I had a most entertaining chat with Allah* last week. He emailed me from California, signing off: ‘God Allah, Author, Holy Qur’an / Bible, Lord of the Worlds’.
He wrote: “Help! I am Allah, God of The Religions, am now here on Earth, and asking the Press to help Me locate an organization, community or nation to receive Me.” We had a discussion about what he’s doing here, and he said partly he was helping Jesus Christ with the Resurrection.
He hoped the Last Day would be “kind to all beings”, which seemed a little naïve, and he asked me to send a message to the band AC/DC : “They are quite the sound and also to the all the great actors and actresses. AU has talent. Love, Allah.”
Latest 2 of 267 commentsView all comments
In Europe, a Ukrainian feminist movement protests against prostitution and for women’s rights by getting their tits out, donning long blonde wigs, putting flowers in their hair and getting in lots of trouble.
While it has ended badly for the individuals, the movement itself has worldwide coverage of its uncovered members and its causes.
Latest 2 of 140 commentsView all comments
The Occupy protests are fighting for freedom, truth, justice, equality, and the right to wear tents as casual attire.
In the course of their battle they have faced many enemies; authoritarian authorities, policing police, the Melbourne weather. But now, it seems, they are to face their biggest enemy.
The enemy within.
Latest 2 of 138 commentsView all comments
I was absolutely intrigued by Sophie Mirabella’s attack on the growing “Occupy Wall Street” movement yesterday. In case you missed it, she basically dismissed these peaceful protesters as nothing more than a bunch of angry, anti-capitalist losers, looking to place the cost of their own failings into the hands of others:
“…There’s a strange dichotomy about this movement. These “occupiers” want other people to earn less, while presumably they are supported by the Government or benevolent families so they can spend their days creating sanitation problems in the street rather than earning a living themselves.
“They want other people to pay for their “free” college education. They want to hold others to account for the way they believe the world has failed them. There is an underlying sense of entitlement that just jars with the “other people are greedy bastards” protest.
Latest 2 of 189 commentsView all comments
Sometimes it’s all too easy to dismiss the significance of public protests.
Like so many others, I scoffed contemptuously at the truck convoy that rolled into Canberra last month, with its very clear statement of anger against… something? I know it had something vaguely to do with the carbon tax, but that message got lost somewhere amidst all the frothing at the mouth, and the placards warning us that the United Nations is secretly plotting to take over the world.
Of course, it’s easy for me, as a young, commie, pinko elitist to have a go at a bunch of hard-working truckies, so in the interests of balance it’s worth acknowledging that many of the rallies attended by people who share similar ideological dispositions to me are often no better.
Latest 2 of 162 commentsView all comments
Sometimes all you need to turn a bunch of disparate and disgruntled souls into a united angry mob is a slogan. Well, search no longer, ye of the red-faced rage and the impotently clenched fists.
For someone has indeed provided you with the lightning rod you need – the Tolerance is our Demise website. And it’s not just a website – for like all righteous movements it sells that most passive aggressive of tools, the bumper sticker. Whatever your gripe, your petty bigotry, or indeed your genuine criticism of the current state of politics, tolerance is apparently to blame. And thus, presumably, intolerance the answer.
It’s a broad church, this intolerance one. Everything from taxes to immigration to overseas funding (presumably they mean aid) to political correctness to soft sentencing to the carbon tax and man-made climate change – all of these need a more intolerant approach.
Latest 2 of 180 commentsView all comments
So what are we to make of 2011, a year in which one has hardly been able to catch one’s breath in between momentous events (and it’s only just September!).
We have had major environmental disasters (the Queensland floods, the Christchurch earthquake, the Japan earthquake/tsunami), and the spectacular fall from grace of seemingly unassailable powerful men (such as Tunisia’s Zine el Abadine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Osama Bin Laden, IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (even though rape charges were recently dropped), and Rupert Murdoch).
For the second time in a few years, the global economy teeters (including the first downgrade of the US’s sovereign debt status since 1917 and the very real possibility of the demise of the Eurozone). Anders Breivik wreaked havoc in a murderous rampage in Norway. We also have a new state in the form of South Sudan. There have also been flashbacks to unfortunate episodes of the 1980s, with a major (and ongoing and unresolved) nuclear emergency in Japan’s Fukushima recalling the Chernobyl disaster, famine in East Africa, and England’s recent riots recalling unrest under Thatcher, oh ... and on a nicer note, a Royal Wedding.
Latest 2 of 37 commentsView all comments
Animal rights activists get a bad rap. Reactions to those who dare to speak out against animal abuse reveal a level of vitriol rarely aimed at any other group of social justice campaigners.
They are assumed to be a bunch of unwashed, dope-smoking, dole-bludging criminals.
