When a hero comes along…

Nelson has no doubt proved to have touched the lives of millions.  Evident across social media the past few weeks were his inspirational quotes that have moved many of us.

mandela_10

Who is this ambassador for peace?

In summary, Nelson was South Africa’s first black president (is black PC?), was instrumental in significantly reducing apartheid (entrenched racism) and was jailed for 27 years for doing so.

Nelson was not alone in his quest for us to treat each other with the respect and kindness we deserve. Martin Luther King’s dream was for ‘people to be judged by the content of their character not the colour of their skin’. As the Dalai Lama quotes we are all the same, we are one, we are humanity.

Nelson or ‘Madiba’ (the father) as he was known to many…showed the world that you can stand up for what you believe is right.  Despite the harsh penalties for attempting to overthrow the policies of the South African Government decades ago Nelson fought for the rights of his fellow Africans.  According to the Nelson Mandela foundation he ‘supports conflict resolution, poverty reduction and increased public health’.

The rejection of a class based society

If anyone has seen ‘The Help‘ you probably have experienced at least on film the abhorrent treatment of African Americans in the US as slaves in the 1970s.  I was shocked after seeing this film and couldn’t believe there were people out there who could treat fellow humans this way.

KKK? Are these people kidding themselves? They dress like children who have been stuck in a room with their bedsheet and a pair of scissors. While membership over the past few decades has significantly declined (~6m to 6K) its unfathomable people could put that much energy into opposing those of a different skin colour.

The ‘Enlightenment’ or ‘Age of Reason’ in the 17th and 18th C created a significant rejection of class based society.  The emphasis became on reason rather than tradition. Power inequalities started to fade however money still continues to play a central role in status today.

I recall a trip to Hobart where the anglo-saxon cab driver started whinging about an influx of Sudanese immigrants settling there, and that Hobart had the highest per capita anglo saxon population than any other place in the world (at 98%).  I’m half Croatian and most of my friends have one or both parents born outside Australia and even grandparents.

Why is it many Australians shun migrants from less developed nations, war torn countries or countries with varying religious beliefs yet we have no issue wanting to obtain visas to migrate to the UK or the US etc? (or live there illegally…illegal immigrants?)

We are living in a global world where globalisation has reduced the barriers to live in other nations.  We must remember this next time we assume someone is going to ‘take our jobs’ or ‘overrun our country’ that almost every one of us has lived overseas or know someone close to us who does.

I always get confused when people refer to those of oriental descent as ‘asians’.  As if they are a collective group of people that all act in exactly the same way.  I am caucASIAN and I’m a menace behind the wheel too!

How can we be heroes?

In an earlier post I talked about ‘standing up or sitting back’ – since then I’ve been shunned and ripped off by three homeless people after trying to buy them a cupcake, a coffee and a big issue.  Good intentions aren’t always received as envisaged, but I’m sure they appreciated the gesture and I brightened their day.

I registered to volunteer with the Rural Fire Service to help the catering unit, which I then had to defer as working full time and studying part time it wasn’t going to be humanly possible. I will volunteer when Uni finishes and found a way to act rather than to simply have empathy toward victims.

One of the easiest things any of us can do in this life is sit by and absorb information… Its up to us what we choose to do with that information, hence the theory that actions speak louder than words.  As Ghandi says ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

I highly recommend the new Mandela film – it is truly inspiring to see how a visionary like Mandela can defy social norms and eliminate anti-social behaviour, like racism, through courage, determination and sacrifice.

Loves of our lives

Inspired by Hanna Rosin’s debate on ‘The end of men’ at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas that was focused on the changing role of women in society. Her discussion on ‘the hook up culture’ was of particular interest so I have completed a brief comparison on relationships a few decades ago and those we see now.

