Celebrity slapping celebrity

A couple of hours ago Will Smith walked up on stage at the Oscars and slapped the host, Chris Rock, because of jokes Rock had made about Will Smith’s wife, Jada. In the scheme of things, not a momentous event, but as you can imagine, it’s set off a sea of commentary and bad takes. Very 2022.

I must confess, my first reaction on seeing it was respect for Will Smith for putting himself out there for his wife. It was not so much the action, which was crazy and impulsive, but the unashamed, unfiltered reaction of a man clearly deeply hurt and much in love. It was in no way measured, and it certainly paid no heed to public opinion. It was raw and natural.

I wouldn’t have done it. I might have thought about waiting until the afterparty, but the more sensible part of myself would expect that by then I’d have calmed down and taken a more reasonable approach – basically, collaring Chris Rock and telling him it’s not on.

Most of the reaction has been negative towards Smith, and I understand that. It’s not a good look slapping someone on live TV and certainly isn’t to be encouraged – though it’s very entertaining.

It seems to me though that much of the commentary is seen through a lens. As a civilised society, we filter out perspective through a common understanding, but what is lost in that is nuance and the raw visceral sense. I don’t condone Smith for what he did, but I understand it. It was primitive but, for me, in a world where everything is processed, emotion included, it was refreshing.

I’ll probably cop shit for this, but that’s okay. I don’t need you to agree with me.

Everyone has a take these days, and everyone shares it thanks to the ubiquity of social media – look, I’m doing it too! They’re packaged reactions, with outrage being a fave. It’s the nature of this discourse that it gravitate’s to the extremes. I hope I’m more reasoned.

I read one person state that they’d never felt entitled to strike another person, despite the many times it might have been justified. I found the term ‘entitled’ interesting. What does it mean? Entitled in what sense? As a responsible citizen, or as an individual? As a cypher, or a person? At what point would they feel entitled? Never?

I disagree. Ultimately, we should aspire to be ourselves truly, without the cultural jargon or baggage. There’s an individual in each of us. If we feel it honestly, and without bias, then we’re entitled.

I think there are occasions when a smack on the nose is probably quite a reasonable response. I like to think I’m cultured and civilised, but I’m no pacifist. Sometimes it’s necessary. What Will Smith did was way over the top and doesn’t meet the criteria of being reasonable. But then, it’s not my place to judge what he should feel in that moment. I can regret his action, but I won’t condemn the man. Nor will I join the pile-on.

I suspect Chris Rock takes a similar view.

Battles then and now

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine. Like most people, I’ve been immensely inspired by their spirit and resistance to the Russian invaders. I think it’s pretty clear it’s not gone as Putin expected. Coupled with the scale of sanctions arraigned against Russia, Putin finds himself in a big hole.

It’s hard to predict the actions of an autocrat like Putin. This whole venture has a whiff of irrationality about it, but perhaps it just seems that way because Ukraine has been a lot harder to conquer than expected. A quick victory and he would have been making demands of the world. Instead, he’s mired in a war going nowhere while his reputation and the Russian economy tanks.

Given the desperate situation he finds himself in, how will he respond – and where will this end? He’s already mentioned nuclear weapons. He’s now bombing maternity hospitals. Are biological weapons a possibility? No matter how inspiring the Ukrainian resistance has been, it’s very likely to get a whole lot uglier.

I would like to see peace talks brokered by the UN, just to prove they’re good for something. A man like Putin has to be given a way out of the mess he’s in. Men like him rely on their reputation; ‘face’ is important to them, both personally and politically. I would like to see him destroyed, but more realistically, a way out needs to be negotiated in which some pride is retained.

Longer-term, I suspect Putin will become more vulnerable domestically, particularly as the sanctions bite the people, and the oligarchs. He’s been shown as fallible.

I’ve been watching it unfold very keenly. As a student of WW2, I’ve found it fascinating as the conflict ranges across great battlefields of the last world war. Kharkov, as it was called in the history books I read (as opposed to the Ukrainian Kharkiv), was the site of huge encounters between German and Russian troops – as the Germans advanced (and won big), and as they retreated (fighting a handy rearguard action).

Just over the Russian border is Belgorod. Nearby is Kursk. Together they were the site of the greatest tank battle in history.

What may be significant is that once the Germans occupied Ukraine an effective resistance went underground, tying up German forces and inflicting damage. The partisans were fierce and brave back then – I would expect nothing different now if it comes to that.

My say

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything but about my personal circumstances. I’ve not had the energy much to write about anything else, but it doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in the wider world. I’m just as opinionated as ever.

