Friday, 19 June 2015

Two Killings, One Show.

Over the last two weeks, The ABC has aired the first two parts of a political documentary series The Killing Season, which purports to focus on the last two Labor Governments, but is in actual fact a portrait of the two leaders of these governments Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. On this blog I documented the first Rudd Government in some detail. Initially I was not going to post a blog on this series, but after watching the second episode of the series late on Tuesday night I posted a rather detailed rant, and given the events are contemporaneous with this blog, it seems appropriate to share my thoughts here. 
While some may view the ascension of Kevin Rudd with a sense of fading nostalgia, I've been researching the period covered in the first episode almost since the events occurred. 
With this in mind, Killing aspires to be the offspring of the far superior 1995 ABC documentary series Labor in Power, but lacks the real wisdom and analysis to achieve it. While Rudd and Gillard have Keating and Hawke's pomposity in abundance, they lack their predecessors clarity of thought and candour. All 'Killing' really does is highlight the hypocrisy of 'The Leader and his Loyal Deputy' (the title of the first episode) with hindsight in an ironic and clunky fashion. Much of the important aspects of the 'Kevin 07' campaign were overlooked, and the section on the importance of Rudd allocating the Ministry is valid but entirely wrongheaded.
The second episode comes the quote We just killed ourselves' 
So says Martin Ferguson, old school Labor Warrior and Minister of the first Rudd Government about two thirds of the way through the second episode of the series. You can see the utter contempt in his face and hear the disgust in his voice. We knew full well no one came out of the Rudd coup looking good, but the constant thoughts coming to my mind throughout the episode were questions addressed to all participants of the program in the Australian Labor Party?

'How the fuck can you do this to my country?'
'Why do I deserve any of you to represent me?'
It is clear that Rudd displayed poor behaviour towards his colleagues across the board during the last six months of his Prime Ministership. It is purely subjective as to whether you think that this behaviour warranted his dismissal. It is something that initially I believed was not worthy of a coup, but as time passes I think that if a majority of his colleagues believed they couldn't work with him, sacking him might have been the only thing they could do. However Rudd has every right to feel aggrieved at how events played out.
I never believed that Gillard was telling the truth and this episode only solidified my view. Every single word she uttered I believe to be a lie. Rudd is only just barely better at telling the truth, and he did not do it much either. Their collective behaviour is a disgrace to the Australian political system, its history and the office of the Australian Prime Minister.
It's a good thing that only 'the political class' watches The Killing Season, because if every voter watched that compelling, intriguing, despicable, deplorable hour of television, Australia would have a Liberal Government for the next three decades.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Part of 'The Machinery of Government'

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Griffith University School of Government and International Relations (at which I'm currently completing my PhD) to contribute to their new blog The Machinery of Government (MoG). The conveners of the blog had seen my coverage over at The Conversation during the recent Queensland State Election campaign, which consistently ranked in the top bracket for both page views and unique visitors amongst contributors from Griffith University. Based on these results, I was asked to write an analysis of the UK Election, a week after results had been finalised.

A person or a number of people in the department must have been impressed with the content of the blog and/or the traffic it generated. On the back of the first piece, I was offered a part time job as a regular contributor to the blog. Since then I have written two further posts: one on the dilemmas of public service officials trying to combat terrorism and another on the role that smaller or 'minor parties' play in the federal governments of Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

MoG only launched a couple of months before my recent arrival and has already accumulated 1000 subscribers worldwide. At the pace I'm going at now it looks like I'll be contributing to the blog on a weekly basis. I would encourage readers who like my political writing to head over to MoG and subscribe to regular updates.

Monday, 1 June 2015

My Private is Not Your Private

Everyone who needs to know this, already knows this. Or so I think.

But after literal years of searching for the right girl to date, I found a girl, and she found me. It's early days, and in certain circumstances some might not feel the need to tell people. But the nature of living with a physical disability that requires 24/7 care means that lots of people already know by now. This is not through my own choice, but because I have needed to tell them. Those who don't understand the burden of relying upon someone all day, every day for the most basic tasks do not realise that these kinds of things are never truly private, no matter how much I might wish they could be.

I also can't share all my constant failures with dating, without showing you that sometimes it may work, beyond all my frustrations and battles with low self esteem. I don't know how long it will last, but I hope it is for a long time.

I've learnt from my mistakes of the past and won't be documenting our relationship at all on this blog. I will, when appropriate, mention FRG because she now is a part of my life, as this blog will be.

Monday, 25 May 2015

'And While I'm Away...'

