In an age where everyone with a keyboard and a set of fingers is a blogger, half the world seems to be calling themselves “social commentators”. This has always seemed a pretentious, self-aggrandising and above all, meaningless title.
Social commentary is like parenting. Most of us do it in private, but only some are vain enough to write about it publicly. Not me. I write mostly about sport for a living. You’d never catch me penning tedious social commentary. Oh, wait a minute…
The thing about sports writing these days is you spend most of your time writing about anything but sport. Look at the last week. It started with a rowing spat, and ended with the D’Arcy/Monk gun pics saga.
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George Orwell’s deadline came and went. No doubt for many who read 1984 in the years after it was published in 1949, that date represented an unwanted but inevitable appointment with a soulless tyrannical world.
Two years before his deadline arrived, a later generation, not overly concerned with Orwell, found a new future date to consider: 2019. That was the year director Ridley Scott set his 1982 film Blade Runner, depicting life in post-apocalypse Los Angeles.
The scene was this: Earth is largely uninhabitable. People are heading for the new off-world colonies. Those who remain exist in a dying world where nighttime and rain is perpetual; and those who remain are largely the dregs.
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In I Spit On Your Grave, a young woman is gang raped in a remote woodland. She is beaten and tortured in a series of deeply disturbing scenes, before she hurls herself into a river.
She survives, comes back, and inflicts a graphic and brutal revenge on the men who so viciously attacked her.
I can’t remember why I picked up the DVD - although I love horror and was possibly overcome with swaggering bravado after seeing the ‘watch it if you dare’ sticker.
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It is easy to feel repulsed by the gruesome details of Colonel Gaddafi’s final moments as they continue to flood the airwaves in the wake of his burial. Yet it is also easy to identify sloppy moral relativism when it creeps into ethical public discourse.
It is easier still to ignore it when you see it in print. For a change, I thought I might not let a recent example of this slide. There were important operational and ethical differences between the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi. The prospect of peacefully arresting and extracting a death-seeking jihadist barricaded in a fortified compound was always going to be slim.
This situation stands in contrast to the one faced by the militarised and murderous rebel mob who callously refused the surrender of a wounded and shaken 69-year-old armed only with a comically bling ‘golden pistol’ in a drain pipe in broad daylight.
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World leaders and of course, many Libyans, have celebrated the death of Colonel Gaddafi. Many suffered under his brutal regime. There is no doubt Gaddafi was a tyrant and the head of a government known for torture and mass killings of dissidents.
He was either complicit or directly aware of major human rights abuses happening under his rule. He also took power of a country without the mandate of his people. He was eccentric and unpredictable and many world leaders accepted him and treated him as their equal, yet none truly admired the man. His death was a cathartic moment for many.
But even though he was a mass murderer and rightly despised, his death should not have been treated in the undignified manner that we saw again and again on our screens.
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I have a regular segment on a community radio station in Sydney that often takes its subject matter from listeners’ email requests.
Unsurprisingly, this week I received a number asking me to explain the causes of the London riots.
My initial response was that the causes are complex, and we should ignore the many knee-jerk reactions emerging.
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“It is not ideal that religious freedom is protected by so-called ‘exemptions and exceptions’ in anti-discrimination law, almost like reluctant concessions, crumbs from the secularists’ table.”
Cardinal George Pell’s recent lament to Prime Minister Julia Gillard about the “secularists’ table” seems odd, given that religion still defines our nationhood. Just ask our atheist Prime Minister. It is hard to imagine then how exceptions and exemptions are metaphorical “crumbs”, when they have a vast reach in excluding minority groups in Australia.
While each state and territory currently has anti-discrimination laws which protect against some forms of sexuality or gender identity discrimination, the inconsistency in terminology, and the wide-ranging exemptions (particularly for faith-based bodies) means there are considerable gaps in protecting the rights of individuals accessing health services, goods or services, aged care, employment and education.
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Enough. Unpopular though it may be, it is a time to take a stand.
We have to stop celebrating morons and their attendant antics. We have to stop defending idiots and their self-imposed tragedies.
Whether it be a middle-aged former cricketer with a penchant for romancing equally vacuous bimbos or drug-addled footballers with a natural gift for screwing up every fifth chance offered to them - it’s about time we drew a line in the sand and said “sod off!”.
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The Jerry Springer of modern philosophy was in good form when he addressed a packed crowd on Wednesday evening in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney.
Peter Singer, now a professor at Princeton University in the US, was back in his native Australia for a visit.
Most philosophers count themselves lucky if their mother appreciates their work. But Singer is regarded - by journalists, at least - as the most influential living philosopher. In fact, at Sydney Uni, he was introduced with the fulsome praise normally reserved for superannuated television stars: “If we had a collection of national living treasures, Peter would certainly stand tall amongst them.”
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