Dumb as a Box of Rocks

And so the death-spiral of the coal industry begins (“Black day as China dumps our dirty coal“, 17 September). Did we really think we could go on selling this filthy life-destroying product in increasing amounts forever? What provision have our governments and industries made for its always-inevitable demise? The current lot are clearly not interested in us using our brains to make a future, so what other kind of rock can we now dig up and sell, unimproved, to continue on our lazy, dumb , unimaginative way?

Heads of State

We do not need the Queen as our head of state in order to keep in touch with “tradition” – the usual defense of this colonial relict. We have an older and more locally relevant tradition here already – 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture.

We could address the Head of State problem, while also bringing Aboriginal culture and peoples into the centre of our national life rather than as the fringe-dwellers that most non-Aboriginal people see them as. We should have a Council of Aboriginal Elders as our “head of state” entity.

Representation on the Council would be based on Aboriginal groupings (“country” or “people”). I am not familiar enough with such groupings to fill in more detail here, but the end result would need to be a Council of around 12 or so members, with both a man and a woman drawn from each such grouping or area. I note that there are 12 major language zones across the country, or perhaps 16 such regions as here depicted, which could form a basis for this scheme. The exact structure of the selection process must of course be decided by the First Peoples themselves as suits the nature of the groupings and their hierarchy and structure.

Representatives to the Council would be chosen by local means, and would be rotated on a regular basis, say yearly, with a First Man and First Woman (not to be from the same group) to be decided within the Council to serve for that period. The current First Man and First Woman would be joint Heads of State of Australia, and the other members of the council would be the equivalent of Governors-General, that is being able to act in thier capacity when the “Firsts” are not available.

Regardless of how such a body was chosen, the idea is to draw from our First Peoples’ tradition and history to form such a Council as a source of wisdom and guidance for our unique nation, and to put our First Peoples in their rightful place at the core of our social and governmental system, instead of primarily being seen as “the Aboriginal problem”.

If every Aboriginal adult had a say in determining our Heads of State then I think national respect, and self-respect, that would transform the landscape of so-called “Aboriginal Affairs” and do more for reconciliation than anything else.

Forty Days Hath September … What?

Forty jobs a month is nearly two a day. Last I heard there were around 30,000 unemployed people in Tasmania competing for 500 jobs there. Those employers had better prepare for a storm of pro forma applications; each “bludger” would have to apply for every job in the state every year, regardless of how unsuitable they were for it. None of this pointless activity creates a single new job or increases employment by a single person, it just changes who gets what job. What a waste of everyone’s time.

It’s hard to avoid the thought that the intention is to push people out of the workforce, thus reducing the unemployment rate, rather than un(der)employment itself.

Heated Arguments

According to Abbott and Hockey, leaving a modest debt for future generations to pay off is immoral. But leaving them a legacy of an overheated world is somehow OK.

To them, money matters and the environment does not. Being ecologically responsible is something you only do when you “can afford it”. They forget that the economy takes place inside the environment; we can’t afford not to look after it.

Let Him Dangle

Let Him Dangle

Bentley said to Craig, “Let him have it, Chris”
They still don’t know today just what he meant by this
Craig fired the pistol, but was too young to swing
So the police took Bentley and the very next thing
Let him dangle, let him dangle
Let him dangle, let him dangle

Elvis Costello

Recent events remind us of the tragedy that is the death penalty, still being used in some supposedly civilised nations. Why is this, and why do some people still support it?

– It’s Cheap. Except it isn’t; it takes so long and so many court appearances to run through the inevitable appeals process that the cost is not significantly different. Not that it matters, price is no basis for making any moral decision, let alone a life-and-death one.

– It Prevents Recidivism. Self-evidently true. But the rate re-offense of murderers is no higher than for any other crime, and of course once caught their victims are overwhelmingly other prisoners. Escaped murderers are certainly an exception to this, but their number is of course tiny and again not something to base a moral decision on.

– It’s What They Deserve. Even if that was so, that doesn’t mean that’s what they should get. We rule-of-law nation-states put ourselves in the position of being morally superior to the murderer (and other criminal) – by murdering him in turn we lower ourselves to his level. We need to show that we will not stoop as low as he. It’s the same argument why it was stupid and wrong for the US to torture 9-11 suspects; not only was it useless and a distraction, but it lowered the wronged party to the level of the perpetrators.

– Deterrence. We know now that severity of sentence has influence on the decision or impulse to go ahead with a crime. The only known deterrent (given motive, opportunity and inclination) is the perceived chance of being caught. Murder rates do not increase when capital punishment is abolished. No-one wants to spend life in jail; if that’s not deterrent enough then a possible execution in 20 years’ time isn’t either.

– Vengeance. This is really all the pro argument comes down to – an atavistic impulse that, because he caused suffering, he should suffer. Yet again not a valid reason for doing anything, and profoundly amoral as well. And again it lowers us to his level.
If that’s not enough, here’s the best reason why it’s really not a good idea:

– Innocent People Die. Recent figures show that around 4% (1 in 25) of executed criminals were probably or certainly innocent of premeditated murder. At least if they’re in jail we can free them and give some restitution.

