None of your business


Big news last Friday when two AFL executives were basically sacked after having affairs with female subordinates.

It’s not a good look, and given these men are married with children, is pretty shabby – but since when is that sufficient to fire someone?

I can’t support these men, but I feel some disquiet over what’s happened because it sets up the employer as moral arbiter. More pointedly, it’s interference in personal lives.

In both cases the affairs were consensual. No-one did anything against their will. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, older executive with younger, more junior colleague, but that’s all it is. It may be questionable, but it’s not illegal, and it’s only vaguely immoral when the parties have other partners – but then, it happens all the time. What if we lived in a society whereby adultery led to instant dismissal? We don’t thankfully, yet these men have lost their jobs (but only because the media got hold of it).

The only possible justification I can see is if it directly impacts on job performance, in which case the reason for dismissal is performance. Otherwise it might contravene a code of conduct the employees have signed up to – but then I don’t think such a thing should be in a code of conduct. It becomes more understandable if it is part of a pattern and a broader culture of entitlement and abuse – which may be the case here. It’s not something that should be encouraged, and yet I’d bet if these guys chose to challenge their dismissal then the law would be on their side.

One of the things I find disturbing about this is the general acceptance that this is just. Officially these managers chose to resign, but only after a hefty push. There seem only a few who have questioned the justice of this, or pointed out that really this is nobody’s business but those involved. It feels to me that convention and public morality intrudes more and more upon our private lives. There is a gap – a necessary gap – between our private and public/professional lives that should be maintained, even if we choose to get hot and bothered with someone we work with.

Speaking for myself I’ve had multiple affairs with women I’ve worked with. Who hasn’t? It’s hardly unusual. I understand if it is frowned upon, but no corporation has the right to dictate my personal relationships. This is what has happened now though, these men have lost their jobs, the women humiliated, and the PR fallout very ugly – and for the most part we seem ready to accept it as fair. Why?

 

Our ABC


I was out for a few convivial drinks on Friday night at a local bar when I received a text message from an acquaintance. He was inviting me to a function on Sunday, all tickets paid for. After I got home later I ruminated on the invitation before messaging him back that I would attend. It interfered with other plans, but I agreed to go as a gesture of goodwill.

It was not that I was uninterested in the function. It was being held by the Friends of the ABC, of which I would consider myself a (non-ticket holding) member of. Furthermore Kerrie O’Brien was speaking, and a tribute to John Clarke was promised. I had my writing to do, household chores and cooking, plus the footy was on, but on this occasion it seemed fair enough.

The last couple of days have been classic Melbourne winter days. They start out near freezing and slowly warm, though never to the point that you can go out without a jacket. The day is clear though, the sky blue. From a purely aesthetic point of view they’re pretty days.

I did my cooking in the morning then put my jacket on and took the train to the city. The train was full of people heading to the footy, most of them in red and black, the colours of my team. On this day I wasn’t joining them. Instead I was met by my friend under the clocks of Flinders Street station and off we went to the event.

I’m sympathetic to the ABC. I think it is a grand institution, and an absolutely essential institution. We need a national broadcaster that caters for all and reaches to every corner of the continent. The ABC has a rich history of quality programming in general, but particularly in the area of current affairs. These days the ABC is under frequent attack, mostly on political and ideological grounds. Though the ABC affects impartiality it is accused (erroneously) of a left bias (an interesting sociological question actually – most of the audience would be of liberal disposition). As a result over the last 20 years the ABC has suffered attacks by conservative politics and had its budget much reduced and services foolishly constrained.

The Friends of the ABC are there to defend the ABC and uphold the tradition. In effect they resist the political tide looking to politicise, diminish, emasculate or eliminate altogether the reach of the ABC.

The function was held in an auditorium of the Fed Square complex overlooking the Yarra River. Probably 90% of the crowd would have been over 60. Most were – as the ABC critics would have it – well spoken, educated types from smart suburbs. Some had driven in from the country for the day. All were passionate about the future of the ABC, both TV and Radio National, which is such a lifeline for so many people.

