Random items on Queen’s Birthday

Let’s start there, as it is a good news story! Yes, it is the Queen’s OFFICIAL birthday and the local version of the Honours List is out. I am pleased to see a familiar Wollongong face — my boss 40 years or so ago.

Rex Cook still keeps in touch with students he first taught when he started teaching at Grafton High School back in 1950. The love and affection these students, many of whom are aged in their 70s and 80s, still have for her father, is one of the reasons Wendy Cook-Burrows nominated Mr Cook for an OAM.

She said the 92-year-old Mount Ousley man was “gobsmacked” when notified of his OAM for service to the community of Wollongong, and to education….

And I taught Wendy back then too…

Next: Getty Images has released a set of slides claiming to be Australia’s oldest. This one is particularly evocative, though there are no details of its provenance.

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Now to the weird and wonderful present. China Daily has posted this on Twitter, probably with due glee:

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Yes indeed. Read Donald Trump adviser says ‘special place in hell’ for Justin Trudeau as White House steps up G7 row (not from China Daily.) I for my part am considering joining the Justin Trudeau Fan Club! After all, his country is a fellow Commonwealth member!

And we are all on tenterhooks with eyes on Singapore now. I hope the famous one-minute body language reader reads correctly. (Maybe I should warn him that if a Korean gives you full eye contact it is not necessarily a good sign, despite our western assumptions.)

. Looking just past the person’s face is generally the norm from what I’ve noticed. I don’t think you need to stress over the occasional direct glance, but you should be careful about “gazing”, or staring directly into someone’s eyes for a long period of time. It’s considered challenging and possibly even aggressive, depending on circumstance.

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Body language and cultural differences

One of the most amazing spectacles provided by Donald Trump is his body language. I have never seen anything quite like it. We all recall President Macron’s experiences:

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See also The Awkward Body Language of Donald Trump.

Sacred texts have received less scrupulous analysis than Trump’s foreign-leader handshakes, his presidential-debate snorts (remember those?) and the reactions — aghast, awe-struck, puzzled, peeved — of those who bump up against (or happen to be married to) him.

It just may be that this is relevant to things happening lately. The whole area of the physical in cross-cultural communication is one business people and teachers of English soon encounter. It can be fascinating and often far more important than we at first realise. See 20 Cultural Mistakes to Avoid in Korea.

Here is an amusing example from my own experience. I took this photo in a Surry Hills pub in 1990.

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At the time I was working in an English Language college. Rui, on the left, was a scientist from China; Mr Kim, on the right, had been in the Korean military. Great guys, both of them. The Korean cultural habit of grabbing the leg of a companion in order to show friendliness is clearly not a Chinese custom. The photo is not a set-up! I saw what was going on and snapped it for my own amusement, and later shared it with the two in the pic, who also found it amusing…

This post is very honest and interesting. I haven’t been to Korea, but back in 1990 I did encounter what can happen if a Korean feels he/she has lost face. I wonder if Donald Trump ever takes such things into account? Maybe he does….

Every culture has social cues and norms that are implicitly understood.  Korea has more of those than the West.  Westerners, in comparison to Koreans, are brutally direct, particularly in the workplace, and that applies to Americans most specifically.  Koreans have no problem telling you that you look like a fat ass or that your face is melting due to old age/lack of plastic surgery, but they will generally skirt the issues at work or really when anything is important.  You’re just expected to understand, which makes being a newbie here more than a bit difficult at times.  By contrast, I feel that expectations in the West are more direct, which is helpful when you don’t really know the expectations in the first place.

Many foreigners here are left with the impression that Koreans expect them to be mind readers.  This is sort of true.  They expect the same of Koreans, but it is marginally easier when you’re at least dealing with your own culture.  The lack of planning and subtle social cues that Koreans drop don’t really do the job for most Westerners.  The Koreans can’t understand why the foreigner didn’t pick up what to them amounts to an obvious cue, and the poor little waeguk ends up thinking that Koreans are insane, never mind disorganized flounders who can’t tell up from down.  Which is kind of true sometimes.

For my part, I’ve gotten used to many of the aspects of “face” and trying to save it in Korea.  I’ve learned to pick up on a lot of the Korean social cues.  I can read between the lines when my boss says certain things.  “Student A is taking a break” means “Student A quit and probably won’t be back.”  Sometimes the student is legitimately on a break, but most of the time, they never reappear….

Grotesque spectacle? I rather think it was…

I refer to this account by Michelle Goldberg of the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

…The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.

Religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.

This spectacle, geared toward Donald Trump’s Christian American base, coincided with a massacre about 80 kilometres away….

Indeed, indeed.

See also Philip Williams, Trump’s embassy opening in Jerusalem is a warm embrace for Israel but a strategic blow for Palestinian hopes.