Not many people thought that Bentley would hang
But the word never came, the phone never rang
Outside Wandsworth Prison there was horror and hate
As the hangman shook Bentley’s hand to calculate his weight
Let him dangle, let him dangle
Let him dangle, let him dangle


Elevator Etiquette

Many seem unfamiliar with the use of this apparatus, or with the concept of consideration for others, or both. Here is the user instruction manual everyone should have had to read before first using one of these devices.
– if you can conveniently use stairs instead of taking the lift, do so. It’ll do you good and leave the lift for those who actually need it.

– there is no point pressing the call button more than once, doing that will not bring a lift more quickly. Have you ever been in a lift that suddenly rocketed to an unscheduled floor as a result of someone doing this? Would you yourself design a lift system to work that way? No, of course not. So don’t do it yourself. This is why lift buttons break so often.

– if your floor is near the top of the lift’s travel, try to enter first and move right to the back. Yes, even if you are male.

– if your floor is near the start of the lift’s travel, try to enter last and stay near the front. Yes, even if you are female.

– if the lift stops, it is not your floor and you are near the door, then move away or step out for a second. Surely it is obvious that there is someone behind you trying to get out? Surely?

– if you must listen to music or a phonecall in the lift, pay attention to what’s going on around you. Look around at each stop. People should not have to tap you on the shoulder to get past.

– don’t call the lift unless you are actually ready to get in. Don’t stand there gawping at your phone, or talking to a bystander, or anything else and miss the lift. This annoys others, as it would you, and you put extra load on the system by now having to call a second lift for a single journey. Next time you have to wait a long time for a lift, think about this – it may be why.

– do not run for the lift and stick your hand between the doors. You’re just slowing up the whole system and another one will be along shortly; you’re holding up all the people in the lift for your own solo convenience – this is called “being inconsiderate”. You know how annoying it is when someone does that to you, so don’t do it to someone else. You are also stressing out the people already in the lift, who suddenly have to lunge for the Door Open button in order to not have your amputated hand drop to the floor in front of them.

– don’t hold the lift doors open for people who aren’t ready to get in right now. There will be other lifts for them. Meet down in the lobby if you must. Again, you slow down the whole system for everyone, for the potential benefit of just one or two.

– if you need to use a card or key to get to a secure floor, have it in your hand before you enter the lift. Failing that, move to the back of the lift and let others in, then “excuse me” your way forward when everyone’s in. Standing there in the doorway fiddling in your pocket or purse, while others are anxiously queuing outside, is the height of rudeness. Then the doors start to close and disaster ensues.

– don’t finish a conversation from within the lift to someone outside it (or vice versa) while holding the doors open. This ascends to Olympian heights of rudeness.

Escalator Etiquette

Many seem unfamiliar with use of this apparatus, or with the concept of consideration for others, or both. Here is the user instruction manual everyone should have had to read before first using one of these devices.

– If you can conveniently use stairs instead of taking the escalator, please do so. It’ll do you good and leave the escalator for those who actually need it.
– If you can walk up or down the escalators, please do so. It’ll do you good, and get you and everyone else to your respective destinations more quickly. Also you will then not look like an utter dork who thinks they are on some sort of very slow amusement park ride. You do realise how slow escalators are, don’t you? If you walked up stairs that slowly people would point and laugh.
– If the escalators were stopped you’d walk up them, wouldn’t you? Why does the fact they are moving – oh so slowly – change that? I mean really.
– If you must stand – that is, if you really can’t walk up stairs – then move to the left and let more mobile people by. Do not stand next to your companion as that blocks the entire stairway – you can do without their presence by your side for a few seconds, surely?
– Handbags, backpacks, briefcases, shopping bags, and all other such impedimenta should be held in front or behind you, not beside. Yes, you and your stuff are blocking the escalator just as surely as if there were two of you.
– For the love of all that you love, of all that you consider holy, for the sake of all humanity – do not stop moving just before you get to the end of the escalator. I promise you getting off the escalator is no trick at all. It is moving really slowly. I mean, really really slowly. All you achieve is to stop the entire column of people behind you along the entire length of the escalator. Dozens of people may be delayed because of your hesitation.
– For the love of all that you love, of all that you consider holy, for the sake of all humanity – do not stop moving just after you step off the escalator. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know 100% which way to go from here, just get out of people’s way, and quickly. Those behind you on the escalator have no way – no way at all – of not running into you, and then what will the people behind them do? Get the hell out of everyone’s way NOW.
– In summary, try to be aware of those around you and see what you can do to ease their way through the world, not make it harder and slower. The fact that you are not in a hurry doesn’t mean others aren’t, and as a member of society it’s incumbent on you to not impede them if at all possible.