Kerrie O’Brien is a bit of a legend. He comes from a long line of distinguished ABC journalists, intelligent, erudite, probing, thoughtful. He retired a few years back, which was big news at the time. Yesterday he spoke about leadership, and in particular the example of three recent leaders.

The first was Nelson Mandela, who he described as the greatest leader he had ever met. The next was Paul Keating, which was no great surprise. Keating is revered by many (including me), and O’Brien had a long professional relationship with him, culminating recently in a biography he wrote of Keating. It’s clear he admires him greatly, and in his speech he focused on the challenge of getting Mabo into law. The final example was at first blush surprising: John Howard. I’m no fan of John Howard, and I suspect O’Brien isn’t really either, but the point was well made. Much as I might disavow much of Howard’s government it took real courage to push through the gun laws in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre.

The counterpoint to all of this was the abject lack of leadership in recent times, and as an exemplar of that O’Brien spoke of the botched history of climate change policy and the doomed variety of policy initiatives to combat it. It’s a sad story of political intransigence and cowardice. No-one has been willing to take a true leadership position on the matter. In speaking of Mabo O’Brien had made the point that there were no votes in the fight for Keating, in fact, probably the opposite. He did it because it was right, and by strength of will and conviction he wrangled it into law.

No-one has shown anything like the same leadership when it comes to climate change. Every prime minister has failed. No-one has had the strength of character to make the unpopular call. Every one of them has looked to the polls, or to their political colleagues. No-one has – like Keating did, and Howard as well – stood up and said this is the right thing, and this is what we’re going to do come what may.

It’s depressing, but familiar. It’s not news to anyone, but to hear it from the lips of such a distinguished commentator made it seem official: there has been a deficit of leadership in Australia (and around the world, as he similarly made the point).

It was a strangely uplifting afternoon. It’s always refreshing to be among passionate, intelligent people. It was easy to believe that we were on the side of right, and reassuring to sense the resistance to those who would diminish our way of life. Near the end there was a moving tribute to John Clarke. Everyone there loved and admired what he stood for, as they did Kerrie O’Brien (who is revered by these cultured people).

I left for home glad to have gone, refreshed in a way and encouraged. Just as well I didn’t know the footy score.

Disunited Kingdom


Another interesting few weeks in international politics. Trump gets nearer and nearer the precipice, though if anyone ever gives him a push is anyone’s guess. Then there’s the UK. Jermy Corbyn gave Theresa May an almighty scare in the general election, to the point that to form government the Conservatives need to enter into a coalition with the uglies of the Irish Unionists, who don’t believe in same-sex marriage or abortion, and in general have a range of retrograde policies – and they hold the whip hand. Then came the awful Grenfell Tower fire in London. Last I heard there were 58 reported deaths, and bad deaths too – trapped in a burning building and succumbing to smoke or flame. The firestorm has spread far beyond the building though.

I don’t see how Theresa May can survive this. She got a very shaky mandate from the electorate after running a poor campaign. Her conduct and behaviour after the election inspired little, but it’s the Grenfell Tower fire that is her death knell. But let’s start at the start.

It’s not long ago that Corbyn was deemed unelectable, and May called an election in the expectation of a landslide. Corbyn improved his game, and May was diabolical on the campaign trail, and these in combination were a catalyst for reconsideration by the electorate. The elements were already there though – general cynicism, disenfranchised voters searching for something to believe in, and those disenchanted in general with the party system and the rhetoric that goes with it. Much has been made of the Conservative mantra throughout the campaign of strong and stable government and I agree it played a big part in the outcome – as a negative to the conservatives.

That’s not always the case. As mindless as these slogans may seem, it’s apparent that by the perpetual repetition of them something gets through to the electorate. In the past it proved a positive for like trained monkey’s we (well, never me) came to associate the proponents of the slogan with the message. That was in simpler times.