Someone asked me yesterday: Why aren't you blogging much recently? There are several answers to this.
  1. Perhaps the most important of these is that I use the blog to constructively sort through my shitty negative emotions. Lucky for me I haven't had much of those recently. In the past week my mother and I shared the sometimes unbelievable journey that my family has been on since my birth, in front of an audience of women for Youngcare. When I hear my parents tell the story of my diagnosis it always makes me emotional, hearing the pain that my parents went through, and the despair they must have felt. It has nothing to do with me, it's like they are talking about a different person. Hearing the story once more made me so overcome with emotion that I couldn't finish telling my own story. I started to break down and cry. It made me realise that I will never be comfortable with my disability, but I've reached a point that my feelings on my disability are as good as they are going to get.
  2. I've not had the time recently. One of the main goals with my PhD thesis this year has been to have a quicker turn around between drafts, and therefore less dead time where I'm not productively working, which means there is less time to blog. It's working.
  3. This productivity has flowed into other areas as well. I'm currently working on a journal article for Social Alternatives about the 2015 Queensland Election. Last week I was also offered a long term part time job by Griffith University writing and researching for their political science blog: The Machinery of Government based on my analysis of the recent UK election. Make sure you visit MoG if you like my political writing
  4. There's not been many events to write about. Nothing has ignited my passion, and I write best when such passion is ignited.
  5. I have not felt the need or want to write about the things that help me understand my emotional intelligence. There are several positive reasons for this, but I'm not ready to write about them yet, because I want to see if these positive reinforcements last in the long term and don't resemble a passing fad. I've learnt through past experience I need more time to process things in my mind before writing about them.
In the meantime enjoy some tunes I've been loving recently.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Youngcare Turns 10 But There's More To Do.



10 years ago today on April 21st 2005, Shevaune and David Conry with the support of close friends established Youngcare. Shevaune was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her mid twenties, and by the age of 33 was forced to live in a nursing home, because as hard as her family tried no one could provide the physical support that she required. Two and a half years after Youngcare was founded, in December 2007, Youngcare opened a two level fifteen room complex in Brisbane's Southwestern suburbs: the very building I live in now.

Youngcare first came to my attention back in 2007 when both Shevaune and David were profiled on Australia's 60 Minutes program. I can remember watching it with both my parents so vividly, because there was absolutely no way that anyone could possibly forget that story. The love and respect between the couple was so genuine and heartfelt. I remember thinking "I wish I could live there, but I don't have an acquired disability, so I have no chance."

Turns out I was wrong, although I didn't know it until five years later. Unfortunately, Shevaune passed away before I arrived, so I never had the chance to thank her for creating an organisation that has saved my life. Although Shevaune's story and her experience was the initial impetus for Youngcare, the creation of the organisation was the ultimate unselfish act. Youngcare is no longer just the basis of one story, but a vitally important organisation that is designed to change Australian society for the better.

At the moment there are currently 770,000 young Australians between the ages of 18 and 65 who are living in places that they should not be in, either in aged care, or with the support of a carer who has insufficient resources. For the past two and a half years I have made it my mission to share this important statistic to anybody who would listen.

In an environment where the NDIS is (unfortunately) government policy, it is great to give people with disabilities and/or their carers access to funding theoretically, but there are questions that arise in terms of infrastructure. In an ideal world, the NDIS would aim to provide independence to those 770,000 people, but even if they were to supply funding to half of those people, what accommodation do you provide so they can use their funding appropriately?

There is a clear shortage in this country of accessible housing for people with disabilities. Although Youngcare has another complex open on the Gold Coast, two more to come in Brisbane's northern suburbs, and a further one being developed in Western Sydney, these sites only go a short way to addressing this housing shortage. Though Youngcare will always continue to do fine work, and I will continue to push the cause for as long as I live, the larger problem of the overall shortage is one of the central public policy challenges in this country, and both State and Federal governments have not even begun to address the issue.

Now that I am safe, secure and happy my next quest is to continue Shevaune's legacy. Like she did I realise that now my dream has been achieved, my job is to ensure that others can live their dream too.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Whiplashed

Have you seen Whiplash?

It's the story of a young guy who spends his entire college life attempting to pursue his dream of being the best jazz drummer in the world. The majority of his time is either spent practising in front of a teacher who abuses him at every opportunity, or practicing so this student can win the teacher's approval.

As an audience member watching this movie you slowly begin to realise that the student will never ever receive the teacher's approval no matter how hard he tries. That is until the student realises that winning the teacher's approval is no longer necessary.

Whiplash, I've come to realise, is a broader metaphor for my dating experiences. I spend hours and hours trying to project the best version of myself that is not really even me, and no luck. I've tried an honest and direct approach by telling girls exactly what I've been seeking, still no luck, I've tried not to get attached to girls: no luck. I've even had what I refer to as 'dick brain' (which is exactly what it means): no luck. Through each of these iterations, each girl, and through each bad experience J.K Simmons may as well have been throwing a chair at my head.

I've had a notion I've been kicking around for a few months now that I articulated for the first time to a friend last week.
I'm in a different space than any of my contemporaries. Though this space might be influenced by my disability, I don't occupy this space because of the disability. A thorough examination of what my friends are doing, and based on the women I'm attracted to on dating sites (brains, looks, political awareness in various orders according to the individual) say that they want, the majority of women around my age want kids (No, just no), travel for exploration purposes (Too difficult, too expensive and never will be of interest to me anyway), and active people who "want to do things on weekends" (Give me my books, my TV, my movies, my music, and my football and/or cricket, and I'm happy, unless I am seeking out more of these things)  They might just be after one of these things or all three, but they are always the deal breakers.  
While I've been desperately searching for a relationship, I've learnt that I'm not willing to compromise on these aspects. Especially since I've been living on my own.
So, now I've learnt that unless something akin to a miracle happens I probably won't be in a relationship for at least another decade. By my reckoning, the potential mate would have already travelled, would have already had kids, or decided not to have them, and quite possibly would have gotten all her adventuring out of her system. She will come to value me because of my (seemingly) admirable qualities and they are ones that she has actively sought out: my hyperactive intellectualism and my dependability, chiefly. It's taken a long time for me to realise that girls in their late 20s and early 30s simply don't want the things that I offer.
So now, its just a matter of enjoying the freedom I fought so hard for. However this freedom, at least for the foreseeable future, comes with the caveat: it is destined to be fulfilled alone. It doesn't mean I have to be happy with that, or that I will stop chasing the women who interest me, it just means that I have to learn to be content with wishing that I could be with that friend of a friend, but realising intellectually that it will never happen.

