enough, but then if someone shot him out of a cannon, I’d think that was fair enough also. As you can probably tell, he’s held in general contempt. (I admit to some pity for him – he’s obviously playing up and there are reasons for it – but in the end, it’s up to him to be better).

Then there’s Kyrgios. The jury is much more mixed when it comes to him. There’s plenty who despise him. They see him as graceless and rude. They find his antics offensive. He’s also a wasted talent.

Then others think he’s great. For a start, he has in abundance that thing that Tomic lacks altogether – charisma and personal charm. He’s entertaining, even fun, and on top of that, a complete individual. He runs his own race and has no time for the conventional courtesies. He’s candid and straight-forward and, even if he is a wasted talent, completely free of pretension.

As you can tell probably from my commentary, I fall more so into the second camp. I find it a great pity that a man of such extreme talent – potentially the best in the world – so fritters it away. But then I acknowledge his point that it’s his life and his choice. He’s upfront with his shortcomings, that he hasn’t the concentration or dedication to achieve much more than what he does now – which amounts, generally, to several highly entertaining cameos and the occasional disappointing walkover.

He gets away with a lot because he is so utterly charming (though not everyone sees that). And because he is great to watch when on song. And because he’s so honest and transparent. Underneath I think he’s a genuinely nice guy who isn’t made for the circuit, and he’s definitely someone I’d like to share a beer with (my measuring stick). He has none of the contemptuous and cynical ill-grace of Tomic, and his sheer individuality is refreshing.

As an Aussie I wish he was winning one grand slam after another, but would he be as interesting an individual if he did? Ultimately it’s his right to deploy his talent as he chooses. We assume goals and a career on his behalf. That’s how we see things and have become conditioned to expect. He’s rejected that. I think he’s a pure soul, and while occasionally I may shake my head at his antics, I can’t help but like him. And I respect his right to choose his own road. He’s an individual, and for that, he should be applauded.

Subjective truths


I read something yesterday which is self-evidently true, and yet is something we overlook – as we do so much that is otherwise clearly right.

Basically, the statement was that once you have the power to control understanding, then truth is whatever suits your cause. It makes of truth something malleable. If I have all the facts but only release a portion of them, then it’s that portion that becomes the truth. I shape the truth to my purposes, and as there is nothing to contradict, it becomes an accepted reality.

I guess this is the essence of much propaganda over the years, but it’s sharper now because there are fewer today who stand in opposition to today, and many more too indifferent to ever question.

This is why we need an independent media and a populace capable of critical thought, willing to ask questions. Without them, we live in the fraudulent reality of so many totalitarian states, and the Orwellian dystopia becomes real.

We’re not there yet, but even now in the so-called free world, liberty is being redefined as something narrower. Opposing views are being sidelined, abetted by a compliant, self-serving media. Opponents are ridiculed and shamed. Newspeak abounds, and you only need to log into Twitter to be confronted by groupthink – though at least there it’s democratic.

This is why Trump became president. This is how Brexit defied the odds. It’s why the coalition was re-elected here – fake facts are asserted as truth while real facts are said to be false. This is why Assange is being persecuted, and others like him, because he threatens the power of the establishment by revealing their lies.

I used to think the pendulum would swing back. I was more optimistic then. A part of me is bitter these days. I’ve lost faith with much of what is termed the common man. Like many, I used to think he was a fundamentally decent and reasonable person, but I have my doubts now. We have become more selfish and insular, less curious and compassionate. We don’t quest as much, or risk. We are dulled by lifestyle and easy gratification that yet has made us envious of others.

This is the cycle that concerns me. I don’t know how we change it unless with the shock that comes from having gone too far. Inside, most people remain decent, but we’re more easily bought off now, more willingly gullible, more ready to believe the worst.

Not so smug now


Given what’s happened this week – raids on the ABC HQ in Sydney by the AFP, another raid on a News Ltd editor in Canberra – it’s apt that I wrote about Julian Assange just last week because this is all of a piece. What we have are governments – the establishment – seeking to control the narrative. They claim, as they always do, that it’s in the national interest, but really it’s about censorship. It’s about seeking, or preserving political and personal advantage, about protecting shoddy dealings and hiding away corruption and incompetence. Above all, it’s about intimidation, which is what these raids were all about. The message is loud and clear: if you’re a whistle-blower we’re going to get you, and if you’re a journalist then you’re in their targets too. It’s a national disgrace.