 

Noted en passant…

You may have noticed I am tending to the visual lately, rather than adding my two cents worth on what excites the news watcher. Today an exception.

First: Israel, Iran, Trumpery and all. You may care to visit some of my older thoughts first: for example (2009) — Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible?

I am not, never have been, a fan of Mr Netanyahu. This is a sentiment I have shared over the years with a number of Jews and Israelis, so I am not alone. I found his propaganda Powerpont on Iran’s nukes sick-making, but not in the way he wanted. Rather, see in Foreign Policy (USA) Bibi’s Infomercial for the Iran Deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dog and pony show on Monday, in which he displayed a trove of documents from Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, had an audience of precisely one. It was part of a coordinated effort with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to kill the Iran nuclear deal. And, if you don’t know anything about Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, perhaps it was persuasive.

But if you do — if you happen to have a blog called Arms Control Wonk, for example — you will have heard it all before. There was nothing new in Netanyahu’s presentation, at least nothing that would change someone’s mind about the nuclear deal. In fact, Netanyahu’s presentation works as an advertisement for the pact he was trying to take down….

Unfortunately he probably scored big with his target audience. Do read that whole item. Not the first “dodgy dossier” we’ve seen, is it?

You might also like to read about Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal.

And now for something completely different, and very pleasing: Encounter made me realise I was wrong to oppose Safe Schools! Catherine McGregor, bless you!

I believe in God. I am a deeply flawed Christian. Yet, as scripture tells us so are we all. Redemption came from an unlikely quarter last week.

I worked with two trans men on the show along with two gay actors. One young trans man told me how much he resented me for my stance on Safe Schools in 2016 and for my life as a soldier. He found me incomprehensible. A fascist at best. And a tool of the Australian Christian Lobby in its vile war on trans people at worst.

It could easily have escalated into the pointless dialogue of the deaf that dominates Twitter. Hate uncluttered by reason. But we hugged and chatted. We are now dear friends. His name is Charles O’Grady….

Even more to my chagrin, I failed to anticipate the ammunition I offered to those like Miranda Devine and Lyle Shelton who refuse outright to accept the reality and legitimacy of trans identity.

They purr reassuringly about not wanting kids to make irrevocable mistakes before puberty. Currently, they are providing a platform for a charlatan with no medical qualifications whose position is that all trans identity is “broken” and must be lovingly “reversed”. His qualifications are in “religious freedom” and “political science”….

Safe School supporters and protesters clash in Canberra in August 2017.

Again, I am proud to refer you to a post or three of my own, such as 2016’s Show some backbone, PM!

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers….

Well, probably back to photos next time….

 

As the Year of the Dog starts….

Happy Lunar New Year to all concerned. I note that The Rabbit (oddly perhaps) is a dog-year person. He has indeed confirmed this in recent years, having become a greyhound rescuer and more…. So on the Dog Year see Chinese New Year 2018.

But my mind is exercised, as many must be, with that dreadful shooting in Florida. It isn’t enough to say it is an act of evil, because some lessons seem crystal clear to me at least.

See also John Barron on ABC News (Australia).

The facts about America and guns

  • There are almost as many guns (300 million) in the US as people (population: 323 million). This is twice as many guns per capita as 50 years ago.
  • Americans represent 4.5 per cent of the world’s population yet own 48 per cent of the world’s privately held guns.
  • Not all Americans are gun-lovers. Fifty per cent of all guns are in the hands of just 3 per cent of the population.
  • The average gun-owning household has 8 guns.

Now consider this:

Gun violence in the US reached record heights in 2017 — more than 60,000 incidents, killing more than 15,000 people, according to a nonprofit organization that tracks gun violence.

Compare:

Afghanistan suffered more than 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017, as deadly suicide and complex attacks killed and injured more people than any previous year in the war-torn country, according to the UN.

In its annual report released on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, documented 3,438 deaths and 7,015 injuries – a decline from the record-high figure in 2016.

Do you find that comparison shocking?  Here’s another story: Australia’s murder rate falls to record low of one person per 100,000. Figures refer to 2013-14.

By comparison, the United States had a murder rate of 4.88 people per 100,000 in 2015, according to the United Nations office on drugs and crime. The office said in 2014 the UK’s rate was 0.92 and New Zealand’s was 0.91.

The report, by the Australian Institute of Criminology, shows knives were the most common murder weapons, responsible for 86 deaths while beatings accounting for 37 deaths.

Guns killed 32 people, marking a 63% decline since 1989-90.

And for those who may question Australia’s gun laws and their relevance, see Snopes.com: “Statistics do not demonstrate that crime rates in Australia have increased substantially since the government instituted a gun buy-back program in 1997. ”

Why the hell should any civilian in a western democracy have such unfettered access to military-style weaponry as appears to be the case in the USA? No-one seems to know. This is what yesterday’s shooter had:

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