I'm just tired of chairs being thrown at my head. I know that at least for right now no one is ready, not even me, to satisfy the want that will always be there but is so difficult to explain.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Last Five Years: The Musical as Emotional Realism

Virtually every year since this blog began I've chronicled my feelings on Valentine's Day. In recent years sadness has turned into frustration, as I've moved past the need to be in a relationship for its own sake. Instead, the source of the misery concentrated on February 14th has been my failure to form a suitable connection that leads to the emotional intimacy I need, even it is brief.

At the end of the last year, I watched the trailer of The Last Five Years and discovered that it would be released in the United States on Valentine's Day. From that moment on I resolved to track down the first copy I could find on the internet, and attempt to watch it on that horrible day. I downloaded the movie on Friday the 13th, because sadly there is not yet a release date for the movie to premiere in Australia. The next day I had my first wonderful Valentine's Day.



As a devotee of the musical I knew that this movie contained something special. For me, the beauty of The Last Five Years is that the movie subverts the conventional musical, both in plot, and in tone.

I adore the classic movie musicals of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, which were all about emotional uplift. Most of them followed the same basic plot pattern. Boy meets girl: cue the 'meet cute' song: girl crushes on boy: cue the longing ballad, an obstacle emerges: cue the song that restates the purpose of the protagonists' love affair, finally girl wins boy: 'LET'S PUT ON A SHOW'.  

The Last Five Years is not a musical about the boy and girl getting together. It is about the boy and the girl getting together, falling apart, reconciling briefly, then falling apart once more: forever. 

The Last Five Years is only about a single relationship (told entirely in song), between Cathy and Jamie. The story is told through alternate songs from each character. Cathy's perspective of the relationship is heard in reverse order, while Jamie's version is told in chronological order. The song are fractured and biased, with the true perspective of the entire relationship only becoming clear once the movie is finished. The genius of this structure lies in the fact that each characters' point of view only up matches once: for the duet in the middle of the movie.

Not only does the viewer understand why Cathy and Jamie fell in love, they also understand why their relationship was toxic for both of them. It tells the audience why they need the power of human connection to survive, but it also tells them the damage that this power can do. It demonstrates to me everything that I have been scared of for my last five years. I want the first blush of love, and the euphoria that it provides. But I am not prepared to feel the devastation that occurs when it all ends.

The Last Five Years perhaps represents the apex of musical sub-genre that I've become attracted to in recent times that does not conform to the traditional plot of a movie musical. Whether it be God Help the Girl or Begin Again, the three best musicals of the past 12 months tell its audience that a few delightful songs cannot cure emotional devastation. This conforms to my worldview wholeheartedly.

Yet, my favourite movie of all time, Singin' in the Rain, is the pure opposite of this archetype. Seeing Singin' in the Rain for the first time was a revolutionary experience. I saw the movie at the beginning of 2011, right in the middle of my darkest depressive episode. Gene Kelly's unbridled optimism in the midst of loneliness helped convince me that I could become well again.  That feeling ignited my passion for musicals. Seeing The Last Five Years for the first time both reminded me of, and surpassed, my experience of watching Singin' in the Rain four years earlier.

I can only speculate why this is so.


Perhaps it is because The Last Five Years was the kind of empathetic musical I was waiting for?
Perhaps it gave me an insight which allowed me to forgive myself for the horrible mistakes I've made?
Perhaps it normalised those mistakes?
Perhaps it represented kind of rational argument I needed to allow myself to fall in love again?
Perhaps it is telling me that I've moved on from the idealised version of love I've held on to?
Perhaps I can't explain why I connected to The Last Five Years at all?


Perhaps that is beauty of the movie?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Malcolm Fraser: The Lifelong Opposer




Malcolm Fraser, Australia's 22nd Prime Minister, who served between 1975 and 1983, died on Friday, just five months after his immediate predecessor Gough Whitlam. This seems fitting because Fraser and Whitlam became intertwined in each other's legacies as a result of The Dismissal. As a consequence, Fraser always seemed to suffer in comparison to the more charismatic Whitlam. Where Whitlam experienced fervour wherever he went, Fraser was met with quiet respect.

As I pointed out five years ago, perhaps Fraser's legacy was always going to be overlooked:
Academics and historians for a variety of reasons often neglect the period of the Fraser Government between 1975 and 1983. This is largely because nothing could possibly match the drama of the Whitlam Government’s dismissal from office, which immediately proceeded this era. Furthermore, the Fraser Government is largely seen as a non event retrospectively... particularly because he is wedged chronologically between two of the Labor Party’s most mythical figures in Whitlam and Hawke.
Over the past week commentator and historian George Megalogenis has continually noted that Fraser governed in a divisive era, and suffered as a result. I would argue that Fraser was not nearly divisive enough. Fraser's parliamentary career can really be split into two halves, his career prior to his Prime Ministership, and his career after he won Australia's highest office.