Today, I want to write about what’s happening in Ukraine. Yesterday, after a lot of posturing and diplomatic to and fro, Russie – Putin – invaded Ukraine. There’ll be resistance, but it’s inevitable that Russia will occupy Ukraine unless something is done.

The build-up to the invasion has many echoes of Europe in 1938 and 1939 as the European community sought to reign in Hitler. As history tells us, they failed. In the years since, many of the participants have been condemned for their naive and infectual acts, not least for the appeasement that allowed Hitler the room to gobble up Europe. It will be interesting how history judges this.

For me, the strongest parallel is with the Sudetenland, in what was Czechoslovakia. Hitler claimed that Sudetenland Germans, of which there was a large population, were being persecuted by the Czech authorities. That was the pretext for war, much as Putin now claims that the treatment of Russians within Ukraine is his excuse for invasion.

For now, the west is outraged – or most of it. Widespread sanctions are being announced, which will likely bite hard in time, but not yet. There’s little possibility of practical assistance to Ukraine, despite the fact potential membership of Nato has been one of the flash points.

I don’t know what should happen, though I know this is an evil thing. I doubt that Putin, unlike Hitler, has territorial ambitions beyond this, but that doesn’t mean that we should allow a sovereign nation be conquered in this day and age. The west can’t afford to be weak, not just for the people of Ukraine, but for what it means for global society. I’m sure China is watching very closely, with Taiwan in it’s sights.

Quite bizarrely, there appears solid support for Russia in sections of the community. Predictably, many are the obvious ratbags, which may now include the GOP. Morally, it’s indefensible, but any are seeking political advantage from this, regardless of ethics. Plus, there are some seriously screwed up people on the right these days. Seems so strange when you consider that once upon a time – not so long ago – that Russia was the evil empire. Many who decried it then support it today. That’s the crazy world we live in.

Bring them home

I’ve sat here for the last minutes wondering how to start this post. The dilemma, I felt, is that I didn’t want to bang the same drum as in numerous other posts in the past. Nor did I want to sound too harsh or critical. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy writing negative posts. The problem is, there’s a lot of negative stuff to write about – but it’s dispiriting to grizzle.

So what to do? I can only say it as it is – or how it seems to me, anyway. So let’s get the ranting part out of the way early. I’m about to criticise the government again. I can hardly describe how much I deplore them. So many of them terrible people, and I wonder why so many to the right of politics are so ugly – ugly, mean-spirited, narrow-minded and spiteful souls. Add to that racist, which isn’t news to anyone who pays any attention (the sad minority), but this time they’ve made it law.

Covid has been a controversial time, and that’s not really surprising. With so much happening so quickly and so much at stake, it’s terribly difficult and hard to act without making a mistake here or there and with any consensus. If you’re sensible, you accept that. The negativity pisses you off, but you roll with it; the stupid noise made by anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protestors you rationalise as a lunatic fringe; even the bungling of the vaccine roll-out is met more with a sigh than with anger.

What can’t be supported are the wilful decisions made for an obscure political cause and the decisions not made for the same reason.

Though the vaccine roll-out is a disaster here, we’re in a pretty healthy state in Australia relatively. We need to pick up our game or else get left behind, but our citizens – those resident at least – have good reason to feel pretty safe.

That’s not the case in many parts of the world, and in some parts, it has become catastrophic – Brazil being one, and India another.

The news services have been full of reports from India where hundreds of thousands are newly infected every day, where the sick spill onto the streets, where there’s a shortage of vaccines and oxygen, and, most horribly, the dead are burnt on makeshift biers in suburban streets. Someone I work with has come down with it, as has his whole family. These are terrible times.

In response, the Australian government announced a travel ban. No one can enter the country from India, not even our own citizens seeking to get home. They then doubled down by announcing that anyone caught flaunting the ban would be subject to huge fines and potential jail time. In effect, they’ve made it illegal for Australian citizens to return to their home country from India. So much for the rights of citizenship.

For me, the single greatest failure over the last year is the inability, and seeming unwillingness, of the Australian government to repatriate citizens to our home in a time of dire crisis.

I think, for the government, it’s another political hot potato that’s easier to deal with by doing nothing. Expat Australians are out of sight and out of mind, they figure, and their votes don’t amount to much anyway. Why exert yourself on their behalf when there’s the risk of Covid?

To be fair, it’s been a long time since an Australian government took responsibility for our citizens abroad. I always had the idealistic notion that as an Australian citizen, if ever I got in trouble overseas, the government would help. How wrong I was! Regardless of stripe, successive Australian governments have failed in this regard. Some of it is political – Julian Assange being an example of an individual whose rights as a citizen have been found wanting when weighed against political alliance (i.e. diplomatic toadyism). The rest is apathy.