These days it’s a rowdy crowd. They’ve come angry, unwilling to be appeased by mindless drivel. Had May been better that sense may never have been activated in the electorate. As it was she was unwilling to engage and came off as being evasive and untrustworthy, while Corbyn was campaigning on simple sincerity. Get a load of this the punters thought, and just listen to the bullshit she’s spouting! The electorate became aware, at which point the repetition of empty phrases became a negative.

The move towards Corbyn was a rejection of political party machinations. All over the world voters have become jaded by cynical politics, faceless and cruel bureaucracy, and an utter absence of sincerity or ideals. May embodied that and in comparison Corbyn’s homeliness and home-spun wisdom was positively attractive. In the end I think the English electorate were drawn to Corbyn and what he represented, but were unsure whether they wanted him to govern. That was then.

Now it might be different. The disaster at Grenfell Towers is almost biblical in what it means. It feels as if a message from on high sent to expose the inequity and utter poverty of the Conservative movement. What is a human disaster has been proved to have been utterly preventable if not for corruption and shortcuts being taken by the ruling Tories. Added to that was the deplorable conduct of Theresa May in the aftermath – a more out of touch leader you won’t see.

Where do we start? Well, Grenfell Towers is public housing in a posh area, Kensington. The victims were working class strugglers. They had complained about the risk of fire and were ignored. The building itself had no smoke alarms or sprinklers – unimaginable (and illegal) in Australia. The cladding added to the building during a recent renovation was proven to he highly flammable, but chosen to save money. Then of course there were the cuts made by Boris Johnson when he was mayor to the fire service. And so on. Then, to add insult to injury, after this barely comprehensible tragedy Theresa May turns up shielded by minders and talks only to the firefighters – the homeless victims are ignored. (In comparison Corbyn, and even the Queen, showed normal human compassion. Corbyn has really shone throughout this).

May copped a lot of criticism for this, and rightly so, but what I see is a woman totally out of her depth. She’s not a particularly attractive character, but this misjudgement I suspect is borne of complete confusion – not that that’s an excuse.

A government has yet to be formed in Britain, and Brexit looms. After Grenfell Towers great swathes of the population are outraged. If they had an election today I think it’s Corbyn who would win in a landslide. That’s not going to happen though. What will happen is hard to know. I think May’s leadership is now not sustainable; and I think there are too many questions about the proposed coalition which, after Grenfell Towers, contradicts entirely the mood of the nation.

I’m fascinated to see what will happen now. There must be victims – sacrifices – which is all a part of the political culture. May is dead, and I think Boris is terminal now too. Admission must be made, the sacrifices made public, and a conciliatory leader who promises to ‘bring the nation together’ will be found. How they resolve the political stalemate I don’t know.

As for Australia, if we’re watching then there’s a lot to learn – but I’ll get onto that another time.

 

Can’t ignore any longer


I can’t go on writing of trivial things when about me in the world momentous events occur. I think of Kafka who in his diaries made mention of WW1 commencing, followed up by a note that he ‘went swimming’. I understand that. A diary is personal, it’s not intended to reflect on the great moments of history. There comes a point though when those moments become personal, and to continue to disregard them is just impossible, and vaguely immoral. My issues may consume me, but in a time where innocents are targeted for brutal execution they are small things indeed.

Of course over the weekend there were terrorist attacks in London, a couple of weeks after the terrorist bombing in Manchester. On Saturday amid widespread panic and disruption 6 people were murdered by jihadists. It may well have been much worse. By memory 22 died in the Manchester bombing, most of them children and young people, and all of them much loved by friends and family. The damage goes far beyond a simple list of dead.

It might sound callous, but it’s not the lists of dead that I find most horrifying, but rather it’s the incomprehensible ideology that exults in this violence.