Fraser was elected as the member for Wannon in 1955, as Australia's youngest ever parliamentarian. Even though he remained on the backbench during the final decade of the Menzies Era, he would shape the Liberal Party for a generation thereafter. In 1971, Fraser sensationally resigned as Minister of Defense, and openly criticised his party leader, John Gorton, on the floor of parliament. Fraser said that he could no longer support a government led by Prime Minister Gorton. Fraser's speech precipitated events that would lead to Gorton's resignation a few weeks later.

This chain of events often remains neglected when commenting on the political life of Fraser. It suggests more about his political career, than the events of The Dismissal. It is one thing to challenge a political opponent and cause his demise, as Fraser did to Whitlam in 1975. It was however quite another for Fraser to challenge a sitting Prime Minister on the sacrosanct floor of parliament, when he served as a Minister of that government. Fraser's speech opposing Gorton should rank as one of the most Machiavellian acts in Australia's political history.

With the knowledge of that event in mind, it is therefore no surprise that Fraser chose to become the major antagonist in the dismissal of an elected government. In retrospect Fraser's tactics against Whitlam seem hasty given it is likely that Fraser and his government would have won the next election anyway if he waited until an election was called by Whitlam in late 1976 or early 1977.

Fraser's politics was not defined by what he supported, but rather what he was against: whether it be Gorton's leadership style, the incompetence of the Whitlam government, the racist policies of various international governments, or his eventual repudiation of the modern Liberal Party. This did not make Fraser a bad leader, but rather a limited one.

It also explains why the Fraser government squandered the opportunity to implement long lasting domestic reform, despite securing two enormous election victories in 1975 and 1977. It is very rare that a Prime Minister has two consecutive terms where he has control in both houses of parliament. The Fraser government had a five year period in which it could implement any policy reform it wanted, largely unchallenged. Yet the media are hard pressed to name a domestic policy that was created between 1975 and 1980 which remains a legacy today.

Even though Fraser won three consecutive elections, a feat that is unlikely to be replicated any time soon, his Prime Ministerial tenure almost seems like an after thought.

That is the reason why Malcolm Fraser was an average Prime Minister, rather than a great one.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Leadership Vacuum

Recently I've been doing a lot of writing over at The Conversation. While I've mainly focussed on the Queensland election campaign, all my writing in the last four weeks has been concentrated through the prism of leadership: what the leaders might do during the campaign, who might take over should the Premier fall, predicting the outcome of the campaign (wrongly, I might add) and documenting the shock result.

Today I assessed all the ramifications particularly given the fact that Prime Minister Tony Abbott looks set to lose his job as well. If he does, Australia's two major parties will have changed leaders seven times since 2007. There is something seriously wrong going on here. Although it is great for my academic career,  I hate what is going on at the moment.

While its citizens watch Australian democracy implode yet again they should ask themselves when was the last time they saw two opposing members of parliament (State or Federal) debate policy positions? The current 'leadership' culture is simply ridiculous. 

I'm sad, angry and frustrated for our country, and for the legacy it leaves us. There have been five years of instability on both sides of politics, and there have been no policy achievements in that period (Don't you dare say the NDIS!).  There is nothing that you can point to since the economic reforms post the global financial crisis and say 'The Government did this. This is its legacy.' 

We, the public, deserve better, and so do the politicians we elect.

The media, the politicians and the public all need to realise that politics is HARD. There will be mistakes. There will be differences of opinion. Not everything that we would like to happen, will happen. This doesn't make politicians dishonest, tricky or ineffective. Nor does this mean we have to buy into the horse racing elements of political discourse, where one ''leadership contender' is placed up against another for no discernible reason.

The only way you can achieve change, in life and in politics, is through incrementalism. Just as we teach our kids the skills of perseverance and determination, all of us must learn that these are vital ingredients in political life.

We all need to take responsibility for our democracy: the voters, the leaders, and the media. Don't wimp out at the first sign of negativity and look for someone else to take over. Admit your mistakes, learn from them, and move on.



Sunday, 25 January 2015

January 26th: Not My National Day

Fellow citizens of Australia:

What are you doing tomorrow?

It is our supposed national day.

Are you?:
A: Waving the British flag with pride?
B: Feeling lucky you have a public holiday?
C: Partaking in a barbecue lunch?
D: Watching the Cricket or Tennis?
E: Listening to the Hottest 100?

Ironically, January 26th is Australia Day, but its also India’s Republic Day. On this day the people of India celebrate the day in which they were free from their British colonises and formed an independent nation in 1948. Contrast that to what Australia celebrates on January 26. It is actually the day where British colonists first settled in this country, and chased its native people away, slaughtering many of them, and claiming the land as their own with a smug sense of entitlement. Yet more than 200 years later we choose to celebrate this as our national day. We should not. It should be looked upon as a national day of shame.

I am proud of the majority of Australia's citizens, but it seems that anytime one chooses to criticise our great nation that person gets called ‘un-Australian.’ For me at least, being called ‘un-Australian’ is itself that very thing. One of the great things about our country is the ability to openly criticise and question things. If I lived in some countries I’d get shot for writing what is below, calling the stereotypical members of our population short sighted and myopic, calling our supposed ‘national day’ a complete and utter disgrace.

