End of September!

It has been an odd month for this blog, what with my relocation to Wollongong and all that went with that.

The top posts so far have been:

  1. Home page 779 views in September
  2. Cool thoughts on a hot topic 118
  3. Know your friends 112
  4. Nostalgia and the globalising world – f 83
  5. Things to like about Wollongong – 2 47
  6. The Rainbow Warrior 39
  7. Election 2010 next Saturday 36
  8. Has school bullying increased? 33
  9. Kinder, gentler polity… Um? What 29
  10. Claims that refugees and asylum seekers 28
  11. Bloody frogs 23
  12. Blogging Sydney’s Olympic Year 2000 23
  13. BHP boss dumps on future of coal 22
  14. SameSame’s "10 gay films you must see" 21
  15. You’ve seen views from the window 21

Atheists on the NY mosque

This item from 3 Quarks Daily caught my eye:


…We atheists are particularly well placed to speak to public matters concerning religious tolerance.  As we have no religion of our own, atheists are especially well practiced at tolerating religion.  More importantly, atheists are also keenly attuned to the importance of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience for a democratic society.  And the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque is a clash over these very principles. Our view is that those who oppose the Mosque have abandoned fundamental principles at the core of the form of constitutional democracy originated by the United States…

By calling the terrorist acts of 9/11 “extremist,” we in part affirm that they were based on a distorted conception of the Muslim faith.  People who oppose the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” deny this; again, they accept the terrorists’ conception of Islam.  In doing so, they adopt a crucial component of the terrorists’ view of the world, namely, that a just and peaceful society of persons of different, and even opposed, religious faiths is not possible.  Once that position is accepted, the foundation of constitutional democracy is abandoned, and theocracy– the view that social justice and peace is possible only among a people living under a single religious authority– is embraced.  Popular opposition to the so-called Mosque, though most frequently portrayed as an expression of uncompromising patriotism, actually requires a betrayal of core commitments of American democracy.  What a disgrace…

Eminently sensible.

Sunday in Waterloo and Surry Hills

I spent yesterday in my old haunts, travelling up by express bus since the trains aren’t running because of track work.


At South Sydney Uniting Church some nice words of farewell were  said to me, and I joined birthday celebrations for the amazing Julie McCrossin (left) and Nicole Fleming. That’s Nicole on the right. Naomi, a carer, is in the centre.


After that lunch at The Trinity Bar with Sirdan and P. Then to Central Station for another express bus home.


I sat next to a very nice young man who warned me about half-way into the journey that he was about to vomit, having had the foresight to bring his own plastic  bag for the purpose. When we arrived in Wollongong I congratulated him for vomiting so quietly and discreetly.

Other people’s ideas again

Not that I don’t have any of my own, but what with the move to Wollongong and all I have been disinclined to do too much thinking. 😉 I do have some book notes coming up soon, however.

1. An oldie but a goodie

Not that this article from UK’s Prospect is old, but the controversy has been rattling around for a couple of decades.

Efforts to make education more "relevant" to black people can be both patronising and harmful. The western literary canon should be taught to everyone.

In 2007 a home affairs select committee produced a report about young black boys in the criminal justice system, calling for the department for education and schools to consult with black community groups to make the curriculum more relevant—and to find “content which interests and empowers young black people.” We can safely assume they were not talking about Ovid, Chaucer or Shakespeare.

Sadly, the canon has a serious image problem amongst black people, too. Many see it as the preserve of white public schoolboys, taught in fusty classrooms by doddery Oxbridge tutors. We have been led to see it as whitey’s birthright, not ours. Meanwhile anti-racist educationalists and black community leaders rail against a racist curriculum which does not meet the cultural needs of their students, with some calling for “black schools” in which black culture—rather than an elite white culture—can be taught.

But the literary canon should not be the preserve of any one race. As both a writer of colour and an ardent (but not uncritical) devotee of the canon, I have little time for people who say that black people cannot relate to books written 2,000 years ago by a bunch of dead white guys, or that Maya Angelou is better than Shakespeare. This denies us our shared humanity across racial divides.

