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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Christos Tsiolkas speaks my mind…

In conversations with friends I have in recent months expressed some disquiet about the series of accusations of sexual harassment, bullying,  and/or sexual assault that have so dominated the media, social and traditional. Part of me keeps harking back to those terrifying scenes in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. You know the ones.

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Today we have the news that Rugby League legend Graham Langlands has died. I did not know him, but a friend here in Wollongong, where Langlands came from, was a lifelong friend. We have been talking over the accusations made against Langlands, as you might expect. It troubles me that so often accusation seems to become fact, even when it is untested. In the case of Langlands it never will be now. Today’s piece by Andrew Webster is, based on what I know from Langlands’s childhood friend, accurate enough.

…many of [Langlands’s friends]  are convinced the St George icon died in his sleep over the weekend at the age of 76 unaware of the serious sexual assault allegations levelled at him in November last year.

Langlands was charged with six counts of indecent treatment of a child under 16 on the Gold Coast, which was related to one alleged event in 1982 between the March 25 and June 30…

Now, the allegations just hang in the air; a sad full stop on his muddled life after football.

Now to Christos Tsiolkas last Saturday. It is a long essay, very much worth reading. An extract:

We don’t suspect that there are reds under the bed any more but maybe we believe that there is a ped, a paedophile, under every third or fourth one. Or if not a paedophile, possibly a white supremacist. In the 21st century these have become our monsters. Of course, our rage and hatred of the child sexual abuser, of the rapist, of the violent racist, all makes sense. I have experienced a glee at watching Harvey Weinstein come undone. I did not know of his sexual crimes but I had hated him for years, because of how he had destroyed careers and reputations in the film industry for decades, and how he had purchased films to never release them so that his own productions would saturate the market and that the labour of love of some poor filmmaker went unseen.

The revealing of the long history of abuse in the Catholic Church has been one of the momentous political moments of the past 25 years. The exposing of sexual harassment across media, business and politics is long overdue…

But I can’t forget the lessons I learnt reading about Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. I subscribe to a few left-wing news sites that come out of the US and straight after the riots in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue I read with increasing unease the comments pages, where people gleefully boasted of having found the names of racists who marched in support of retaining the statues, revealed them to employers as white racists, got them sacked from their jobs….

I am nervous of writing this. Of course I am. I don’t want to be seen as excusing harassment or sexual and racist violence. But I think it is fundamental to a functioning and democratic civil society that perpetrators of sexual and racial violence are indicted in the law courts, not on social media. And I don’t think an opinion equates to an action. That is what McCarthy and Hoover believed. I think in that conflation something truly monstrous is born.

I don’t understand those whose righteousness and conviction makes them believe they have the right to play God with people’s lives and reputations. The criminal needs to be held to account and to be punished and also, crucially, to be given the opportunity for rehabilitation. But those so pure that they believe they have the right to toss the first stone, those so certain that they see any doubt as vacillation or compromise, those so furious that they abhor dialogue as co-option and condemn mercy as weakness, I don’t trust them at all. They believe they have the right to play God. I just see them as another form of monster.

Christos Tsiolkas has perfectly captured my own gnawing unease.

Here we go, here we go, here we go — again!

First, I recall Cronulla 05, which as a former Shire boy I reblogged, the result being here. From which, though 12 years on links may well not work:

Mind you, there have been earlier, and worse, incidents, such as this one reported in NSW Hansard in February 2001.

[Cronulla] is an outpost, an area where the population increases dramatically during the summer. As my correspondent has said, there is gang activity. On Thursday 15 February the Commissioner of Police was interviewed on radio by John Stanley. The transcript of that interview reads, in part:

John Stanley: And your problem is, if you sent more police to Cabramatta, they would be taken from areas like Cronulla, where we had all those calls last week about that gang problem, that I think you are aware of. These people are coming in from other parts of Sydney, into Cronulla and are causing big problems there.

Commissioner Ryan: They are causing huge problems there.

One of those huge problems occurred two days after Christmas. Following a dispute at a Sutherland nightclub, a gang of 30 Lebanese Australian males arrived at Cronulla railway station with baseball bats, iron bars, knives and guns. They open fired on a rival gang, spraying more than 20 bullets over a 50-metre area. Such behaviour and activity are totally foreign. The Premier would be aware of the writings of a former New York senator, Patrick Daniel Moynihan. Back in the 1960s he wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down”. That summarises these appalling standards of behaviour. Previously, this incident would have made headlines all over Sydney…

Mr George: Throughout New South Wales.