Rewind back to our grandparents era…(Early-mid 1900’s)

Most men and women claimed to be straight (or didn’t have the courage to defy social norms?), sex before marriage was not commonplace, you often dated only 1 or 2 people before marrying and in many instances married quickly.  Both my grandparents were married for 50 years+

Fast forward to today

A variety of relationships exist in society: straight, gay, bi, transgender, de facto as well as numerous options to conceive and nurture children through IVF, surrogacy, adoption, foster care. Abortion rates are increasing (in Australia this is high at 70K p.a.) and divorce rates have been on the increase for a while.

divorcechildren

An interesting transition that could explain relationships over time is through the integration of science and education. Education has created technology which has created more educated people through accessibility, ubiquity and real time answers to questions (where would we be without Google!).

As people become more educated they realise they don’t need to rely or ‘follow’ a popular life journey. In the developed world at least it seems obvious this typically involves… school, work full time, get married by 30, buy a house, have children by 40 and the rest is history.  This is a common pattern and certainly one that I have seen develop with numerous friends getting engaged by the age of 29 to then be married by 30.  Is it a race to the popular life journey finish line? I’m not sure but seems coincidental at least.  Perhaps the biological clock plays a role but with all of the technological advances that have created options above to conceive / nurture children it seems the biological clock isn’t as crucial as once thought.

 Changing patterns of relationships

There is a culture out there (tinder users you know who you are!) where people are quite happy to ‘hook up’ and move on to the next person they choose.  No strings attached.  No hanging out.   The freedom to choose what you want when you want and meet a whole heap of interesting (and probably not so interesting people) along the way.  Perhaps also a valid mechanism for the busy, not so social or shy people out there who are looking for their other half.  News.com.au recently reported that ‘The average female now has eight partners during her lifetime, up from four in the 1990s – and catching up with men, whose average is 12….’.

In last week’s Sunday Life one of the articles I read was by a lady who after ‘years of child rearing, is now smugly single‘.  Dianne Blacklock notes that by 2020 the number of single person households is expected to increase by reaching 16%.  A very interesting read as she discusses her requests by people to rationalise her relationship status.

“Apparently I have a problem. You see, years after getting divorced, I’m still single, and I’m not actively doing anything about it. I am told, repeatedly, that I’m supposed to be putting myself “out there”. Out where? Where is this mythical place? And why is everyone so insistent that I “put” myself there?”

This lonely london lady is so keen on finding a boyfriend she has set up lost boyfriend posters!

Disbanding the ‘nuclear family’

While Australia is a wage earner welfare state focused on the assumption that most members of society form a ‘nuclear family’ with a male breadwinner, stay at home wife and 2.5 children.  (How can you have half a child anyway???).  Clearly this needs some revising as women are starting to combine the roles of caregiver and career woman – igniting their intellect and reclaiming their role as equal to men with 45% of women now comprising the workforce. (Ungerson) 31% of women versus 17% of men will require care in institutions as women are considered to be overworked due to the two roles.

Hanna Rosin states that the income of women is increasing while our male counterparts is decreasing.  This could be due to our prior ‘underdog’ status and therefore increased ability to adapt or ‘hustle’ as Hanna calls it and change.  Did you know that for every 3 degrees women earn men earn 2?  We can even see the role of women changing by watching sitcom episodes in the 70s compared to now. Domestic violence is decreasing with divorce increasing partly due to women now being less financially dependent on men. Women are what could now be considered the apple computers of humanity as Hanna eloquently put it!

It’s clear that society will evolve how society wants to evolve and policies developed by the State particularly those relating to the Market need to be progressive.  For example, policies relating to work, corporations, child rearing, relationships, welfare benefits, marriage laws (including gay marriage) and support services.  Policymakers should have concepts in mind like Hanna’s description of women, with their ability to ‘adapt and change’.

http://news.com.au/money/investing/the-perfect-time-to-start-a-family/story-e6frfmdr-1226757189749

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/nate-bagleys-best-relationship-advice-2014-2

A chemically altered consciousness

Drugs.   Chemical cocktails for the mind and body.  Defined by Google as ‘a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.’

I recently attended Peter Hitchens ‘There is no war on drugs’ debate at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.  A campaign Peter appears committed to after experiencing the fall out of cannabis use by a friend’s son.  It could be argued, that illicit drugs are taken to temporarily (or permanently in the case of addiction) detach oneself from reality and one’s current state of consciousness.

