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Platypus
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« on: October 21, 2011, 08:09:47 am »
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Please read both parts before responding. Please respond Wink

Politics of me.

My mother's sister married into an 'old family', drives a BMW, lives in East Malvern (with a holiday house in Sorrento), sent her two sons to Scotch College, where her husband went to school, and where they got married, and was the 2010-11 President of her Rotary Branch. Uncle Mike was President in 2004-5. She trained as a nurse, and has worked on and off in the field, focussing most particularly on aged care. She is warmhearted, highly motivated, loving and smart. She votes Liberal every election, largely because she hates Labor, and believes that 'The Slap' was unforgiveable. I love her very much, but don't understand her at all.

I have lived a privileged life in many ways. I was born to two loving parents, I attended the very best schools, I have had the ability to travel throughout my state, country and the world. I'm fortunate enough to be a white male, living in Australia in 2011, and while I wouldn't go so far as to classify myself as typical upper-middle class, I read the Age, watch ABC on Monday nights, don't know anyone named Raelene, and know that one uses cutlery from the outside inwards.

My political beliefs are formed by the past events in my life, the circumstances of location, my parents, my education, and an inherent fascination with alternatives to the status quo.

When I was young, my mother wrote three books, while working in an emergency department of a major Melbourne hospital. One was a children's book, about an old man who had been to war many years ago and was reminiscing, with exposition from a young boy, about the horrors of war and the beauty of camaraderie. The second was a collection of interviews with Australian POWs under the Japanese, at Changi, in the various Borneo camps, and on the Thai-Burma railway. These two books reflect well on her political compass. Truly compassionate conservatism. She now votes for the Greens. The third book was written for me and my sister alone. It was about 60 pages long, and explained what was happening with her breast cancer. She found a lump in her left breast, and they promptly removed a 5cm2 section of her breast, millimeters from her heart and lung. They then removed most of the rest of her breast and her lymphnodes. She underwent chemotherapy, during which she started her book, which has now been lost, and then radiotherapy, during which she completed it. Her radiotherapy burnt her left side to a mottled black and maroon crisp, but she kept her once sleek, long black hair in shorter form.

I was 12. She recovered, and we sold the family home of over 100 years and moved 700m across the suburb to a newly built townhouse, across the street from a cricket oval with city views, and 350m from the beach. Mum still lives here, and for now, I'm back here. Two years before we moved in here, my brother had fathered a child and cut all ties to our family, which was just a little bit mutual. I have seen him once in the interceding years, he didn't recognise me. In our time in the new house, my mother created and ran a small business. She worked her bum off and did quite well until she discovered that the books had been cooked for five years by her business partner. She then went back to nursing briefly, and then in to strategic planning for healthcare. During this time she had two heart attacks. She believes 'The Slap' was justified. So do I.

There's plenty more family history, much of it relevant, but I'll skip almost anything to do with my father because if I give one sentence, it would require a further 50, and he has had less affect on my political beliefs. I'll give him three sentences, and hopefully it isn't woefully insufficient. My father is an architect at heart and by trade, and grew up in a family of 6, in a house of 15. He's terminally ill, drinks about 1.5-2 litres of white wine a day from a cardboard box, and believes that if any religion isn't evil, it's probably Buddhism. Dad designed hospitals, and was the best in the world in his field, I can say as fact and with conviction, something he would say in his own way reasonably often. His father was a teetotaller, completely irreligious, a mechanic and a truly good man; he died 8 days ago; they'd had about ten conversations over 61 years which for Bartlett men is pretty high.

We have known real hardship.

We have been incredibly fortunate.

I believe that those who can help, must. I believe that the government should do as little coercion as possible. I'm a tax and spender, and I really, really, really hate social engineering. I believe 15 year old boys should be allowed to look at any type of porn they want, and that pron companies shouldn't exist. I believe that guns should be banned and seatbelts should be mandatory, but I am aware that this is somewhat ideologically contradictory to believing that alcohol shouldn't be taxed more than any other product and that cars should have incredibly high emission standards. I believe that there is no excuse whatsoever for my city not to have the best schools, hospitals, roads and cops in the world and that it's worth taxing to get it. I believe that overly taxing the rich hurts business investment and that trickle-down economics works. I believe that overly taxing the poor causes more pain than gain, and that the government's role is, more than anything else, to let adults lead adult lives in the best circumstances possible without curtailing their freedoms.