I know there are Australians right now who agree with the government, certainly regarding the travel ban from India. They argue the risk of bringing in people from such a dangerous environment risks infecting the broader community at large. That’s a fair argument, but it highlights the abject failure of the government to act before now.

To start with, Australians wishing to come home should have been able to get in long before now. There shouldn’t be a queue, but the stories are rife of ex-pats unable to get flights back, lose bookings because of scarce seats, or be charged a fortune to get back. Remember, the government promised that the backlog would be cleared by last Christmas. Not even close.

Even so, and if we accept that virus of some type will remain in the community for years to come, then we should have made a start on the infrastructure to support that reality. Had we acted last year, we should have been in a position now to bring our people home.

The government did nothing and shows no sign of doing anything. Once more, it’s the state governments who take the lead. Both Queensland and Victoria have proposed purpose-built quarantine facilities in the country. There’s another facility in the NT standing empty. There’s even Christmas Island.

It can hardly be disputed that we need these facilities. They have to be built. As we’ve learned to our cost, Hotels are not made to house sick and contagious people.

We should have these facilities now and, failing that, should be building them now. And a truly inclusive government would be seeking to bring its citizens home by any means – charter flights and the RAAF seem obvious options. No sign of that happening in the foreseeable future, when this is something that should have happened last year.

Now we have made it a crime to come home. Make no mistake, this is a racist act. Most of those affected by this ban are Indian-Australian – people with different skin colour to the Australian prime minister. Can you imagine the same ban being imposed on people from a western country? No. It’s a decision consistent with much in this government. We’ve had hundreds of thousands from western societies overstay tourist visas, while people who come in desperate straits on leaking boats are exiled for years on end to places like Manus Island. The difference? None of them is white.

The government doesn’t care. It’s political for them. It’s a sad thing to admit, but it’s a decision that plays well to their constituency – the casually racist, indifferent, uneducated rump who respond best to slogans and mindless claims of patriotism, which the government specialises in.

It’s shocking, but none of it surprises me anymore. It just makes me sad.

The Kooyong colt

When the news came through yesterday that ex-Liberal party leader and prime ministerial aspirant, Andrew Peacock, had died, I thought about my dad.

They’re more or less the same generation – Peacock perhaps a couple of years older, and that makes a forceful point in itself – so much so that I sent an SMS to my dad asking how he was getting on. Peacock is of a generation and era that my dad belongs to, which was current when my father was at his peak. Peacock is gone now, and others, and soon enough, those remaining will pass, such as John Howard (good riddance), and at some point, my father, too.

The news of Peacock’s death resonates for that reason, but for other reasons also.

In the mind of many, he represents a lost opportunity for the Liberal party. In the seventies and eighties, he was the glamour boy of Australian politics – handsome, charming, witty, not a little vain, and very capable. When Labor was in power through the eighties, Peacock vied for the Liberal party leadership with John Howard.

They were very different characters and hated each other’s guts. Whereas Peacock was polished and hob-robbed with movie stars and on the international stage, Howard was mousy and conservative, dour and very much the accountant he was. Those were the superficial differences in style, but underneath were differences much more fundamental to the future of the Australian Liberal party.

Peacock was what they called a small l liberal – a dying breed these days. He was reasonable and socially progressive and beholden to no ideology. Though later Howard would claim direct descent from the Menzies years (legitimately, in some instances), Peacock better embodied the sense of fair play and common decency of earlier times.

They swapped leadership several times and, at different times, ran for prime minister. Peacock was famously lambasted by Keating as the soufflé that wouldn’t rise twice. And Howard was commonly thought of as a failure and an unimpressive little figure. In between, John Hewson ran for the Liberal party in 1993 and lost. After that, there was a succession of leaders while Peacock bowed out of politics altogether and ultimately left the field to Howard.

As we know now, Howard won the 1996 election on my birthday celebration (there were tears at the party, and a few angry words, and finally some soothing tokes). He reigned for 11 nasty years and changed the course of Australian life and politics (much for the worse), as well as the Liberal party.

Menzies wouldn’t recognise the Liberal party today. It has little in common with the party he started 80 years ago. It’s now hard-core conservative, more alike to American conservatives than the Tory England of the Churchill era that Menzies championed. It’s reactionary and narrow-minded, much like Howard himself, though these days it lacks his rat cunning. It’s the party of bullies and entitlement, of which corrupting and lazy incompetence is a natural by-product.

It might have been different had Andrew Peacock prevailed all those years ago. He’d have taken the Liberal party down a different path – kinder, more democratic, less self-serving. It’s a party I might have contemplated voting for as a reasonable alternative. These days, nothing less than a brain injury would see me vote LNP.