I think his debate was largely unqualified and walked out when he started questioning the validity of prescription drugs…Thousands of life saving drugs have been developed over the past few centuries to improve the quality of life of those who are ill (mentally or physically). However, no academically awarded medical practitioner has scientifically concluded that the benefits of taking illicit drugs outweigh the costs to either yourself or others.

You can tell the difference when an academic presents compared to a journalist.  I’m still unsure if Mr Hitchens has tried illicit drugs? His address still sparked a debate internally about the social fallout of illicit drug consumption, which cannot be denied. Social in the context of ‘partying’ perhaps but not so social in the context of violence, crime, addiction, deteriorating health and poverty.

http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/national-drug-strategic-framework-lp

2010 Household Drug Survey

*Australian Institute of Health & Welfare

  • Recent illicit drug use (use in the previous 12 months) rose from 13.4% of the population aged 14 and over in 2007 to 14.7% in 2010. This was still below the 1995 peak of 16.7%.
  • The rise was mainly due to an increase in the proportion of people who had used cannabis (from 9.1% to 10.3%), pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes (3.7% to 4.2%), cocaine (1.6% to 2.1%) and hallucinogens (0.6% to 1.4%).
  • Recent illicit drug use was highest in the 20–29 year age group for both males and females (30.5% and 24.3%, respectively).
    However, recent ecstasy use decreased, and there was no change in the use of meth/amphetamines, heroin, ketamine, GHB, inhalants and injecting drug use.
  • Between 2007 and 2010, ecstasy and meth/amphetamines were perceived to be less readily available, with less opportunity to use, but cocaine, hallucinogens, pain-killers/analgesics (both prescription and over-the-counter) and tranquilisers/sleeping pills for non-medical purposes were perceived to be more readily available.
  • Of all illicit drugs, community tolerance has increased for cannabis use, while people in Australia still consider heroin to be the drug most associated with a drug problem.

Important actors

While I don’t envisage solving the ‘war on drugs’ (illicit) in the next few paragraphs, I will share some brief views:

Justice system – Why is it that many of us turn a blind eye to cocaine abuse by a wealthy office worker and yet we shun those who live in poverty and smoke marijuana?  Equal opportunities for incarceration and condemnation for use and possession must be enforced.  I struggle to understand how hubs like Kings Cross exist when everyone knows what goes on behind many of the closed doors… A power struggle between the justice system and king pins? Perhaps.  Which may reduce through harsher deterrents for criminals but also greater support for law enforcement officers.

Education – many attendees of this address thought earlier education and more of it would reduce illicit drug consumption.  However, if my experiences and the experiences of those I have met in my time are anything to go by its not so much a deterrent.  As Peter discusses, peer pressure and that desire to play with fire and experience the unknown play a key role.  It can’t hurt of course, and certainly the recent ‘Ice Age Campaign‘ has provided some great shock tactics.

I wonder whether a different tack could be for education providers to simply:

  1. Emphasise how many great things in the world ignite the senses like travel http://www.escapenormal.com/2012/06/23/the-100-most-beautiful-places-in-the-world-in-pictures/
  2. Remind us all of how ‘free and easy’ we have it these days (as my 94 year old grandfather says) and that we should be thankful for our good health and opportunity. http://www.boredpanda.com/must-see-powerful-photos/

Policy makers – ensure that appropriate consultation occurs with anti social citizens to understand the core drivers for illicit drug consumption so that appropriate systems are in place to combat it.  Perhaps:

  • More community engagement events and campaigns that foster important values – we all know how much sport unites us as Australians and Australia Day, Christmas etc.
  • Online service delivery for anxiety and depression to target those who may be at risk for starting on an illicit drug journey at the expense of seeking professional help – www.mindspot.org.au is a fantastic example.
  • And the list goes on…

All of us –  focus on constructing a more favoured reality which includes laughter, confidence, creativity and relaxation to fuel a less anti social society.