‘Extremist’, ‘terrorist’ and ‘militant’ are the stock standard descriptors churned out whenever animal advocates engage in various forms of activism that challenge us to shake up our thinking.
Latest 2 of 467 commentsView all comments
More than 20,000 people pledged to join a Ban the Burqa protest yesterday by donning balaclavas and trenchcoats to show that… people shouldn’t wear balaclavas and trenchcoats. Or something like that.
Those who want the burqa banned are facing some pretty big hurdles. Sure, there’s all the civil liberties guff, but they also have a big public relations problem because their side of the debate seems to get regularly hijacked by illiterate, hate-filled, intolerant, violence-prone, ignorant bigots.
So here’s some advice to the burqa banners as to how to keep ‘on message’:
Latest 2 of 650 commentsView all comments
“Okay it’s time to go now - they have started throwing stones.”
The words were calm but it was hard to miss the rising panic in the voice of my Greek host Danai as stones pummelled into the building behind us as we watched the latest episode in the demonstrations that have been rocking Athens for the past month now.
Yesterday the tension was palpable.
Latest 2 of 260 commentsView all comments
“If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat?”
When Sheik Al-Hilali made these comments characterising the uncovered female body as meat to be consumed, he was brutally condemned. The public outcry was exceptional: the Sheik was imposing a set of archaic beliefs that had no place in a progressive Australia.
Well, just how progressive are we? Such rhetoric is not confined to the auspices of Sharia law - it can be found in media reports, in political speeches, even judicial decisions. The implication is always the same: women must manage their sexuality appropriately, or face the risk of violence.
Latest 2 of 160 commentsView all comments
Well, that was a weird weekend. Thousands of regular Australians, plus the usual assortment of activists, went for a nice Sunday stroll to demand their right to pay more tax. Strange days indeed.
The last time Australians took to the streets to protest in numbers so large was the February 2003 rallies to protest Australia’s involvement in Iraq. John Howard duly took no notice, as was his right, and off our troops went.
The interesting thing about the 2003 protests was that the crowds were truly a cross-section of society. There were the old and young, the left and the right, the hardened activists and the first-time protestors. Compare that to the two carbon rallies, where the crowds were totally fractured along political lines. That contrast says a lot about the current state of public debate, and what it says is this:
Latest 2 of 144 commentsView all comments
It’s been a long time since I felt the urge to attend a street protest.
During my youth, I waved so many “real men don’t rape” signs in so many Reclaim the Night marches, I was at risk of suffering placard elbow. These days, I enjoy the fact that it’s possible to engage in social activism from the comfort of one’s swivel chair.
Internet petitions, cyber sloganeering, those web sites that send rice overseas when you check out their ads… Such slacktivist approaches are extremely attractive to the modern revolutionary whose time is short and whose desk-bound dorsal region is lethargic.
Latest 2 of 136 commentsView all comments
Using slut as the flagship word for this new movement puts women in danger through giving men even more license to think about women in a way that suits them, and not as targets of violence and terrible social discrimination.
The global phenomenon that is SlutWalk makes its Australian debut today in Melbourne, with other walks planned for Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
While I support all efforts to challenge violence against women in all its manifestations – my blog is a witness to the global level of that violence – I hesitate to join the marching ranks. I welcome any confrontation with those who would blame the victim in rape. No woman deserves rape or invites sexual assault. I support the basic intention of the march. But I fear it has become more about the right to be ‘a slut’ than about the right to be free from violence.
Latest 2 of 271 commentsView all comments
Embrace your inner (or outer) slut, reclaim the word, reclaim the night, take to the streets. But watch out for the unintended consequences of the planned SlutWalk rallies.
Passionate protestors too often get caught up in their own hype and do themselves and their chosen issue an enormous disservice.
Last week a father who just wanted access to his children instead earned the wrath of a city after his one-man protest closed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and left irate drivers stuck in traffic for hours.
Latest 2 of 324 commentsView all comments
American satirist HL Mencken once observed that democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Witnessing the latest efforts of the reactionary wing of Australian politics to develop a local branch office of the Tea Party, misanthropic as it may seem, one must concede perhaps Mencken had a point.
Of course, over-the-top rallies are not strange occurrences in Australian political life. Labor has been traditionally associated with uncouth Trade Unions demos, the Greens with hippies blockading various environmental degradations, and of course conservative parties show up at various meetings of annoyed farmers and frustrated middle-class types.
Obviously politicians of all stripes try to utilise such groundswells to further their own agendas, rather than the interests of the masses they claim to represent.
Latest 2 of 104 commentsView all comments
There is a central immigration question which never gets answered: Should Australians be asked to live next to people who have sewn their lips together with wire as a protest?
Or put another way: Should they have to share a community with people who, a few months previously, had fought police and destroyed public facilities?
Whether they should or not is still unanswered. But the fact is, they do.