The era of Peacock also happens to be the era I grew up with politically. I was dimly aware of the dismissal of Whitlam in 1975 by the Governor-General, so momentous was it, but politics didn’t really take with me until the eighties.

I wouldn’t say I grew up in a political family, but we were a family who took an interest in the goings-on around us. I recall in the seventies, we went to Surfers Paradise during the school holidays and stayed in a high rise on Cavill Avenue. One night, dad was in the pool late and met Phillip Lynch, Malcolm Fraser’s first treasurer (before Howard, funnily enough), and returned telling the tale. That piques my interest, but it was only really about 1982 that I began to follow it keenly.

Dad was always a Liberal voter, and more so now – he’s got more conservative as he’s got older, which is the pattern, they say. We’re poles apart, more so now than ever, especially since I seemed to have bucked the trend and become more progressive each year.

I remember well the politics of the eighties, which was often great theatre and pretty exciting. It was also a time of fundamental change that re-shaped Australia – for the better, in this case. Being a young man of ambition, I was right on board with it. I admired Bob Hawke and thought that Paul Keating was the best thing since sliced bread – still do. That government was full of talented politicians hungry for change. I don’t think there’s been a government in my time nearly as talented or as intellectually capable as the Hawke government of the eighties.

And on the other side were the Libs, trailing in the wake of Hawke and Keating and trying to stay relevant. Peacock was one of them, always stylish and with a swagger that suggested that he had a rich life outside of politics. Not so much Howard, who I think was trapped within his resentments. It was that resentment that drove him and the bitterness of the eighties that soured his outlook and made him the wretched prime minister we all had to endure.

Peacock escaped that. He had a grand and interesting life and was a decent, honourable bloke on top of it. He’s dead at 82, but it was a good go.

Out for 99

We’ll probably get a warm day or two in the weeks ahead and days of pristine blue sky and golden sun, but I feel safe to say that the weather has turned. Behind us are the sunny months of Summer. Ahead are the dim days of Winter.

For the first time this year, I have the heater on in the house. Last night I swapped the light alpaca wool blanket I keep on my bed in the warmer months for the thick doona, which was last on my bed in November. It’s cold outside, and sporadic showers gust across the sky. I like it.

I don’t know if others experience it the same way, but I find my mode of thinking changes with the seasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, I become more introspective with the cooler weather, and my gaze shifts from the immediate to somewhere further into the future. I may be wrong, but I feel as if I do my best writing when the days are darker and colder, and I’m bundled up warmly in the cocoon of my home.

I was sitting in the window of a bar Thursday night sipping on a mojito with the weather near 30 degrees. By the next day, it was much cooler. From one day to the next, the seasons flipped. Summer will come again, the cycle will repeat long after I’m gone, but with the cool weather came the news midway through Friday evening that another era was coming to a close. Prince Philip had died at the ripe old age of 99.

It’s surprising how much news this event has triggered. He’s been sick for a while, and it was hardly a surprise. And, geez, 99 – he did well! And yes, I know, the royals are always big news – but I was taken aback, as so many were, by the time devoted to his life and death in the news services and across the media.

For the record, I like him. He was famous for his gaffes, though he was much more than that. I enjoyed the fact that he was an individual when the fact of royalty seems to suppress individuality. He was of another time and way of being and had lived long enough and seen so much that he seemed indifferent thas o what others thought of him. That’s always an attractive trait, I think. I didn’t need to agree with him to appreciate his wit, and I would shrug my shoulders at much of his commentary. I prefer people to be themselves than be cardboard cut-outs.

I believe he had a strong heart and a great aptitude for duty. His was a tough job standing behind the queen, but he never failed in that duty. There’s something old-fashioned about that, and quite admirable. They were married for 73 years, and it’s clear the queen adored him, and his children cherished him. He’s one of those guys I’d have liked to have a drink with.

I read a story about him this morning which revealed his tender side. After JFK was assassinated, the royals went to Washington and were staying in the Whitehouse. One morning, Jackie was looking for her son, John Jr, and opened a door to find the Prince playing and laughing with JFK’s infant son. It was a thoughtful, sensitive action of a man who loved kids and had a tender side rarely exposed to view.

He had a good go. It’s sad for the family. Soon, the whole era will be past us.

Incompetent and corrupt

When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, I never thought in my life would I witness a worse government or leader or the country. His government did a lot of damage to this country by unwinding reforms and cosying up to the mining and fossil fuels industry with the resultant legislation. Abbott was almost a complete fool, but if he had a virtue, it is that he was true to his convictions. Unfortunately, his convictions are almost entirely nonsense, but he was an authentic fool.