Even when the general populace fail to grasp what the significance of the day actually entails, a vocal minority choose this day to behave in an appalling manner. They display our nation's flag, a British flag, (not an Australian one) with the same sense of superiority as their forefathers. Rather than the flag becoming a source of national pride, it is rapidly turning into a symbol of militant nationalism. Our British flag was and continues to be a graphical representation of all that is wrong with this nation, our shameful past, and now it has become a symbol which people use to malign those from Non-European backgrounds.

A national holiday should celebrate the things that define our national character. A celebration of our past, present, and future: a day when we as a nation can truly celebrate an event which defined our national character. We already have this day. It's on May 9th.

That's the day Australia's Federal Parliament was opened for the very first time in 1901. The day we were born as a nation, when all the disparate state colonies on one continent federated together and formed Australia. It is a day that signifies the best parts of Australia: diversity, the right kind of positive nationalism, the importance of both regions and urban areas with their different objectives, and the strength of Australian democracy.  Yet 99.99% of the population don't consider this date important. Why not, you may ask?

Think about that on your day off.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Problem the ALP has with Disability

With two weeks to go in the Queensland State Election policy relating to people with disability has not been a significant issue in the election campaign thus far, much to my dismay.

That is why I found this Facebook post by the Labor candidate (and former Member) for Bulimba Di Farmer, rather curious. 
A bit (sic) shout out to my volunteers this morning, who were out in 20 different street stall locations across the electorate, in 37 degree heat. Talk about going the extra mile. It was very disappointing that the LNP chose to bully one of our workers who has a disability. However he knows that we love him and think he's fantastic, and that's the main thing.
Instinctively I had few questions about this post:

1/ Why mention on Facebook that this incident took place, unless the candidate wanted to exploit it for publicity?

2/ Why mention the victim's disability, unless the candidate wanted to exploit it for sympathy?

3/ If she was determined to highlight this incident why didn't she mention a positive aspect that the victim has brought to the campaign in addition to mentioning the incident? 

There is a definitive answer for each question:

The candidate is using this terrible incident as a partisan wedge in order to garner support for her campaign. Think I am overreacting? Let's have a quick look at some of the comments of people who have shared this post on Facebook:
typical of the LNP and their supporters they do not like sick,elderly or disabled people, vote the bastards out now. 
LNP think bullying disabled people is ok. Not very surprising seeing all the cuts to services Shame on you Liberal Party 
Have a read of this. Keep it "classy" @LNPQLD. ‪#‎qldvotes  

No sympathy for the victim. Not a word on how the ALP plans to integrate the thousands of displaced Queenslanders with a disability for example, or even one policy relating to the disability sector. Nothing. Just a giant, juicy wedge.

So I felt compelled to write a comment:
As another person with a disability, I wonder why Di feels the need to mention the bullying of a person with a disability on social media? Whilst it is never to be tolerated, the fact that you aired it in public suggests you are exploiting this unfortunate incident for partisan purposes, and are in fact sinking down to the perpetrator's level. 

Why even mention the victim's disability at all?

The classy thing to do would be to settle the matter on an individual level, then take appropriate action.
  Not surprisingly, Farmer's supporters did not take to this post kindly. One notable criticism included:
Todd no need to guess your prefered party. Di would never ever exploit anyone, Di would be helping rather than anything else.
 The first sentence has no basis in fact.

On Federal polling day in 2007. I was handing out to vote cards. I drove up to the ALP table (Yes, the ALP table!) and took a pile of how to vote cards off the volunteer I was relieving. Immediately upon his departure, a representative of the independent candidate (CR) asked me a question.
CR: Are you handing out how to vote cards because your Mum and Dad asked you to?
Me: No I'm handing them out, because I have a brain and have a degree in political science. I have no idea who my Mum and Dad will vote for, but they won't vote for your candidate when I tell them that they appoint small minded and ignorant volunteers. Piss off wanker!
Readers will know that I dine out on such stories for laughs as an attempt to point out how ignorant people are about disability. So when I joked about this experience with a senior campaign official after my shift at the polling booth, he said he wanted to take the incident to the local newspaper (the Facebook of the day, it seems). I pointed out that this was the last thing I wanted. All I wanted was the ability to mock this story. I could have asked for an apology, but I know it would have been insincere.

If Di Farmer's campaign were really serious about preventing further incidents of such poor behaviour, it would have sorted out this issue quietly. The campaign are still within their rights to seek an apology. Instead, with only .1% between her and another stint in parliament, she'll quite happily garner publicity, and implicitly ask her supporters to spread the story for political gain.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time Labor politicians have used social media to exploit people with disabilities. And it seems by implementing the NDIS, the ALP are practising what they preach. Use the disabled for political gain, and ignore them otherwise. This is why I left the ALP.

A growing trend amongst Australian 'progressives' on social media is the need to exploit the moral high ground, then claim an air of superiority over their opponents by claiming that they are ignorant bigoted fools. They may indeed be, but what these 'progressives' don't know is that their behaviour is actually far worse. It is one thing to not be aware of, or to not understand an issue. It is another to pretend that you do, but go on with disgusting behaviour in spite of what you promote. 

This is the failure of Labor, not just in Queensland, but the ALP as a whole.   