Mr KERR: Indeed, throughout New South Wales, but it did not because it is so commonplace. The mayor of Sutherland shire wants surveillance cameras, and there is no reason why the council cannot put surveillance cameras in the places sought by the mayor, although the problem exists throughout the Sutherland shire. The Carr Government has failed in its basic responsibility to maintain an orderly society and should therefore make a financial contribution towards the cost of the cameras. On behalf of the people of the Sutherland shire I ask the mayor to indicate when those cameras will be installed in Cronulla.

While I freely admit that troubling, troubled, and trouble-making (and usually virulently homophobic) groups of “middle eastern appearance” are an unlovely feature of Sydney life, it is very important to keep a sense of proportion on this: see Tunnel Vision: The Politicising Of Ethnic Crime by Paola Totaro (2003) for such a perspective. For much more detailed argument, see (PDF file) Scott Poynting Living with Racism: The experience and reporting by Arab and Muslim Australians of discrimination, abuse and violence since 11 September 2001 (2004).

It should be noted that, in the ideology of racism, categorical confusions between ‘race’ (eg ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’), ethnicity (eg Arab), nationality of origin or background (eg Lebanese), and religion (eg Muslim) are common, and distinction in practice between racism directed on ‘racial’, ethnic, or national grounds is not always possible or valid. This is all the more problematic currently, for over about the last decade, especially since panics from 1998 over ‘ethnic gangs’, over ‘race rapes’ in Sydney in 2000-2001, and asylum seekers and then the terror attacks from 2001, we have seen the emergence of we might call ‘the Arab Other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil in contemporary Australia (Poynting, Noble, Tabar and Collins, 2004). The links that are made between these events, the ‘perpetrators’ involved and their perceived communities, depend on the racist imagining of a supposedly homogenous category which includes those of Arab or Middle Eastern or Muslim background. This is not a singular category, of course — it includes people from diverse ancestries and with very distinct histories — but it is seen to be a singular category. A common factor is found through blaming whole communities for criminal acts, but also in labelling as ‘deviant’ certain actions — such as seeking asylum — and a range of other practices whose key feature is their visible and threatening difference — such as building a prayer centre (Dunn, 2001).

The extent to which the categories of race, ethnicity (culture) and religion are conflated in the ‘common sense’ of racism* is an aspect which needs to be studied, especially in as much as it determines the scope of legislation and the targeting of anti-racist initiatives and resources…

Poynting’s long article has much to commend it, including some disturbing personal stories.

And one you may not have thought of before: On welfare issues with Korean-Australian students

Nothing of what I have written, I hasten to add, is in any way meant to stigmatise Koreans or Korean culture, a point I made at the end yesterday with reference to Port Arthur. On the other hand I have seen up close less horrendous examples of the bicultural alienation some Korean-Australian students feel. Some years ago we were all shocked when one of our former students, a Korean-Australian, was murdered. We did much soul-searching then about what may have been involved. One of the more alienated Korean-Australian contemporaries of that boy opened up to me about a whole lot of things, and thanked me for some of the things I had been saying or writing on the cultural issues involved.

About that time too after a Year 12 Farewell ceremony I was, much to my surprise, on the receiving end of a big hug from one of those Korean students I had been working with for the previous six years… 🙂

Additional note

A feature of the more alienated Korean students in my experience from the mid 90s through to 2005 — and I stress of some, though quite a few — was their fandom of the US star Tupac Shakur and of “Thug Life”.

The concept of “Thug Life” was viewed by Shakur as a philosophy for life. Shakur developed the word into an acronym standing for “The Hate U Gave Little Infants F**ks Everybody”. He declared that the dictionary definition of a “thug” as being a rogue or criminal was not how he used the term, but rather he meant someone who came from oppressive or squalid background and little opportunity but still made a life for themselves and were proud.

Also in that post:

Korean Student Forum 8 September 2004 at Sydney Institute of TAFE….

In the “behaviour” workshop one of the police officers said something that adds perspective. He said that if we see a group of young people kicking a soccer ball around a park we feel positive about it, but if you take away the soccer ball and have the same group a bit later at night, or at a mall, people start saying “It’s a gang.” There’s something in that.

 

And now we have the admittedly disturbing incidents in Melbourne in recent times. I commend warmly Is Melbourne in the grip of African crime gangs? The facts behind the lurid headlines.

Victoria is having a debate about gangs. Specifically, it is debating whether it is appropriate to call groups of young people who are predominantly from African backgrounds a “gang” and, so named, what should be done about it.