Here I am, just a few years later, revising my opinion. This is the worst government we’ve ever had, and Morrison our worst PM.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why the ALP doesn’t hammer the point again and again, in every interview and public appearance, in parliament and out of it, that this is the most corrupt and incompetent government in Australian history. It’s true.

It’s a government full of untalented hacks and opportunists. They haven’t an original idea between them and no rigour in anything they do. Essentially, I think it’s a lazy government full of dozy ministers who don’t have the energy, aptitude or desire to put in the hard yards. They govern by a narrow and discredited ideology, happy to spout outdated slogans and take the short way to any outcome.

Then there’s the corruption, which seems indisputable. They’re a venal lot. I don’t know of a single minister who puts the people’s interests ahead of his own. They’re happy to pocket the millions of dollars from interest groups to peddle their policies in parliament, to the country’s detriment (mining, fossil fuels, superannuation, etc.). They elevate tired old party hacks to positions of influence and power, to look after their own, and to perpetuate their power base.

Democracy is a grey area when it comes to the LNP. Since they’ve gained power, they’ve loosened the checks and balances that keep our society healthy and fair. They’ve acted unconscionably in lying or obfuscating about matters of public interest and altering the record to their advantage. Transparency is at an all-time low because it suits the government. Much of this is reflected in Australia’s fall down the rankings in the corruption index.

The very manner they conduct themselves has had a terrible effect on Australian society. There’s no accountability and no consequence for the litany of misdeeds and bad behaviour numerous ministers have been exposed. It undermines trust and respect, and it sets a terrible example to society as a whole. There was a time – believe it or not – that to be a minister in an Australian government was a position of merit, and they were paragons of behaviour. Fuck that, not any more.

This extends to their conduct in parliament, which is deplorable. The so-called leader of the land, Scott Morrison, will regularly turn his back on the opposition when they stand to speak. It’s the sort of disrespectful behaviour I would expect from a juvenile. More seriously, a government member will frequently call to the speaker that an opposition spokesman not be heard, thus quashing inconvenient dissent and killing the democratic principle, bit by bit.

I’ve never despised anyone as much as I despise Scott Morrison. He hasn’t even got the virtue of conviction. He’s a hollow, cunning character whose only interest is gaining and maintaining power. He’s a soulless, shallow being without conscience or integrity. I suspect, deep in his heart, that he knows that he’s a fraud – and because of that, he’s all talk and announcements and little consequential – or effective – action.

This is now being exposed to wider view. He got away with managing Covid and was even applauded by some sections of the media, when in fact, he did very little. He handed over the responsibility for managing the outbreak to the states, who ran with the ball. The other policies of note, such as jobkeeper, were pushed by the union movement principally and the states, to which the government grudgingly acquiesced.

Now, in light of the disastrous roll-out of the vaccine, the government is proving how incompetent they are.

We were promised 4 million vaccinations by the end of March – there were 700,000. It continues to crawl along with many essential workers and elderly still without vaccination, and winter on its way. Their latest prognostication is that all first-round vaccinations will be completed by October, but even that seems wildly optimistic.

Around the world, vaccinations are going gangbusters. We’re on the bottom of the table by a fair margin. We bought time by keeping infections to a minimum but have squandered it with our incompetence. For the life of me, I can’t understand how you can fuck it up so badly when you have so much time to prepare – and the experience of other nations to draw upon. The blueprint for this should have been drawn up months ago, and all the necessary pre-work checked off well in advance. And yet, here we are.

The problem is that the government views and responds to everything within a political context – how does this make us look, and how can we leverage this? They overlook the practicalities because that’s not their priority nor, apparently, their skillset.

We’ve seen this in their terribly botched, insensitive response to the accusations of misogyny and sexual harassment. It’s all about the appearance of things, unwilling at any point to accept responsibility or take action. It’s all talk and poorly done, at that.

They can’t get away with spin when it comes to vaccinations. It’s their responsibility, and though they’ve tried to blame the states, the states have bitten back. They just don’t have the competence or the structure* to deliver such an important piece of national health.

Bizarrely, the slow pace of vaccinations means that the opportunity to re-open borders is delayed because we won’t achieve any form of herd immunity until well after most countries.

I just hope the Australian people wake up to how terrible this government is. Slowly, I think they’re coming around – and even the media is beginning to stir. It’s up to Labor to do the rest.

*This is a discussion for another time, but I suspect that many of our problems are because the public service has been gutted (and politicised in part), and so much now been outsourced. Bad policy all around, but true to ideology. Schmucks.

No more chickening out

The March4Justice events took place yesterday all over Australia. Thousands of people, women mainly, joined together to protest the mistreatment of women by men and the historic injustice which is epitomised right now by the actions – inactions? – of the government in response to various rape allegations. It really is inexcusable.