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Lesson I Continue To Learn & Practice.

I'm watching a documentary on Susan Sontag

I've just now come across this quote:

'Don't allow yourself to be patronized, condescended to -- which, if you are a woman, happens, and will continue to happen, all the time.'

Change 'woman' to 'person with a disability' and you have the most important lesson I have learnt, and will continue to learn daily:

'Don't allow yourself to be patronized, condescended to -- which, if you are a person with a disability, happens, and will continue to happen, all the time.  

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

'Surely that's a maladaptation.'

It's probably not true I can't not talk about him. Maybe for once of my life I could try not dumping open my heart in front of anyone who will look at me, not emptying it like it’s a messy purse. Maybe I don’t need an audience to watch me sort through every roughly handled, occasionally useful item in my bag until I’ve figured out why I still carry it around. I have a deep fear someone who knows him would read this, or he would read this, and recognize him. It’s not that I don’t experience dread but only that I don’t alter my behavior for it. Surely that’s a maladaptation.  
Charlotte Shane, Prostitute Laundry 
Welcome to 2015 readers. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Things are going well, as I'm covering the Queensland State Election for The Conversation, other stuff not so much.

Against my better judgement I revisited the dating website. Most likely, because once again I have an unattainable crush that due to circumstances beyond my control will never be anything more. So I visited this website again, looked around for a little bit, found a profile I liked, initiated contact and we started emailing. For about 3 days we emailed regularly, but not obsessively, lovely banter. Then she disappears without warning.

A day later another woman contacted me. Like the previous girl we trade a couple of messages, then she disappears.

I'm maladapted.

Hit me over the head with a giant metal bar next time I log in to a dating website, PLEASE!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Mission To Civilise: Farewell to The Newsroom

Perhaps the saddest loss I suffered this year was the end of my favourite TV Show of the past 20 years, Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. As I've written previously, I always love the worlds Sorkin creates, even though most seem to tire of them. The Newsroom is my very definition of a great television show, intelligent, politically aware, darkly funny and romantic. The Newsroom teaches the viewer so many things that other TV shows seem to ignore.

The through line of The Newsroom's three season run was Will McAvoy's 'Mission to Civilise', the essential premise of Don Quixote, which is used by Aaron Sorkin frequently. This isn't just a snappy catchphrase, or a so-called 'Sorkinism'. Too many critics make this mistake. Sorkin is not trying to score political points, or rewrite history. Will's 'Mission' is as realistic as Alonzo's was over 400 years before, and draws on the same basic lessons.

The Atlantis Cable Network (ACN) bears absolutely no resemblance to any Cable News Channel throughout the world. Will, Mack, Charlie, Jim, Sloan, Maggie, Don, Neil, and the rest who inhabit Sorkin's universe are all damaged characters in the best ways... because no actual human being could exhibit flaws so earnestly, and with such righteousness. ACN is therefore a fictional ideological orbit, where every choice is intellectually justified, principled and designed to emphasise 'the greater good'.

While some story lines are based on real events, I choose to believe The Newsroom has no basis in reality whatsoever. It is instead a parable, just like Don Quixote. If you accept Sorkin's ideological predilections as I do, people can use the lessons of the ACN universe to be politically, socially and intellectually responsible.

The critics can please themselves.

video

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My Favourite Internet Journalism of 2014

I've often use the phrase 'Knowledge is Power', and one of the ways I obtain this knowledge is by reading long form journalism on the internet. I think, on average, I read about two longform pieces a day. Instead of cataloguing my favourite pieces in my annual list of pop culture. I've decided to highlight two of my favourite internet writers and then link to some of my favourite articles of the year; a reading list if you will.

One of the problems with literary crushes, is that they remain just that. There is no way to consummate the love properly, there is minimal chance of having a dialogue on the pieces they have written, even less of a chance that you will see them in person to have a conversation on their work. Nonetheless, I can say these two women below have given me more joy than just about anything else this year.




Anne Helen Peterson

Anne Helen Petersen (AHP) has a doctorate in Media Studies from the University of Texas, and is a former visiting professor at Whitman College. Her speciality is the study of 'gossip', as an academic tool to observe the power structure within society. Often incorporating semiotics, gender theory, and film studies scholarship, Petersen turns what might be naively described as a superficial and superfluous subject into a wider exploration of societal trends. Earlier this year AHP left her academic position to take a job as a features writer for Buzzfeed, where she has written some of her best work to date. Some of her best pieces this year have included an analysis of why Gone Girl's theatrical adaption didn't capture the magic of the book, why the leak of the Jennifer Lawrence naked photos does not constitute a 'scandal', why romance novels by Nicholas Sparks (and particularly their screen adaptions) are important, why Angelina Jolie is the Queen of the publicity game, an examination of Zac Efron's evolution from 'teen idol' to a 'bro' and a look at the history of Entertainment Weekly. I first discovered AHP last year, when she began writing a series of articles entitled The Scandals of Classic Hollywood, which she turned into a book. I can't wait to read it over summer.