So, the line must be drawn. When is it too much curtailing of freedom? When is it too little taxation, too little funding, too much oversight, not enough laws to keep me safe, too many laws to allow me to live?

Abortion is morally reprehensible if you have the ability to have a healthy child, but every woman who feels unready to have a baby should have the right to termination.

Religion has no place in our schools, but is perfectly valid in our politics.

Inheritance tax is every bit as unjust as the GST, because both unfairly affect a particular segment of society.

F the farmers' subsidies, protect their water rights. Fix the environment, don't harm the mining industry. Encourage private health insurance, have the best public hospitals, don't tread on me, provide me with the luxuries I want, save Father Bob, Save the Whales, Save on interest repayments, don't build mcmansions, provide affordable housing, have a humane refugee policy, stop the Islamic ghettoisation, increase ties with Asia, increase our military capacity to f Asia up, Keep the US as our big and powerful friend, ditch the FTA, eschew American culture and spelling, keep sport on free TV, bid for the Olympics, get schoolkids to play a sport, but don't you DARE tell me what to do. Make my life easy, don't force me to make it better.




...Life and politics is full of contradictions.



My high school was the second best in the state. The girl's version was better, academically anyway. We had about 6 students per computer in 2005, wore woolen blazers, had a $2200 voluntary fee, and all the students were nerds. Every fortnight or so Pauline Hanson or Phillip Ruddock or Malcolm Fraser or Christine Nixon or John Brumby would come to one of our lecture rooms at lunchtime and have a chat with a few of the students. Andrew Bolt got a capacity room, as did Bob Brown; the Mexican consul got about 20, Marise Payne maybe 12. Beforehand, 6 members of the Political Interest Group, PIG, would serve a few light refreshments and have a chat. I was one of that group a few times, and had the pleasure of a genuine conversation with some of the political movers and shakers of mid-noughties Victoria and Australia. Tim Costello is a prick, Peter Costello is a top bloke. At least, that's how they were on the day. But the one that stands out was Peter Garrett. This was before the 2004 election, when he was involved with the Australian Conservation Society or somesuch. Ms. Wilson, a sarcastic and bitter socialist, was the teacher chaperon, and the other PIGs were all white (except Anthony, who was actually Antonios), in a school that was probably 60% non-Euro background. Peter Garrett asked us why, and everyone gave conciliatory excuses, and I said nothing. The conversation moved on, through conservation to refugees and then to some interesting legal issue at the time, and Garrett asked us if we all wanted to be lawyers and what we were planning on doing at uni. 4 said Arts/Law at Melbourne Uni, one said something about going and teaching sport at a British boarding school for a year, and then doing Arts/Law at Melbourne, and I said I wasn't quite sure but I knew it would be at ANU.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2011, 08:27:11 am by No aphrodisiac like Platypus »Logged

Platypus
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2011, 08:11:17 am »
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Garrett smiled and talked about his days at ANU. He encouraged me to avoid Burgmann (I did) and John's (I didn't), talked about how much of a hole Canberra was, and then asked me if I really wanted to escape my parents that much. We all laughed, especially Ms. Wilson, who had a particular soft spot for my mother, from various events mum had been involved in with the school.

Mum knew much more than I did the value of my education.

I got defensive and the conversation moved on, but a few months later, I realised he was right. My inner turmoil was not artistic or existential or even really political, but it existed and I had known for some time that I needed to escape my loving family. I had also recently confirmed myself as homosexual, and even now I still sometimes think my sexuality might have been misaligned by a teenage desire to be different. Then I remember how much I actually like men, but still. I was fat then (and am now) and socially rather awkward, but this was hidden from me by the fact that almost everyone in my school was socially awkward, and I had fundamentally good facial genes (and still do). I joined the forum around about this time, and when I read my 2004-2005 posts, beyond the typos, I cringe at how awkward I was. I'm sure in time I'll find this post just as cringe-worthy.