I hope that yesterday will mark a turning point. In many ways, it was inspirational. I watched the events in Canberra and the great speech given by Brittany Higgins, the woman who started all this by reporting her rape in Parliament House. I thought her speech was right on the money and very moving. Right now, she’s a figurehead at the front of a great movement, but in years to come, I think she may be seen as a cultural icon.

The same might be said of Grace Tame, who was named Australian of the year in January. She’s an imposing, quite fierce woman who was subjected to grooming by a teacher when at school and since has become a mighty voice in standing up for women’s rights. Indirectly, she was responsible for Brittany reporting her rape. It was the occasion of the Australian of the Year awards that Brittany heard her speak and saw her with the hypocrite PM, which inspired her to speak up.

I think we’ll see a lot more of Grace Tame – I think, and hope, she has a great future ahead of her. There are so many impressive women these days.

What’s happening in Australia is being echoed around the world. In New York, the governor, Mario Cuomo, has been hit by repeated allegations of sexual harassment. In London, the murder of a woman has caught the imagination, as sometimes these cases do. It turns out the alleged murderer was a police officer. Outrage is widespread, and vigils held – ironically, disturbed and dispersed by the police. There is a groundswell of anger around the world, the common theme being enough is enough.

I had half intended to join the Melbourne March yesterday. I was wary of how I would be received as a solo male. Most would accept me, I believed, and I thought it was important for men to stand up for the cause, even though we’re the object of the anger.

Come yesterday, I still wasn’t sure if I would attend. Should I go? Would I be intruding? In the end, work was my excuse to stay away.

I regret that now. I wasn’t sure for many hours, and then I realised that I chickened out. I’m disappointed in myself. It’s not about me, but each of us has the responsibility to share our support when we can.

Underlying this is fear, I think. The last few years have been cause for much angst and reflection. That’s been hammered home over the last month, and I feel myself strongly reconsidering my own behaviour over many years. That’s a good thing, but not easy.

As men, we have to accept some brutal truths: we scare women. The arguments thrown up about ‘not all men’ are ridiculous and miss the point altogether. Maybe it isn’t all men – but all the perpetrators of this are men. It’s perfectly understandable if women feel nervous and afraid. It’s a bitter pill for a man to swallow, but when you consider that so many women have been victims of sexual crime or harassment, that so many have felt uncomfortable or intimidated over many years, and that most resort to a range of tactics to avoid this discomfort, then the conclusion is inescapable. We’re the problem.

I don’t think any sensible man would disagree that we’ve got it easy – though how easy never really registered to me before. Basically, I go through life without feeling a moment of fear. The prospect of violence or harassment is not even on my radar. I blithely go about my things, oblivious of how different it is for women, and how my unthinking swagger may look to the women about me.

Cheeseboy and I discussed this on our walk on Saturday morning. Both of us are in middle age and lived through a lot. Both of us were pretty social when we were younger. Both of us recognised how oblivious we were of others might feel.

I can sit here and state I’ve never knowingly harassed or sexually intimidated a woman, but that’s just my perspective. I cast my mind back. I’ve known a lot of women and I don’t recall any circumstance when I thought the woman was unwilling – but certainly, asking consent was never even a consideration back then. And how do I know if a woman just went along with me because it was easier to give in than resist?

These are very uncomfortable considerations. I can hardly contemplate that I wouldn’t know – but maybe I didn’t know, and that’s very real when you have a head of steam. I’m very sure I would not have gone on had I known my attentions were unwanted. All of this makes me uneasy. Generally, I feel ashamed at how pathetic we are as men.

I think I’m a decent human being. For as long as I can remember, it’s been important to me to treat people as individuals and grant them the respect they deserve. I can’t conceive of some of the behaviours I hear of now, and it’s distressing to me also. But.

I’m part of the problem, regardless of whether I’ve transgressed. Ignorance, silence, are not an excuse. I’m sure that I’ve used language I shouldn’t have. And I only have to think back to how I was as a young man when I thought that getting a lot of sex was a sign of my virility. It’s an immature attitude, but not uncommon, and it objectifies the experience and, by extension, objectifies women. And it’s embarrassingly juvenile.

I’m more mature now and much more aware than I was. It’s the passage of years and lessons learnt that have brought me to this place, but it shouldn’t take middle-age to get here.

It’s great and necessary that women are now standing up for their rights as a human being. I hope we have a culture now where men will be called out for their inappropriate behaviour. In the short term, I think that’s the most effective way to change behaviour. Longer-term, it comes to education and common decency and good role models. This is where we fall done. None of this in school and role models are flukey – and sadly, if our government can’t get it right, what hope is there otherwise?