Charlotte Shane

Charlotte Shane is a sex worker and proud of it. I first read an article of hers about three months ago. Shane's writing was frank and candid, but never smutty. She intelligently broke down common misconceptions about the sex industry (it is not always dangerous or glamourous). Instantly after finishing the piece I went searching through the the interwebs to see if I could find more of her work. I then discovered her Tinyletter account, Prostitute Laundry. I get an email, usually 500-1000 words a piece, roughly two times a week. The email contains a little vignette, each connected by a larger linear narrative. They are the best thing I've discovered this year. While these emails often contain vivid descriptions of sex acts, their power lies in Shane's ability to examine what men need from sex (and why some pay for it). Getting you to sign up to the Tinyletter account is my Christmas gift to my readers. I'm also addicted to her twitter feed, which is full of positive political discussion around gender and sex work.




My Favourite Pieces I've Read This Year

20 Years Later: Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan the Spectacle of Power & Pain
The Other Side of the Story: a teacher/student sexual relationship from the student's POV
The Master A sexual abuse case at exclusive New York private school, Horace Mann
The Guilty Man: Michael Morton was wrongfully imprisoned for 25 years, how he was set free
The Father of the Sandy Hook Killer Searches for Answers
Understanding the Academy Awards
Is Tony Abbott an Echo of Early Australian Prime Minister Joseph Cook?
An Unlikely Ballerina: A Profile of Misty Copeland
1994-95 One of TV's Last Great Seasons
Difficult Girl: Lena Dunham talks about her experiences in therapy
I'm Chevy Chase and You're Not: Chevy Chase's career on Saturday Night Live
How OJ Simpson Killed Popular Culture
Escape From Jonestown
On and Off The Road With Barack Obama
Murder By Craigslist
How Much My Novel Cost Me

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

2014: Consolidating the Happiness & Surviving

I'm a survivor - a living example of what people can go through and survive.
 Elizabeth Taylor: describing herself

If 2013 was the year of self discovery and independence, 2014 has proven to be one of consolidation. Of proving to myself that the happiness and joy I have felt since I moved away was not just temporary. Last week in the middle of writing my thesis, I had a fleeting thought that has sometimes struck me since I forged out on my own.
I am free. I can do whatever the fuck I want and I don't have to answer to anyone! 
Every single day since December 27th 2012 has proven to be a gift, because I truly know how shitty life can be.

Last year I ambitiously forecast that 2014 would be 'The Year of the Doctor'. It was not. I still have more than a year to go before the PhD thesis will be completed. But I haven't sat still. My argument has been redefined, and my supervisors are more confident in the path that we are taking. It may not be finished in 2015. Who knows? The new deadline date is August 31st, 2016, so as long as it is completed by then, I don't really care how I get there. There are no ambitious forecasts this time. Life is for having fun.

Fun is exactly what I've been having this year. In August, I took my first travelling holiday since 2007. I spent a week on the Gold Coast, in a fully accessible lake house on Runaway Bay. With the supporting cast of three excellent staff members from Wesley Mission Brisbane, and two of my fellow residents from the Youngcare complex, I read 3 books, gambled, watched my favourite musical of the year, and got some much needed sleep.

In 2014, I participated in the ultimate brotherly bonding moment when we saw James Faulkner brake the hearts of the English Cricket Team, educated a few Queenslanders on the finer points of the greatest game the world has ever known, saw my father get bear hugged by a Crows supporter, who claimed to follow Port, while wearing a Gold Coast Suns jumper, and enjoyed an entire day of live Test cricket. All of that was at the one venue, The Gabba.

I also cried when my beloved Port Adelaide missed the Grand Final by a kick. I will never get over that.

Musically, I attended live gigs that featured Bruce Springsteen, Neko Case, Lior, Angus and Julia Stone, and Jimmy Eat World (at a gig that celebrated the tenth anniversary of one of my favourite albums, Futures). My next year in music promises to be bigger still, as I've already secured tickets to see Belle and Sebastian, First Aid Kit, The Veronicas, Demi Lovato and the incomparable Taylor Swift.

In the midst of all that frivolity, my biggest achievement of the year was writing and starring in Youngcare's ad campaign. I am so proud of the ad, and the other work I've done with Youngcare this year, including participating in meetings with the Federal Parliamentary Secretary of Disabilities, as well as the Queensland Treasurer, and the Queensland Minister for Disabilities. My year in disability advocacy became even larger when Wesley Mission Brisbane asked to participate in their fundraising campaigns too.

At the end of the last few years I always think I survived the year and that is an achievement, but that doesn't mean I'm entirely satisfied with everything that transpired. Once again I'm continually disappointed by the struggle to find intimacy, which is not treated like a commodity. This is particularly so given that I've worked so hard trying to be more outgoing in 2014. Objects of this author's affection remain unattainable as always, only to continue the cycle of perpetual disappointment.

My conflict with the disability sector also continues unabated. The progression of the corrupt and fragmented NDIS continues much to my ongoing disgust. The government also closed down Ramp Up at the end of the financial year, denying a key vehicle of advocacy for people with disabilities. Although I wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway, I still mourn its loss every time that an issue for people with disabilities does not get covered by the mainstream media, which is to say every single day.