When the bomb exploded at the Ariana Grande concert I wondered at the mentality of people who set out to wreak destruction on the most innocent and vulnerable of our society. The audience for an Ariana Grande audience is always going to be predominantly junior – kids and teenagers for whom Grande is an idol. To attend a concert of this type should be the most innocuous and joyful of pastimes for people who have yet to hurt anyone. Yet it was these people who were targeted. How can you understand that?

The attacks over the weekend were more normal in the sense that there have been similar attacks in France, Germany and Denmark in recent times. The method was to create panic and terror, and in that it was a complete success. London was virtually shut down and all the news services carried it for hours on end. The death toll was modest considering the impact, but the tactical objective was achieved.

In the aftermath of these attacks there is widespread and justified outrage. It’s hard to deny that, but it serves ISIS objectives exactly. I cannot comprehend the ideology, but the strategy is clear. The death of infidels is a bonus, it’s the terror, fear, mistrust and violent reaction these attacks provoke which is the real purpose of them.

The people who commit these crimes are commonly described as evil. It’s an easy label and it seems an easy fit at first blush. Certainly these are evil acts, but I suspect that the schmucks who sacrificed themselves for this misplaced ideology are a mix of fools and tragically misguided, the easily led and readily corrupted. In the absence of anything more meaningful they have been drawn to the exotic appeal of the extreme, and a purpose in death they could never find in life.

The true evil is the corrupt ideology that justifies such heinous acts, and the cruel and sadistic leaders of this ideology who seek to manipulate, enslave and murder. They claim to act in god’s name, but that too is a corruption – no just god demands the death of unbelievers; and no true man of god demands – and so exults – the murder of so many innocent. This is a false ideology, the god they clamour to is not the true god of their faith, and those who seek to destroy will themselves one day find themselves called to a violent judgement.

For now, it’s a hard thing to get your mind around. It is so big now, and seemingly unending – and just so terribly wrong. For a moment you wonder what it is that allows this – but then you recall all those movements through history who have had a similar urge to righteous murder. It’s just the most recent form of extremist reaction, this time Islamist, but it’s nothing new, regardless of what the other extremes will tell you.

There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been better said by others, but I can’t stay silent any longer.

Our day


I took Rigby for a walk down the beach earlier today and overhead the Roulettes flying low zoomed by in formation, twice. It’s Anzac Day, always significant, and always a big day. Like I’ve said many times before, it seems the truest of our national days. Just about everyone has some kind of personal connection with it in a way not possible with Australia Day.

Both of my grandfathers fought in WW2 and I grew up watching the parades down St Kilda road. Later on, I was in Gallipoli for the 2004 Anzac Day commemoration, and about 7-8 years ago marched in it with my nephew, wearing my grandfather’s service medals. That was a great occasion. It’s always been a big day for me.

We had bucketloads of rain last night. It kept the crowds away from the dawn service, but there were still 30,000 there, which is damn impressive. By now as I write all the old diggers and their families will have finished marching and will be off having a beer somewhere, or else be playing two-up with mates. I love this day.

To honour the occasion I cooked up a batch of Anzac biscuits this morning – pretty good, though next time extra oats and extra golden syrup.

I’m not going to the footy this afternoon. I still can’t afford to go to most games. I’ll be watching it from my couch though. I’ll crack a bottle of red and unwrap some cheese and indulge myself while the mighty Bombers make a mess of the pies. The sun is out and while I’m not tipping against further rain, reckon it will be largely fine for the game. Can’t wait.

Bryan Dawe breaks his silence on the death of his friend John Clarke


The news of John Clarke’s death wrenched Bryan Dawe back 54 years to the worst day of his own boyhood.

Source: Bryan Dawe breaks his silence on the death of his friend John Clarke

This is an outstanding piece. I wrote about John Clarke earlier in the week, but this is more eloquent than anyone could write. This is remembrance, funny and sad and deeply felt, by the man who was John Clarke’s straight man.

Besides everything else, it’s a very moving description of friendship, respect and sorrow.