This is a humbling experience for any man with a conscience and any level of self-awareness. It doesn’t count for much, but I’m sorry if I’ve caused hurt or harm. From here on in, it’s our responsibility as men to treat women with the respect they deserve and to call out anyone who doesn’t. That’s all I can say now.

A royal shitshow

God knows I could care less about the Royal family. Nothing against them personally, but I’m an ardent republican, and just the idea of inherited privilege is obscene to me. Plus, the incessant publicity and general fawning over their every move is tiresome. Good on ’em, but I have no more interest in their weddings, their children, their travels, their prognostications than I do any other family, and the commentary on them is even worse.

Then there’s the gossip, which is constant and has now become a very big thing. I have to admit some passing curiosity this time – much the same as if overhearing some tawdry tale down the pub.

I’m not going to go into the details because I couldn’t be bothered, and you’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the latest. If you’re reading this in some far-flung future, Google it. (Let me know if this leads to the long-awaited Australian republic).
Basically, Harry and Meghan had their royal version of Brexit, what – about 18 months ago? – and have been living in California ever since. Relations have been strained since, and innuendo, as ever, swirling around. Now they’ve come out swinging in an interview with Oprah, the most controversial accusing some royals of racism.

I’m a sceptic by nature, and it’s rare I take anything at face value. If someone proclaims something, I’ll generally take it as opinion, or perhaps conjecture, and very rarely as fact. In this case, one party have made a claim, and I’ll reserve judgement until the other party responds with any substance.

My gut feel is to be dubious. I suspect that half-truths and spin rule the day. Things probably happened in some form, but not necessarily as described or as insidious. And really, it’s a lot of very entitled people grizzling about other entitled people. There’s not a lot of self-awareness or humility on display.

Though I’m not a fan of the royal institution, it’s bloody hard avoiding the royal family. As an Aussie, I’ve pretty well grown up with them. It would be practically impossible not to have an opinion on them personally, and overall the opinion would be positive.

I don’t think there should be a Queen, and certainly not one that rules over Australia as well – but I can’t help but admire the queen. I think she’s a very decent and public-spirited person, and I suspect a quirky sense of humour. Prince Phillip is a bit of a cracker but pretty harmless. Prince Charles, likewise, perhaps a bit of a duffer but well-intentioned. His son, Prince William, seems another of the same ilk, decent, well-intentioned, well mannered, and self-sacrificing. The less said about Prince Andrew, the better, and then there’s Harry.

I always liked Harry. He had a bit of a spark about him. I reckoned I could have a beer with him. Good on him for escaping the clutches of duty and obligation. You can’t blame him for that – but you can’t have it both ways. At this moment, I think of him as a bit of a naive dope.

This brings us to Meghan, his wife. In my observation, she’s struggled to be popular right from the get-go. That probably comes from being a bit of an outsider to the whole royal biz – American, an actress, and not one of the standard landed gentry they roll out to marry off to royal personages.

I’m never one to join the clamour. I’m more inclined by principal to be out of step – it suits my temperament, and I think you’re more likely to be on the side of right. And I wasn’t interested in having an opinion.

I still couldn’t care less, really, but I have to confess that I never warmed to Meghan. It’s certainly not because of any royal bias – there’s something about her that leaves me cold. It could be just her way, but – excepting a few occasions – she’s never come across to me as someone particularly sincere or genuine.

I’m embarrassed to write that in a way. I don’t want to be one of the crowd agin her – and there are a lot violently agin her. If it were not for the royal circumstances and the family she married into, it wouldn’t matter at all. People are all sorts, but not all of us are in the public eye.

I trust some version of the truth will come out eventually. I doubt there’s any real racism in the royal family. I suspect it’s more of a case of verbal clumsiness, but I don’t know. In general, I believe the royal family are decent, but I accept the establishment can be hostile and unforgiving. I do not doubt that Meghan suffered their snootiness and resentment on occasion, not to mention having to contend with a feral press.

In short, there’s been a definite shitshow, and I reckon that Harry and Meghan have some genuine grievances. But I also believe that they haven’t helped themselves much and probably exaggerated the worst of it. And I think it’s pretty poor form to air your dirty laundry on national TV like this, though it’s also very modern. I don’t know what purpose it serves except that it is self-serving, and it’s hardly dignified. And I think it’s poor to make strident allegations when the alleged perpetrators are constrained in their ability to defend themselves – not to mention hypocritical to say so much without giving the detail that might prove it. Basically, it’s flinging mud.

I’ll keep an eye on what happens now, but it seems to me that Harry and Meghan have the life they want now – what more is it they’re after?

Tawdry times, shameful acts

It’s been a tawdry few weeks in Federal politics, which is not new, except that it’s now reached a new low.