It’s also having a debate about race, which is being waged in the comment sections of front-page articles on gang violence, and on social media, where comments like “stop immigration until this mess is sorted” populate Victoria police’s official Facebook page.

Both debates are linked to a perceived increase in large-scale violent offences committed by young people of African appearance, most of whom have been linked to Melbourne’s Sudanese migrant community.

Media coverage of the issue, led by the News Corp tabloid the Herald Sun, has dubbed Victoria “a state of fear” and reported that it could undermine the incumbent Labor government’s chances in the November state election.

On Monday the prime minister weighed in, saying at a press conference in Sydney that “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria” was “a failure of the Andrews government”….

So here we go, here we go, here we go… again! Moral panic time!

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Source: Other Sociologist blog

See also African migrants face unfair stigma as Melbourne gang stoush escalates.

And see also from me in 2010: Africa in South Sydney. Do watch the video there!

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The real story on China: Linda Jaivin

There is an absolute MUST READ on The Monthly right now! I have long admired Linda Jaivin’s reportage/analysis on China. See most recently Death of a hero: Liu Xiaobo 1955-2017.

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A sample from the new Monthly article.

One of the earliest slogans of the post-Mao reform years that began with Deng Xiaoping’s ascension to power in 1978 was “Look to the future.” The CCP began scrubbing its history of the awkward bits: the horror of the anti-rightist campaign that condemned hundreds of thousands to labour camps, the three-year famine that killed tens of millions, and the decade-long Cultural Revolution that began with an orgy of violence and ended with China’s society in trauma and its cultural heritage in tatters. As a result, the nearly 53% of the Chinese population (731 million people) that was born after 1976 know little of these things or even about the events of 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army crushed the massive student-led, pro-democracy protests in Beijing and elsewhere with extreme violence. They are a fortunate generation that has grown up amid a constant rise in living standards, social freedoms and economic opportunity….

The Chinese-language China Daily is a state-run English-language newspaper that
answers to the CCP. In 2016, with China’s propaganda chief and Politburo member Liu Qibao present to witness the ceremony, China Daily signed a deal with Fairfax papers to distribute China Watch, a supplement sprinkling hard nuggets of Party line through a fairy floss of panda news, upbeat economic stories and features like ‘Why I Moved to Beijing for a Comfortable Life’.

Here’s a fun translation fact: official Chinese media translated the word xuanchuan, which can mean propaganda, promotion or publicity, as “propaganda” for the first 40 years or so of the PRC – as in “Ministry of Propaganda”. By the ’90s, however, the CCP had come to realise that “propaganda” had a certain “dictatorship”-like odour in the West, and changed the official English name of its Propaganda Department to “Publicity Department”.

China Watch appears in the Washington Post and London’s Daily Telegraph

Not uncritical, as you can see, and very well-informed. Do read it all. It is essential if you are truly to make sense of the Sam Dastayari affair, much of the commentary on which has been more than tinged with hyperbole, in my opinion. Here is an outrageous example from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton:  ‘Labor can’t have a foreign spy sitting in the senate’.

POTUS/DOOFUS — no worse, much worse

One of my former students, a writer living in Europe, posted on Facebook: “I cannot believe what he has done now. The fact that I do not need to explain what I am talking about is enough.” A commenter noted: “I yearn for the day when we never have to say his name again, or look at his face, or hear his horrible voice” and my friend responded: “Or look at his tiny hands.”

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On US site Foreign Policy: Why Trump’s most un-American moment can’t be overlooked.

As a person of Jewish parentage, I feel the danger evoked by the president’s retweets especially keenly. When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally pull out a book of family photos from the former Czechoslovakia, where both of her parents had been born. The early pages were full of well-dressed Moravian urbanites from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then there were photos of the smiling faces of their grown children, all people who were later murdered in the Holocaust.

Yes, truly vile. See London Mayor, UK politicians open fire on US President for retweet of far-right group. As every decent Briton (or Australian) should!

Instead of bothering with the Buffoon-in-Chief’s execrable taste in retweets, which says volumes about his tact and intelligence, visit 7 questions Muslims are tired of hearing. Or Hundreds of Muslims marching against terrorism in London ‘ignored by British media‘ (2015).

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Fact is DOOFUS apparently — according to that hack spokesperson of his — didn’t know what vermin he was retweeting! If anything this makes his offence worse! We should all always know what the source of our posts/tweets actually is!

Finally, an apt Twitter exchange:

Brian Klaas Retweeted Donald J. Trump

More people were killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting than have been killed by Islamist terrorism in the UK since 2005.

Brian Klaas added,