Notwithstanding there may be a genuine need to escape the current place one finds themselves (e.g. returning from war, divorce, dealing with grief/loss etc).  In this instance perhaps we can make mental health services more accessible and less stigmatised so people don’t feel compelled to commence their ‘illicit drug journey’.

Philosophically speaking…

One attendee at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas even raised the fact that you are more likely to be hit by a car than negatively impacted by drugs…A reference would have been handy.  Assuming he was correct, perhaps the social fallout from illicit drug use is what it is and is another facet of the world around us?  Survival of the fittest?

http://www.news.com.au/national/more-australian-teenagers-are-choosing-not-to-drink-and-smoke-according-to-a-major-new-report/story-fncynjr2-1226991404242

http://dealproject.org.au

http://www.au.timeout.com/sydney/aroundtown/events/38675/block-party-at-the-barracks

http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/philip-seymour-hoffman-bought-heroin-and-cocaine-from-two-dealers-in-final-drugs-score/story-fn907478-1226818084612

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/policeman-who-shot-ryan-pringle-thought-colleague-hit-by-crossbow/story-e6frg6nf-1226769686407

http://news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/nigella-lawson-testifies-in-court-at-fraud-trial-of-former-personal-assistants/story-fn907478-1226775464512

http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129544486&tab=2

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/28/canada-approves-use-of-ecstasy-in-study-into-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blow_(film)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limitless

A prisoner for life?

I had the privilege of attending one of the most explosive debates on recidivism and the reintegration of convicted criminals back into society at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas last weekend. When I first read that a double convicted murderer, Erwin James, was coming to Australia to speak I wondered what it would be like to hear his experience of 20 years behind bars for taking the lives of two men.

When he walked on stage and began speaking, I could see remorse ingrained in his face which was permanently furrowed, he never smiled and spoke softly and slowly. I didn’t know how I was going to feel about his views and whether I would agree…whether he deserved the treatment he got in prison and again on release…by the end of the discussion I had some respect (for a murderer?) for his struggle and for his views on recidivism.

Erwin James’ life became troubled at age 10 when his mother was killed in a car accident. His father, unable to cope, became an alcoholic and was abusive toward Erwin, at one stage pushing his head into the fire for smiling.  Erwin was convicted of burglary at age 10 after stealing from a sweet shop…he then left home to sleep on the streets, unable to handle his father’s rage.  He was moved into a boys home where he fast learned the tricks of the trade leading him on a downward spiral and a life on the streets filled with crime.  He by no means was justifying his crimes but painted the picture of a troubled childhood which played a role in his perception of right and wrong.

He didn’t talk much about his crimes, understandably, but wanted to focus on ‘life on the inside’ and whether society wanted criminals to be able to effectively reintegrate into society upon release.

Erwin suggested that if prisoners are in there forever we don’t need to pay as much attention to recidivism but the fact is many prisoners are released and the chances of reoffending are high, at least 60% in the UK,  50% in Australia.

He described prison as a place where you ‘live inside your head’, initially he was in a cell for 23hrs a day.  It was here he would try and work out why he did what he did. The prison psychologist helped him understand that all people are born loveable and aren’t inherently bad people…and so he began to untangle his dysfunctions.  He recalls seeing a photo of himself as a young boy with a cowboy hat on and wondered where it all went wrong.

It was a long and difficult 20 years with many prisoners taking their own life (1247 he recalls in great detail) ‘a place of fear where people were struggling’.  He was moved to a longer term maximum security prison and was able to then use workshops, the chapel, a gym and saw more possibilities.  He joined an English class which was important to be able to exercise his mind again.

Prison was a land of hierarchy and unwritten rules with someone being stabbed every other week.  He experienced a major riot and a siege but he hung on to hope and books.  The prison psychologist told him that he owes it to his victims to ‘do the best you can in here’.

He became known as ‘the guy who could write a good letter’ and started writing letters for other inmates to lawyers, family, complaints for people.  He started to feel good that he was able to contribute to a community and knew that if he ever got out he would want to make a positive contribution to society.  He saw writing as an enabler, allowing him to find a way to live again and walk the middle line between his past and future. He was chronically inhibited in prison and needed to feel secure again.

