Necessary Rights & the Necessity of Laying Down Our Rights

It’s now 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and his words and example are as relevant—and as challenging—as ever. Though there are constant (conscious and unconscious) attempts to water down Dr King’s powerful words into ‘nice’ sayings and safe and shareable memes, there are numerous voices reminding us how radical were his words and how uncomfortable they should make us if we were to take them seriously.

MLK

I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr King’s words these past few days (I try to read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail on a regular basis), and I’ve kept coming back to this quote of his from an address at Western Michigan University:

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and the Parable of the Scorpion and the Turtle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent election in Australia – about the campaign that Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott ran and the signs that are emerging even now about the kind of Government he will lead.

Many ideas have been floating around my head as I ponder these things, but I keep coming back to one, over and over again: the parable of the scorpion and the turtle.

Let the reader make of it what s/he will.

A turtle was happily swimming along a river when a scorpion hailed it from the shore.

A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on his back across a river. “Are you mad?” exclaimed the turtle. “You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear turtle,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you, and drown as well. Now where is the logic in that?”

The turtle thought this over, and saw the logic of the scorpion’s statement. “You’re right!” cried the turtle. “Hop on!” The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly said:

“Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there’d be no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” the drowning scorpion sadly replied. “It’s just my character.”

Asylum Seekers, Foreign Aid, and Climate Change: A Failure of Strategy and the (not so simple) Way Forward

Australia has elected to change its government. Tony Abbott, once popularly derided as being ‘unelectable’, has become our new Prime Minister, and the fractious Labor Party has been left to lick its wounds while it faces, it would seem, a lengthy (and many would say deserved) stint on the Opposition benches.

At one level, there’s really not much to say about this. Australia has a system in place where its citizens have great freedom to vote as they choose, and the system itself is pretty good (despite some need, it seems, for a few minor adjustments in regards to how members of the Senate are elected). Australians don’t change government often, but when we do we leave no doubt about our intentions. This election, like those in the past where the government has been changed, was a decisive outcome.

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Asylum Seekers and the Redefinition of ‘Compassion’

I’m going to talk about the practicalities of debating/challenging/protesting against official asylum seeker policy in a future post, however I wanted to use this post to challenge the redefinition of the notion of ‘compassion’ that’s going on before our eyes in regards to these issues.

It seems to me that the concept of ‘compassion’ for those who are seeking asylum has been hijacked by people who understand its potency and who wish to harness the emotion that is attached to it, all the while re-inscribing the word with new meaning leaving it, ultimately, void of any real meaning.

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How to Vote at the Federal Election(???)

We Aussies are now in the midst of a federal election campaign. The date has been set, the arrangements are being made, and pretty much all hell is breaking loose as our politicians seek to overwhelm us  with trite slogans, empty promises, and the nauseating machinations of party politics.

vote

I’ve been wanting to write about what’s been going on in Australian politics for a while now but, to be perfectly honest, it’s all been doing my head in a little bit.

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Gun Reform or the Horrifying Norm?

The recent mass shooting of young school children (and some of their teachers) in Newtown, Connecticut, has shocked the world. It is truly horrific. It’s hard to even think about without feeling physically ill or having tears begin to well up.

Somewhat predictably, it has also resulted in the same media frenzy – verging on the obsessive – that usually follows such events, as well as the tired emotive rhetoric that stymies actual discussion and which usually results in the maintaining of the status quo (once the news cycle has moved on to the next tragedy, or some Royal somewhere does pretty much anything).

Much has already been written on these events, and there will be much more to come. Knowing this, I would just like to offer a couple of thoughts that, I hope, might be helpful.

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Humanising Politics

Bouncing out of my last post on creative nonviolence, I’ve been thinking some more about the importance of treating one’s “enemy” as fully human.

This may sound a little bit silly because, unless we’re into wrestling grizzly bears (which I don’t recommend, by the way), of course we realise that we are usually locked in battles (especially of the political variety) with other human beings.

However, though we may know this at one level, it seems to me that so many situations escalate into violence of some kind simply because of a basic failure to fully appreciate the humanity of the other, and therefore a failure to acknowledge the dignity and respect that should necessarily be foundational to any interaction.

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