Latest 2 of 187 commentsView all comments
First it was Tunisia’s leader, then Egypt’s. Now the protests in the Middle East seem to have spread to riots in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere, including to the point where the Libyan leader, Mu’amar Qadhafi, is close to being overthrown.
But how valid is the ‘domino theory’ of popular protest? Are we seeing the start of a region-wide collapse of leaders and regimes?
Probably not. One or two more leaders might go: Qadhafi is truly in trouble, as is Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. However real revolutions are rare, and for good reasons.
Latest 2 of 20 commentsView all comments
In the last few days we’ve seen that the rumours of the demise of the green movement in Iran have been greatly exaggerated.
With thousands taking to the streets with chants of ‘Mubarak, Bin Ali – It’s your turn Sayed Ali’, many are asking the question whether Iran be the next Egypt. The simple answer is no.
Iran isn’t the next Egypt. In fact, in a few months it’ll be more likely that Egypt will be the next Iran. To understand what I mean we have to go back a little more than three decades.
Latest 2 of 24 commentsView all comments
The ABC’s London bureau was effectively in mourning when I arrived as a correspondent at the beginning of 1980.
Tony Joyce, a witty, talented and energetic reporter from the bureau, had been shot in the head in Zambia six weeks before.
The pistol bullet ricocheted inside his skull, and the unforgivable behaviour of the Zambian authorities meant that by the time he was medevacced to London, it was too late.
From November 1979 to early February 1980, he was in a coma. On February 3 - exactly 31 years ago - he died.
Latest 2 of 58 commentsView all comments
So, rad times in the Middle East? In the bright light of this historic moment can we assert that the Bush Administration’s neo-cons were partially right: the Middle East was ripe for a series of popular revolutions?
If only they didn’t have to destroy a country, countless people, and potentially the prospect for better relationships between the West and the region in attempting to prove it.
The farcical aspect of popular demonstrations in the Middle East is that although Western Governments and observers have for years mused about the notional benefits of individual will being translated into national policy through some nice democratic practices, the instant any such thing becomes a remote possibility, westerners start getting anxious.
Latest 2 of 100 commentsView all comments
“Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”
These infamous words of Patrick Henry resonated throughout the Western world and described in a nutshell man’s yearning for freedom.
This is also true in Tunisia, where Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26 year old university graduate who could not find work nor feed his family, sparked ‘The Jasmine Revolution’ by setting himself alight in protest to the now former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime. This protest sparked action in Egypt, which is now facing its largest uprising in three decades. There are reports of dozens of deaths.
Latest 2 of 56 commentsView all comments
The aims of any public rally or protest generally are to: draw attention to the cause, build public support, and secure a favourable response by authorities.
Australian protesters regularly score well on the first because protesters have an excellent sense of when cameras are likely to be in the vicinity, and that slogans and large, TV friendly signs and props will be useful to those editing the evening news bulletins.
But on the other two aims Australian protests are in something of a rut. Increasingly the numbers of people at public rallies are grimly thin and feature people and slogans that are more likely to inspire puzzlement than passion. This was brilliantly evidenced by two protests in Sydney this week - one which involved a mock kangaroo funeral and another calling for the Reserve Bank to drop rates - both of which were attended by only a handful of protesters. They were extreme examples but underscored the malaise affecting the wider culture of public protest in modern Australia.
Latest 2 of 40 commentsView all comments
Most people have no sympathy for hunger strikers - they think they’re crazy.
Peter Spencer is into his seventh week of a hunger strike but he isn’t crazy, he’s just had enough.
He’s so fed up with his lot in life, he’s ready to die.
Latest 2 of 147 commentsView all comments
You’ve got to hand it to those Americans. For them, there is much more to democracy than theory. It’s there to be practised and even better if it can be done in the streets.
A now-ageing generation took democracy to the streets and forced the politicians to bring an unpopular war in Vietnam to an end. And against the odds they changed America and world history campaigning for civil rights laws that paved the way for a black American president.
And though small in number by comparison, those freedom-of-speech loving Americans were back in Washington streets at the weekend to protest against the policies of that same black president.
Latest 2 of 12 commentsView all comments
People are dying on the streets of Iran, which isn’t surprising. Iran seems to have ended up as both a theocracy and a military dictatorship, and neither forms of government are known for their permissiveness to public disorder.
So why are rioters still bothering? Even if you dislodge the latter, you won’t get rid of the former. And lets keep in mind that Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s reformist colleague and friend Mohammad Khatami had two terms as president and the mullahs- the real power in Iran- let him reform but very and little.
Khatami even found that while he held the highest elected office in the land, governmental agents were still murdering other reformists. And even after he found out about it, he couldn’t stop it. So I ask again, why bother? And why now? I think the answer is maturation and technology, but also pride.
Latest 1 of 1 commentView all comments
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…