He was asked to write for the Guardian Newspaper a column on ‘life inside’.  This was an opportunity for Erwin to apply himself and have a second chance at life and is where he has been employed since.

Prison as a deterrent

Naturally, the question was raised that conditions in prison should be tough so its a deterrent to those choosing to commit crimes.  Erwin explained that he absolutely agrees that prison shouldn’t be a playground but that ultimately these people are going to be released and if we don’t want them continuing to harm members of society upon release they need to live in a way that is not going to impact their actions upon release.  ‘Prison crushes you, undermines, erodes and corrodes you and dismantles your humanity’.  You may get released but the debt you owe the victims and their families even after 20 years inside will never be repaid, and having that on your conscience is a true life sentence.

Early intervention

The question was raised around Erwin’s troubled childhood and it was agreed that early intervention from social services and the right education and support is key to ensuring criminality doesn’t result.

Victims and their families

Erwin at no point felt that his crimes should be excused, he raised some interesting views on what next after serving your time… A criminal record will always stay with him and even minimised his chances of getting a visa to come to Australia to speak.  However he just tries to ‘do the best he can’ with what time he has left on the outside.  Inside he hoped that he would live to see just one more sunny day…

Can people change? Can we forgive?

In Norway there is a prison called Bastoy that sees only 16% of its inmates reoffending upon release.  However, it is argued that Norway with its relatively small population, egalitarian nature and high quality of life within the community play a role.  Its here prisoners are given responsibility, for example through farming on site.
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/04/bastoy-norwegian-prison-works

Hearing first hand from a convicted criminal was enlightening.  It changed my perspective on our prison system.  Ultimately there are some criminals that will continue to reoffend and cause major harm in the community and shouldn’t be released and Erwin acknowledges this.  Conversely, there are many people imprisoned that commit fraud and other smaller crimes that probably don’t deserve to live in such circumstances and can be rehabilitated and deterred in different ways. However, there are others that will be released and upon spending sometimes decades in a hardened prison won’t be able to function in society as we know it.

People are people ultimately and its up to society as to whether they want to keep prisoners in there for life, or even capital punishment like in the US, but the fact remains many prisoners are currently released so its up to us to decide how they are treated in prison to reduce recidivism.

http://books.google.com.au/books/about/A_life_inside.html?id=SZIbAQAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

http://news.com.au/national/thomas-kelly-killer-kieran-loveridge-gets-four-years-jail/story-fncynjr2-1226755733724n

http://news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/my-conversations-with-a-coldblooded-killer/story-fnixwvgh-1226758834186

http://news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/derrick-deacon-explains-what-freedom-feels-like-after-25-years/story-fnixwvgh-1226766427689

http://news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/simon-gittanys-new-life-in-jail-and-what-his-girlfriend-will-see-of-him/story-fnet09p2-1226770560480

Measuring solidarity: Stand up or sit back?

Following from an earlier post where I saw Geoffrey Robertson QC present, one comment he made has stuck with me ‘the greatest value of any civilised society, is the extent to which it cares for its most vulnerable members’.

When you see a homeless person, do you stop to buy them a coffee or email a charity to ensure their social workers and vans know about it? Because lets face it we aren’t all entirely convinced where those coins are going to be spent… When I lived in London I recall gypsies begging with a baby outside work when it was snowing.  I rang the police (standard!) who said they couldn’t do anything.  I reminded them that in Australia a baby would be protected by our authorities from the icy winter streets.  As Geoffrey Robertson says ‘Australians have a distinctive moral outlook and are possibly the best example in the world of the reformation of the human spirit’.

We have all witnessed the terrifying bushfires raging throughout New South Wales at the moment – this news broadcast is a stark reminder of the raging inferno many communities are engulfed in with the emergency services doing their best to contain the flames.

The Rural Fire Service is instrumental in leading the disaster response on the front line and via social media.  With a recent post declaring people ‘Prepare for the emotional, mental and physical impact of defending your property, if in doubt, leave’.  The threat of large loss of property and life is very real and its up to the rest of us as a community to stand up and act to support our most vulnerable citizens.