I went overseas in 2006, 18, straight out of school, and with far too little money and even less idea. I went to South America, a destination chosen because I wanted to be different. Almost bad, but not actually in danger. I loved it, and it changed me very, very much. I spent a month broke and with the flu in Buenos Aires. I pleaded with Argentinean cops and vomited in a Santiago gutter. Violently. I used cocaine at a gay bar and sat in parks all day talking with students occupying their schools for weeks over a small jump in the transit fares. I saw Perito Moreno at dawn, narrowly avoided rape at the hands of a 50 year old ex-Israeli Army parachutist, lost my passport, found my passport, got my passport stamped, spent 12 hours touring Montevideo with a small band of Seventh Day Adventists, discovered Ham and Cheese Ice Cream, got stuck off the coast of Patagonia in a small boat surrounded by a pod of whales, climbed the Andes, spent a week moping about in Cordoba, became a smoker, lost 25kg, almost got a tattoo, saw skinny, angry, stray dogs underneath brand new 50-floor skyscrapers, ate the world's worst pizza and vomited in a Rosario toilet. Violently. Unrelated to the pizza.


When I got back I went to uni, lived on campus (JOHNS BOY FOR LIFE!!11!!), studied just enough to pass, ran a national student conference for queers (do not recommend. At all. Entitled queer activists in their early twenties are the worst people on earth), got screwed over financially, worked in my third fish and chip shop (note: this is the only time I'm mentioning work, so I'll expand a little bit: I have worked in awful jobs for crap pay on long hours, but I've also been funded at times by my parents, as I am now. I truly know the value of a dollar and the meaning of hard work, and I also know that if I fall there's someone to catch me, for better or worse.) Then my dad got ill so I moved home for his final weeks, which has now become his final months and even years.




I have been naive, and in many ways I suppose I still am, but I am certain I am no longer one of those who feels they are entitled, as so many of my peers do. And yet, my political views still focus on my entitlements and rights.


Life and politics are full of contradictions.



My auntie and I share a favourite quote, made quite recently by the President of the Illinois Wesleyan University, Minor Myers Jr, and spread throughout the world by feel-good cards of quotable quotes. "Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good."

I still see the world as a good place. I see myself as a good person. My family is a good family, and my nation is truly the goodest of nations which has given me the goodest of opportunities. First discover the right and the good. Too easy. Don't ignore the bad. Try and fix the world, think global and act local. Blah blah.



I have voted for a Liberal, because I have met her and am aware of the work she does for her constituents and in her portfolios. I also consider one of her worker bees to be a friend. I usually vote for Labor though, and it's for the same reason my auntie votes Liberal. We want our lives to be better, in a better society, How we see society is different, based on our circumstances, but at the end of the day, we're do-gooders. I might be a somewhat socialist gay twentysomething, and she might be a little bit fascistic in her late fifties. I'd never get married in the Scotch chapel and she doesn't think I should be able to get married anywhere. But for both her and I, and my father and mother, and most of those I call friends, our political views are based on doing good for our society, and that's why I am so very very glad to be an Australian, a Bartlett, a friend to my friends, an occasional volunteer, and a small-m man of the world. Big-M is to come.

Life and politics are contradictions, and so my political ideology is this: Opportunity to be brilliant, no coercion to be anything.

I hope to be consistent with it. Thanks for reading.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2011, 08:22:40 pm by No aphrodisiac like Platypus »Logged

afleitch
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« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2011, 09:44:21 am »
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That is quite refreshing to read.

I think your family are always your immediate influences on your politics to which you either conform, rebel or progress from. In my family I'm sort of 'Mr Opposite'; gay not striaght, Tory not Labour, atheist not Catholic, but my beliefs are less of a 'rebellion' and more of a progression; we broadly believe in the same things and in the same values but express them differently or believe that they are better defended or upheld by a different philosophy. Much of that comes down to my experience. My parents never went to university but did go to college as adults; they married and had kids at a young age, I've not. I don't have the same reverence for 'Labour and the working class' or the social bonds of the church or anything like that.