Dead white men, the pillars of the western canon, remain supremely relevant to black people in the 21st century, because their concerns are universal. At its best, the canon elucidates the eternal truths at the heart of the human condition. It addresses our common humanity, irrespective of our melanin quotient. Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens—all male, all very white and all undeniably very dead. But would anyone be so foolish as to deny their enduring importance? Beoethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Boccacio’s Decameron or Pico’s Oration On The Dignity of Man are as germane to black people as they are to white. There is no apartheid in the philosophical musings of Cicero, no racial segregation in the cosmic grandeur of Dante and no ethnic oppression in the amorous sonnets of Shakespeare. These works can, if given the chance, speak as much to Leroy in Peckham or Shaniqua in the South Bronx as they can to Quentin in the home counties…

I think I agree, but with the proviso that we all can benefit from greater acquaintance with the works of non-Western cultures too. Dead Chinese males (and females) for example…

2. Ask, Don’t Tell

The idiots have set back the inevitable end of this absurd policy in the US military. Here in Oz it went some time ago. I am pleased to see Sojourners, an Evangelical US site, being sensible on this.

“After more than 50 years in the military and politics, I am still amazed to see how upset people can get over nothing. Lifting the ban on gays in the military isn’t exactly nothing, but it’s pretty damned close.”

It took me quite a bit of searching to verify who that quote was from.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but as I read more, it made sense.  It’s Senator Barry Goldwater.  After I figured that out, I spent a while on Wikipedia trying to figure out if there were any other possible Barry Goldwater that this quote could have come from.  But no … it was from the late conservative icon and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

How could this be?  Goldwater explained, “The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people’s private lives. Government governs best when it governs least — and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone’s version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays.”

But, wouldn’t ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ be sufficient to meet this military veteran and small government conservatives criteria?  No.  He said, “I served in the armed forces. I have flown more than 150 of the best fighter planes and bombers this country manufactured. I founded the Arizona National Guard. I chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I think it’s high time to pull the curtains on this charade of policy. What should undermine our readiness would be a compromise policy like ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ That compromise doesn’t deal with the issue — it tries to hide it.”…

That will surprise many.

3. The West should stop panicking

Aron Paul on ABC Unleashed:

Lately the ‘West’ – a loaded term in itself – has reached a crescendo of civilisational panic.

The Bishop of Rome was in Great Britain trying to whip up a frenzy of fear over atheism and Muslims. The French president was banning burqas and deporting gypsies. Americans were rallying against, and for, a mosque in New York.

All over the remains of European Christendom the old racial anxieties are coming to the fore under the pressures of economic recession, and reactionaries are riding the wave.

The panic is not confined, sadly, to the reactionaries and fundamentalists. Eric Kauffman’s new book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth would have secular liberals in the West panicking as well. Taking the ‘demography is king’ argument, he claims that secularism is doomed because religious people breed more and secular women do not.

One would expect secularists at least would rise above the race baiting and racial anxieties that drive the hysteria of the beleaguered Christo-European racial and religious supremacists. But no, apparently even reasonable people are to fear the continued demographic growth of the ‘non-Western’ world.

The crux of Kauffman’s argument is after all, that his version of the ‘West’ is going to be swamped, just as the Christo-European supremacists also panic in much the same terms that they too are going to be swamped by the monolithic ‘East’ of their imaginings…

So, Mount Keira is of significance to the Dharawal…

Not at all surprising. One of the books I borrowed from Wollongong Library yesterday, when I joined, is a history of the area. More on that later.

View from Bulli Lookout

Crown St Wollongong .004

Photos at Chilby Photography, where there are also many interesting facts.

According to the Alcheringa, the dreaming of the local Aboriginal peoples, Mount Keira is Geera, the daughter of Oola-boola-woo, the West Wind. The story of the creation of Mount Keira is tied to the creation of the Five Islands, which sit just off the Wollongong coast. In the story, Oola-boola-woo had six daughters, Mimosa, Wilga, Lilli Pilli, Wattle, Clematis and Geera. They lived a-top the Illawarra escarpment, and one by one the first five children misbehaved, raising the ire of Oola-boola-woo, who cast them and the stone beneath them out to see, forming the Five Islands. Geera, who was now the only child left on their escarpment home, had no one to play with and no one to talk to as her father was often away. Geera spent all day sitting, hunched over and watching the camps of the local Aboriginal people and looking out to sea at her five sisters. Eventually she turned to stone, dust and leaves building up around her until she became a part of the escarpment. She is known today as Mount Keira. Local aboriginal legends told of Mount Kembla and Mount Keira being sisters and the Five Islands being daughters of the wind.