I can’t express how angry this makes me feel. Why am I so angry? Well, I’m upset, naturally, at the hit to our democracy and threat to free speech. I’m very afraid of where this is leading, and where it may lead. Mostly I’m furious because over the last ten years or so many of our civil liberties have been steadily eroded by governments justifying it with weasel words about terrorism and threats to national security. Here and there voices have been raised in objection, but too few, and quickly drowned out. I’ve been one of those voices, protective of my civil liberties and fearful that what starts as a few seemingly minor restrictions to our rights become a movement, and combined lead us to a state of intimidation. That’s the lesson of history, not paranoia, but our politic and our media had declined to such a state that no serious opposition was ever raised. Now we have raids on our national broadcaster by our federal police. The media as a collective are screaming blue murder now, but excepting a few instances, and a few journalists, the irony is that the laws they now suffer from went unexamined when they had the chance. And that’s why I’m bloody angry. I just hope it’s not too late.

I have become powerfully cynical these days. That’s what becomes of disappointed idealism. The election broke my heart. My better self seeks to forgive, but I can’t help but despise the selfish and the dumb who voted in this government. I don’t know what would happen if I cornered one of those dozy cunts, but it wouldn’t be pretty. Soon enough they’ll recognise the error of their ways as the economy tanks, as they find they’re not entitled to franking credits, and as Morrison, Dutton and his cronies continue on in their corrupt, undemocratic and self-serving ways – but what good is that? Remorse won’t cut it. Their sloppy indifference has condemned us all, and for that, I can’t forgive them.

For me, this is somewhat existential. I’ve always been a proud Australian. Generally, I like Australians, as most of the world does, but I’ve come to question what we really have to be proud of? This is a big blow to my belief systems, but probably a necessary corrective. How I resolve that going forward, I don’t know, but I’m sure I will.

In the meantime, it’s this lax scrutiny which has led us to a place where our democracy is in danger. We’re not alone in this. As we see with Assange, whistle-blowers and those who seek to expose the truth are at threat all over the world. This must be resisted. Once, it was the totalitarian states guilty of this, and we would sneer at them from our smug democracies. Now our democracies are adopting the tricks of the police states we despised. Sadly – and I never thought I’d say this – Australia has now become one of the leading offenders. It’ll get worse unless we do something about it now.

Help us be better


Last week Gillette released an ad internationally which addressed the controversial – but topical – subject of men’s behaviour, with the tagline ‘The Best Men Can Be’. It’s a well-crafted ad and takes on discrimination and bullying, male violence and sexual harassment. I guess it’s easy to be cynical about a huge international corporation putting out an ad like this when ‘me too’ have made such messages on trend, but given the message I think that’s a bit precious. Many have chosen to be cynical, and many more offended.

It’s hard to understand how you can be so epically offended at an ad that portrays the best of men, and urges us to consider our behaviour – but then we are in the age of outrage.

While that still simmers in the background, an awful crime last week captured the imagination of Australians. An Israeli student, returning by tram after a night out at a comedy festival, was set upon near her home, raped and left for dead.

This, sadly, is not an uncommon crime, which is one reason it led to such an outcry, while the Gillette ad played out in the background. Here was yet another instance of male violence upon a woman. As with all of Melbourne I was deeply affected, disgusted by what had happened yet again. My instincts ran to the Old Testament. It seemed apt to me that her rapist and murder would be well punished by having a meat cleaver taken to his genitals. He has now been arrested.

In an earlier time this would have played out conventionally in the media. In the age of social media, in the wake of #metoo and increasing militancy of women this has gone to a whole new level. Women are speaking out, sometimes quite violently, decrying the unending cycle of male violence and voicing the oppressive fear they feel so often, and have kept silent about for so long. Fair enough, they demand an end to this.