I had more time to think. I think that's something our generation is very privileged to have.
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« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2011, 01:10:55 pm »
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We all react, in one way or another, to our backgrounds and experiences. And it's usually the latter that can explain why people from the same family often have such divergent political views. There's nothing wrong (absolutely nothing wrong at all) in talking about it, so long as you try to maintain a certain sense of self-awareness and try to fight against the temptation to head into solipsism. On balance I think you've done both, while also managing to say something about the society that you come from (even if that wasn't the intention).

I will now proceed to make random comments on and off for a while (perhaps).

and believes that 'The Slap' was unforgiveable.

What's that a reference to? I know there's a recent Australian novel with that name, so does it reference that, some political event or something else?
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« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2011, 07:21:10 pm »
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Thanks for the comments, guys.

'The Slap' was a widely acclaimed book written by Cristos Tsiolkas that has just been turned into a miniseries on the ABC. The slap itself involved an adult man slapping a young boy who had been obnoxious all day at a barbecue, and came as the boy was swinging around a cricket bat with force, and had almost hit the man's son in the head.

------------

There are about 1500 words I want to add, and may do so, and there is a bit of editing to do as well, but the basic aims have already been met: provide an insight into my own political beliefs and their causes on this forum, which I have now been a member of for seven years; to discuss in personal terms the politics of Australia; and to remind myself of my inconsistencies and fundamental drivers.

I'll elaborate a little bit on my class background, as much as it exists in Australia. My father's grandfather had been the wealthiest man in one of the poorest urban areas in newly federated Australia. He served as the local mayor in Port, owned a huge chunk of the neighbourhood, and was certainly the biggest bookie in the southern hemisphere, and genuinely possibly the world. He was a major funder of two hospitals, one Catholic and one public, never kicked anyone out of their home, and lost almost all of his money in the mid 1920s. He left what remained of his money, which was still somewhat significant, to three sons. Two of them went through it all in half a decade, and my great-grandfather didn't.

His son, my grandfather, was very, very frugal. Except when buying biscuits. He wore his father's clothes, bought a home in the suburbs (Ivanhoe), and worked hard. He married my grandmother, Edna King-Jones, the daughter of a sizeable and somewhat notable Welsh family in Port Melbourne, and they had four children during and after the second world war. Over the years he owned his own business, worked for the RACV, was involved in motor racing, and loved his football team very very much. Their house was home to the six of them, and up to 14 others at times, from dad's cousins and aunties and uncles, to the next door neighbour's boys, and rather surprisingly to me, a couple of Japanese exchange students.

Basically, they were somewhere between the privileged poor and the middle class, but I can't really define the Bartlett place within society's strata. The most fundamental characteristics are the importance of 'the right', also more do-gooding, and a family-wide rejection of the mundane without attachment to the material.

Mum's parents competed in doubles at the Australian open, collected ivory figurines, lived on Nauru for a decade or two (when they sent her to boarding school at 8 years old), and were both the poorest siblings of wealthy families, whose parents were the same. Grandpa John's father was a priest in NE Victoria, Grandy's family were the direct line to some Scottish estate but had moved to Australia.

In short, both middle class, both from divergent backgrounds.

Shortly after I was born, the company my father was a major director of, Yuncken Freeman, went bust, and we went into a tonne of debt. Between then and now, that my father's life insurance and super has been released due to his illness, we have really rather poor, in the middle class sense. There have been months at a time when the food budget was $20 a week for the six of us, but there have also been holidays around the state and overseas, and private schools for my two half brothers (one from each of my parents' first marriages), and good fortune with property. We have been exposed to the richer side of Melbourne, and have lived in what was once a slum and a community and is now a gentrified  yuppie playground with no character. All this time we have known we aren't part of either group, but also not the suburban ideal of middle class. On weekends we played hockey, on weeknights we watched the ABC, and on the holidays we'd stay at someone's beach house.

I don't intend to give the impression this was somehow truly difficult, it wasn't. I guess what I am intending to say with the above posts and this is that in many respects we are a typical product of our location and times, and in others we have formed through quite particular circumstances. I have seen my mother saved by one of the best cancer hospitals in the world; a hospital she and my father helped build. I have seen the affects of depression, I remember bailiffs coming to our front door, and I've had a personal insight into a variety of issues.