Lastly, thank you to the staff who work with me in my home, all of whom are employed by Wesley Mission Brisbane. Without them I couldn't do any of the things I mentioned above. The place that Youngcare built with vision and care. I would encourage every reader to donate to Youngcare and/or Wesley this Christmas. So far I'm only one person of 25 who gets to live in this fantastic environment. There needs to be more. Please give the gift of freedom. The kind of freedom I always dreamed of, and now have.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

'The Stella Paradigm' & How I Lost My Tribe

Four years ago this month I wrote the first published article on the ABC's online disability portal Ramp Up. Writing that article was, at the time, a thrilling experience. I always wanted to be a contributor to my national broadcaster. I was so green though, and it showed. I thought the views I expressed in that article were indicative of the views of people with disabilities around the country. Turns out they were not. I was the radical within my own fringe group.

In the following months, this sense of displacement grow wider, as the views on my own disability radicalised. It was pure happenstance that I learnt to loathe my cripness at the same time that my views on disability became more widely known. I never set out to ruffle feathers, and contrary to the opinion of some, I don't take pleasure in telling the world that I hate my most widely known characteristic.

I can never understand the mainstream orthodoxy of disability in this country. Since being published by Ramp Up, at the instigation of Stella Young, I have really tried to understand the views of the disability community that differed from my own, particularly those of Stella's, who to my mind was always the personification of this orthodoxy. I read every article of hers, more than once. Each time I could feel myself wondering:

How the hell did she get there?

For someone so beloved by so many people I know and respect, I was often so utterly confused by Stella. It wasn't that we disagreed, and that we were polar opposites ideologically, but that our views were so personal, and went to the core of our respective beings. Every time she would write, and appear on TV, she would proclaim that being disabled was not only a thing that she loved, but that it was the best part of her.

Since news of her death emerged, the response of the media and the community has genuinely astounded me by its sheer number. It is great that she has been recognised, because she was a game changer for disability advocacy. I don't begrudge the enormity of the coverage, even though the occasional piece veers into the self indulgent wankery of 'I knew Stella better than you did.'

I did not know Stella at all, but the response to her death leaves me more confused than any of her pieces ever did. When the only coverage of disability in the media (and thereby the only argument projected to the general public) is centred around individuals who accept 'The Stella Paradigm' of disability pride: where all crips are assumed to be for the social model of disability, NDIS advocating, 'inspiration porn' crusading, crip champions for the masses.

What happens when you disagree with every single aspect of 'The Stella Paradigm'?

Over the past three days I've read all of Stella's editorials for the ABC again, trying to figure out why there was such divergence between us.

Am I just plain wrong?

Am I being too harsh on my own disability? Should I learn to love it? How come I cannot?

How come when I think of my disability, it brings me nothing but pain, regret and longing?

How could similar thoughts bring Stella, and many others, so much joy?



It is these questions that give me pause and so much confusion.

Just a few hours ago I read an article that advocated for the return of Ramp Up. Looking at the big picture, I always think it is fantastic idea to give people with disabilities the opportunity to share their opinions and values. However, if Ramp Up was to replicate its former model. I don't want to be part of it. I met some great people through my connection with the site, but that model represents 'The Stella Paradigm' in all its glory. Pride proclaiming, chest beating, flag waving cripdom. 

This week has been such a struggle. Revisiting my own crip ideology, I have concluded that the biggest thing that defines my disability is my own self loathing.  I have never wanted to do what Stella did on behalf of all disabled Australians. I would hate to be the walkie's authority on all things disability. It is why I admired Stella. She did things I could never do. She spoke for the nation. She loved her tribe. She loved herself.
    

Monday, 8 December 2014

Stella Young: The Voice for the Voiceless

My former editor, colleague and worthy adversary, Stella Young died this weekend, at the age of 32. I feel like I have no choice but to write about this, in an effort to process my grief. I never met Stella face to face, but in one of our last emails when she commissioned me for a piece, she told me:

'I write to you because even when you don't try, you drive up traffic. I hate what you say, but no one says it quite like you. You're the Andrew Bolt of disability. We need people like you. You are not afraid to say what you feel. Ramp Up needs to be shaken up again.'


Even though her death is a tragedy, I grieve not for my personal loss, the last time we spoke was February, but for the hole that her loss leaves for people with disabilities in this country. Even though I often bemoaned it, Stella was the nation's go to voice on all things disability. I didn't agree with her TED talk, or 90% of her writing.

But at least people saw it.

I respected Stella, and she, I like to think, respected me.

I wonder where we go from here? Who will fill the massive hole that the loss of Stella leaves us?

There is no one. No one at all.

That is why I cry.

As Stella often told the world, she was not an inspiration. She did even speak for me. But she gave a voice to the majority of those with disabilities, many of whom are voiceless.

And now that voice is silenced.
                                

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Best of 2014

Movies ( Released in Australia, 2014. Ranked in order of quality)


1. Her

Albums (Ranked in order of quality)

1. When the Morning Comes: Marit Larsen
2. Fumes: Lily and Madeleine
3. 1989: Taylor Swift
4. The Veronicas: The Veronicas
5. No One is Lost: Stars
6. Stay GoldFirst Aid Kit
7Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
8. The Voyager: Jenny Lewis
9. Scattered Reflections: Lior 

Songs (No order)






















Best Books I Read In 2004 (No Order)

Not That Kind of Girl: Lena Dunham
The Professionals: Stephen Mills
Showtime: Jeff Pearlman
The Man He Became: James Tobin
The First Stone: Helen Garner
Jacks and Jokers: Matthew Condon
This House of Grief: Helen Garner 

TV (In Order of Preference)