Not all men take well to this. The #notallmen hashtag sprung up in the wake of these crimes, but the men using this as a defence miss the point – as I have previously commented on. We are all responsible even if we would never stoop to such heinous behaviour. Other men – the type of men who complain about the Gillette ad – claim to be oppressed, and make ridiculous representations regarding ‘men’s rights’. They have a twisted and entitled view of what those rights are, which is indicative of the problem we face.

I like to think I’m a tolerant and fair-minded man. That’s how I was brought up to be, as were many more of my generation. It might sound a bit flaky, but I approach people as a human being first, then as an individual. I have my bias, of course, and probably have some unconscious prejudice, but officially I give everyone the same fair go. As a heterosexual I look at women differently to how I see men. As a westerner I’m open-minded, but naturally I’m more comfortable in the culture I was brought up in (which is one reason I travel, to take myself out of that comfort zone and experience the culture of others). I don’t really care about one’s religion, and the colour of one’s skin seems irrelevant to me. Clichéd as it is, it’s what inside that matters.

When I look to engage in these discussions that’s my starting point, overlaid with conscious rationality – I want to be fair and objective, though my opinion is clear. My view is that we must talk about these things and so I don’t shy from these discussions, even if it can be a bit rugged at times.

Mostly I engage on Twitter and, as I seem on the side of the angels, my commentary is tolerated. Mostly. That changed a little last week.

There’s a very passionate woman I interact with on Twitter occasionally. She’s articulate and intelligent and unafraid to say her piece. I find little to disagree with, though I’m more temperate in my expression. Last week I replied to a discussion she was part of regarding an article which had been published saying that men had to ‘take sides’ in this struggle over male violence.

By instinct I was uncomfortable with that. For a start I think it’s unhelpful terminology. It’s the expression of extremists – if you’re not with us, you’re against us. It’s the language of the times, the binary extremes that won’t accept anything in between. I hate that about this era because nothing is as simple as that. And I pointed that out, we needed a more sophisticated approach to this. To be honest, something in me resented the demand to step to one side of the line or the other. I’m here already.

To cut a long story short she didn’t entirely agree and ultimately said it was time for men ‘to put up or shut up’. I opted out of the conversation at that point. I wasn’t offended, but realised that nothing I could say would make a difference at this point – and that’s the problem.

It’s probably too soon to have a measured discussion about this, but ultimately if this epidemic is to be defeated then abusing men and marginalising them won’t do it.

I think education and upbringing is key to a lot of this, but that’s a slow burn. I think many men are learning by observing the #metoo movement and having women open up to them about their fears. I think the government can do more in terms of education and promoting better behaviours too. I think change will come, much as it has in the general perception of the LGBTIQ community over the last twenty years. By and large homosexuality and its variants are no big deal now, when once there was a distinct stigma.

If this is to be resolved then men must be allowed a voice because we’re the group perpetrating this. Many of us now are advocating and stepping in when necessary to drive better behaviours, but it takes more than that. We need to own it, and while more of us are every day there’s a segment are being driven further to the extreme by the commentary surrounding this. As I commented to her the other day, those of us receptive are already listening, but those of us who need to hear won’t listen. There has to be another way.

My experience is that you have to work with recalcitrants to find a way forward. You need to give them a way out acceptable to them. Abusing them has the opposite effect. It closes their minds and makes them stubbornly indifferent. It incites these men to further misbehaviour. This is just human nature – work with it, not against it.

I guess the other thing I find generally discomforting about all this are the double-standards we turn a blind eye to. I understand that. Sympathetic to their pain and understanding their victimisation we allow for the language that expresses it. We have to move beyond that though. If you replaced the word man/men in a lot of the statements made with black or jew or muslim then there would be an outcry.

I understand why, but, like it or not, we’re all in this together. If men are to change we need the help of women, not their disdain.

Random perspectives


There’s been a bunch of things happen in the last ten days which have exercised my mind but which I haven’t commented on. More often than not I’ll never comment because I won’t get around to it, but today I reckon I’ll set my thoughts down to the lot of them and be done with it.

One of the big issues last week was the Mark Knight cartoon referencing the Serena Williams eruption at the US Open. As soon as I saw it I thought, uh oh. Very clearly it features a racist caricature of Williams, and anyone who doesn’t recognise it is either terribly ignorant or deeply racist. I can’t see any ambiguity in it, though Knight himself reckons it was drawn without racist intent.