It all started a few weeks ago when an ex-Lib staffer came forward to reveal that a few years back, she’d been raped in a minister’s office after hours by a senior adviser. At the time, it was effectively hushed up, with few of the proper protocols followed, and the victim basically told they had a choice between keeping their job and making a police report. The alleged perpetrator was fired (with references!) – not because he had raped a colleague, but because he had contravened security protocols.

In the days after, as the PM and various ministers tried to obfuscate and deflect, more women came forward to report that they also had been raped or sexually harassed in parliamentary offices, all of them on the Lib side of the chamber. To make it worse, the alleged perpetrator in several cases was the same man as in the original report. Basically, he got away with it scot-free because various ministers failed to take responsibility and do the right thing.

It’s obvious, and hardly a surprise, that their first priority was the political – containing and managing any potential fall-out. Any consideration of the victim’s welfare came a distant second.

Then, over the weekend, another allegation came to light – the most serious and shocking of all.

It was alleged that a current federal minister had anally raped a 16-year-old girl back in 1988. The alleged victim had gone to the NSW police more recently to report it after harbouring the pain for many years since. All of it was scrupulously documented, including contemporaneous diaries, much of which has now been shared with police, the prime minister, and selected politicians from all sides.

By all reports, the victim was a precociously talented girl with great things ahead of her. Her friends say that she was an extraordinary woman, but she couldn’t get over the trauma of her rape. She tried to fight back by bringing these allegations to the police’s attention, but it seemed too much for her in the end. Last year she took her own life. This is the awful outcome of a heinous act – a life blighted by the cruelty of another, her days haunted by what had occurred on that day in 1988. Ultimately, her promise never blossomed, and her life cut short. If these allegations are to be believed, then really what we’re looking at is a charge of rape and, effectively, long-delayed manslaughter.

In a bitter twist, her death means that the police can no longer investigate it. It seems a curious outcome – surely, criminal acts should be fully investigated whether the victim is alive or dead? The justification is that cases of this type rely almost entirely on the testimony of the victim. Without her, the investigation fails.

That’s what the government is counting on. Everyone knows, or think they know, which of the cabinet ministers allegedly committed this crime. He has not been named publicly, though it seems inevitable that he will be. In the meantime, the government and the PM do as they always do – they deflect and deny, and they obfuscate. Once more, political expediency comes first.

It’s a shocking situation and a shocking story. It’s been a shocking few weeks of ugly revelations that have brought politics in general, and the government, and – it has to be said – men in general, into disrepute.

We now have a situation where a federal minister is sitting in parliament, representing us, who is an alleged rapist. How that can be allowed to continue is beyond my understanding. Until he’s named, every male minister is impugned. I would think it represents a security risk, at least, never mind the moral impropriety. Even if completely innocent of these charges, he should stand aside, or made to stand aside, until these allegations are investigated.

I think it must come to that, but the government is doing everything it can to forestall such a reckoning. When asked about it, they say it’s a matter for the police, knowing full well the police can do nothing. In their corrupted mentality, that’s the end of it – though perhaps we should be reassured when the PM tells us the suspect has denied it all?

Many are calling for a coronial inquiry, and that seems the fitting step. As they say, justice must be seen to be done. This can’t be brushed under the carpet. We can’t have an elected official in high office guilty of such a terrible crime – the very thought that we can exposes the moral bankruptcy of this government. Guilty or innocent, it can’t be left unresolved.

I don’t know if the government understand the damage they do by refusing to acknowledge and act. It’s no surprise to me, though it may be too many others, that this government doesn’t really care about you and me. It certainly doesn’t care about women, regardless of the occasional motherhood statement they come out with. It’s all about power, and I think that’s being exposed.

Power is at the heart of these crimes themselves. Domination is much a part of rape as sex is. The stories we hear of now are just the tip of the iceberg. By all reports, it appears there’s a particularly toxic culture in parliament that has allowed for these crimes to secure and go unpunished for so long. It’s also clear that what we read and hear of now is common in the world outside of parliament. It seems that many, if not most women, had a story of sexual abuse or harassment to tell.

This is an appalling situation, but something positive must come out of this if we do it right. We know the Libs don’t want a bar of it because they’re being burnt. I suspect Labor are wary, fearing the fire might catch. I don’t think this will go away, though, not this time.

I sense a fury and resolve in the people I speak to, particularly women. Publicly, it’s the women who are taking this fight up to the government – the female journalists of the gallery (who are a great lot and much more talented than their male counterparts), and women across the parliament – Wong, Plibersek, and Hanson-Young.

I’m ashamed, as so often I am these days. These are wicked, poisonous crimes and should never happen, but when they do, we have to be better than this.