I don't believe that my politics can be neatly capsuled into any ideology, and I think that's somewhat atypical.

I also don't mean to be arrogant or far too self-analytical, nor to bore you all, so I'll stop for now and might edit some of this post into the finished 'essay'. I also think afleitch's final line is rather apt for me to use here: "I had more time to think. I think that's something our generation is very privileged to have."

It also means we have more time to write, but I think I've used it up now. Wink
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« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2011, 10:02:02 pm »
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At the rick of being offensive, yyur South American tour--wow! Now thats a good story you could sell.
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2011, 08:25:16 pm »
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I'm planning to go back next year and write a book, actually. "The South American Diet", which will be one third travel guide, one third cookbook, and one third memoir/travelogue.

I'll sell it to American housewives and make squillions. Maybe.
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2011, 09:19:54 pm »
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Hugh, excellent posts and thanks for sharing. For me it was a really engaging summary of what makes someone tick. 
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« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2011, 03:43:40 pm »
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I'm planning to go back next year and write a book, actually. "The South American Diet", which will be one third travel guide, one third cookbook, and one third memoir/travelogue.

I'll sell it to American housewives and make squillions. Maybe.

Sell it to the BBC and you get to recreate the trip with a camera crew Wink
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2011, 06:35:53 pm »
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It's a great post Hugh... well, set of posts.

I think we're all full of contradictions, I mean, I cringe when I see how much tax gets taken out of my pay. But I was raised with the idea that 'those who have, have a moral responsibility to those who don't" - and honestly the 'every man for himself' mentality of many makes me feel quite sick.
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2011, 08:02:55 pm »
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Patrick: Thank you. I'd be interested in reading a similar offering from you one day Smiley

Afleitch: Not a bad idea, but I think the book idea will make me more money in the long run Cheesy

Polnut: Thanks to you also. The third one is not an official part of it, but I might heavily edit it into the whole shemozzle. As for the contradictions, you're right that we all have them, I just think far too many of us (worldwide, Australians, young people) fail to realise that Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2011, 08:06:57 pm »
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Patrick: Thank you. I'd be interested in reading a similar offering from you one day Smiley

Afleitch: Not a bad idea, but I think the book idea will make me more money in the long run Cheesy

Polnut: Thanks to you also. The third one is not an official part of it, but I might heavily edit it into the whole shemozzle. As for the contradictions, you're right that we all have them, I just think far too many of us (worldwide, Australians, young people) fail to realise that Smiley

Actually, I think younger people are more in-tune to that concept than most.

For all of the bitching and moaning about Gen-Y - we're the least politically active when it comes to political parties... buuuut were are EXTREMELY vocal and active when it comes to political issues.

Young people tend to want to get rid of the labels of left and right, because they realise that the entirety of their world view doesn't fit within that.
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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2011, 08:26:29 pm »
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Young people tend to want to get rid of the labels of left and right

Do they?
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2011, 08:34:52 pm »
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Young people tend to want to get rid of the labels of left and right

Do they?

Not all, but many tend to not like the labels...
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« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2011, 10:26:35 pm »
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Not all, but many tend to not like the labels...

And their parents all loved labels in that sense...? Hmm... if that was the case, how do we explain the rise of 'new' parties (of various shades of both politics and 'newness') in the 1970s and 1980s, many of which explicitly rejected labels like left and right? There is, of course, a tendency to assume that in 'the past' everyone knew what they were and thought, dressed, shopped, played and voted accordingly. It's not actually true though, even if such people were (obviously!) more common in 1951 than 2011.
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Richard Hoggart 1918-2014
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« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2011, 03:11:24 am »
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Interesting read, Hugh. I think we are probably quite similar in terms of outlook, although I seem to fall on the right side of centre as opposed to the left, like you (then again, that might be perception of where those spots are, coming from Sweden rather than Australia).

I like the idea of viewing basic politics as something potentially spanning the (normal) political spectrum. I have a similar idea myself.
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« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2011, 05:15:45 pm »
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A nice series of posts, comrade. You're a great writer, too - write more!
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