There’s a couple of problems with that. To start with, Knight has history. Not long ago he depicted black gang members in very broad and offensive terms also. On that occasion, he drew the figures in scurrilous detail, while perpetuating a false stereotype of black youth gangs over-running Melbourne – which, as anyone sensible living here will tell you, is utter nonsense. He has drawn similar cartoons in the past, and though cartoonists are permitted some artistic licence – much of what they do, after all, is exaggerated and made a caricature – there must be sensitive to culture and history, which is where the second problem emerges.

I remember about ten years ago there was a huge outcry when a local TV program had a talent show in which some contestants got up in blackface. It took me a long time to get my head around that. Unlike North America, blackface has not the same resonant and racist overtones, and the contestants themselves likely did it as a bit of fun, rather than looking to perpetuate a stereotype. That was my view then, but it has evolved since as I, and we, have become better informed. It’s safe to say we’re much better educated on these matters now, which is why I knew it was racist the moment I saw the cartoon. Knight pleads innocence in this matter (and has since doubled down), but that no longer washes in this day and age, though I believe there are still many uneducated who are effectively ignorantly racist.

It wasn’t a particularly clever cartoon in any case. He’s a fine draughtsman, but he has none of the wit or insight of a Rowe or Pope or even a Wilcox.

There was a great outcry also over Steve Bannon being interviewed for 4 Corners. 4 Corners is a venerable ABC program. I’ll watch it most weeks, and it’s record of breaking news and catalysing change is unequalled in Australian television.

On this occasion, it was the left that felt by giving a voice to Bannon the ABC was condoning his views.

My instinct on this is almost the opposite. I recognise there are limits, people unworthy of airtime, or who are so dreadful that any exposure is poisonous. We don’t need to see them on TV. But otherwise, in the spirit of free speech and equal opportunity, as well as in the hope of being educated, my strong belief is that we shouldn’t be shutting down the voices we don’t agree with. That amounts to censorship.

I’m of the left myself, though I’d call myself a moderate liberal. I don’t believe in the extremes on either side, where it tends to get rabid, and I’m a great advocate for the democratic principles our society is founded on. That means allowing for a broad range of voices to be heard. Speaking for myself, I like to understand. I’ll often read opinions I disagree with or find offensive, but it’s useful for me to understand what their arguments are and how they think.

In the case of Bannon, I think that applies very neatly. He was the guiding philosophy behind the current American president, and his broad manifesto has many advocates around the world, including in Australia. I think that makes him a relevant opinion, even if toxic. So, on the one hand, I believe he was a worthy subject for the program, but unfortunately, that required a more rigorous interview than what occurred. Bannon, a savvy player, manipulated the interview to his advantage. I’m a great admirer of Sarah Ferguson, but in this instance, she didn’t hold Bannon to account.

The ABC, being the national broadcaster, has a responsibility to present a range of views and opinions. They get unfairly criticised by the right for being partisan to the left. Here they present a right-wing view and get pilloried by the left. Somewhere in this democratic principles are lost, which is one of my great fears these days.

As I’ve noted before, we live in a binary age when everything is either black or white, right or wrong, left or right. Our public discourse has become unsophisticated and hostile. There’s little nuance and often no acceptance of contrary views. This is true of both sides. It’s dispiriting observing the battles between the rival views, and though I’m inclined to a left perspective I find myself dismayed still reading intractable and inflammatory views in support of that.

Let me make this clear. I’m not going to tell anyone how they should lead their life. As a general rule, I’m not going to abuse someone who disagrees with me, exceptions possibly being rabid bigots and fascists. If possible I’ll sit and listen and then unpick contrary arguments – I’d rather debate than pronounce. I believe in individuality and fear that if we get our way we might end up with a society of drones. I believe in difference, which is where creativity springs from. And, regardless of my personal ideology, I’ll attempt to approach every issue with a rational mindset. Finally, I don’t believe anything is one thing or another – we live in a world of degrees, imperfect and flawed but amazingly diverse. Any other notion is nonsense.