Imagine if your family, friends, pets, home or neighbours were at risk? But can we imagine that enough to act? Or are we planning our next manicure, restaurant reservation and pub crawl.  Have you considered?

  • Donating cash for those managing the disaster response
  • Donating clothes (apparently household items are too impractical for the RFS to accept – fair enough!)
  • Donating food for victims and for the emergency services (cooking would be a bonus I’m sure)
  • Providing accommodation for people who’s homes have been burned to a cinder
  • Supporting bushfire victims and our firies through this challenging time
  • Volunteering e.g. for the RFS front line, admin, washing uniforms, anything! If not to enable immediate help in the future the more manpower the better.  So  pleased to report our fellow firies in NZ have confirmed they can assist.
  • Driving awareness of important messages from RFS and beyond – such as the Facebook message for anyone in the bushfire stricken area  to empty their green garbage bins, fill with water and leave with a sign and also those with a pool.  It is evident social media has proven a positive influence in the work of disaster response teams with its ubiquitous nature.
  • Fundraising for anyone you know personally that has been affected, or for the overall disaster response.
  • Preparing your own house so its fire ready
  • Educating your loved ones about what to do in case of a bushfire
  • Lobbying Government for relief measures and stronger policies as well as increased resourcing for disaster relief

And the list goes on…

The point is we as a community have a moral obligation to support our fellow countrymen.  There are so many things you can do to act as I have listed, even as creative as driving nearby with chilled bottles of water for the emergency services!

To quote again from my Dalai Lama post, we must always treat the entire population as one.  If there are members of society that are more vulnerable than others its up to us to support them.  The favour will always be returned and at some point in our lives we will too be vulnerable members of society.  If the emergency services or the military thought it was all too hard to put their lives at risk to help others than where would we be?  We can all play a role.

I just registered as a volunteer for the RFS – I doubt I will be any use front line but I am prepared to help with whatever else!

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.29.19 PM

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/coping-in-a-fire-disaster-our-tips-on-what-to-do-and-where-to-turn/story-fni0cx12-1226743099002

http://news.com.au/national/pilot-dies-after-firefighting-aircraft-crashes-near-ulladulla-in-new-south-wales/story-fncynjr2-1226745835136

http://news.com.au/national/breaking-news/bushfires-still-a-risk-in-some-nsw-areas/story-e6frfku9-1226745639124

http://mashable.com/2013/10/21/random-acts-of-kindness/

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Hacktivists and Eco Warriors

Reading today’s news on the terrible tale of a young victim highlights that the justice system isn’t always foolproof against social condemnation. Daisy Coleman’s family were forced to flee their home town after they spoke out against the attack and were largely condemned by locals.  It could be argued the failure to protect victims and their families was a failure of the justice system but the justice system can only reprimand certain behaviours.

When the justice system fails us who do we turn to?

In this case… global hacktivist group Anonymous will step in and use their power as expert internet hackers.  They hope to bring justice for the girl and her family by investigating the alleged attacker.

I have read about their work previously after reading about a young Canadian girl who took her own life after being bullied following an attack. Anonymous claimed to use their skills to name and shame those involved and release incriminating footage. “What the Anonymous community is trying to do is make sure that she did not die in vain.”

Daisy Coleman speaks about how a whole town turned on her

What are your views on breaking traditional laws to seek justice and to promote human rights for all people? What about the rights of animals?

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I recently had the privilege of an exclusive tour on board the Sam Simon Sea Shepherd vessel.  I was inspired to hear how these eco warriors volunteer their time and risk their lives to protect the world’s marine life.   The crew were busy preparing for a mission to the Antarctic where they hoped to protect whales against International whalers.  They go to sea for a few months at a time to actively get in the path of the whaling ships, which are often better resourced and larger.

The Sea Shepherd foundation were able to save at least 900 whales last year from one mission alone and are committed to ensuring this endangered species are protected for future generations and to sustain the current ecosystem.

http://www.seashepherd.org.au

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-24/russia-gazprom-piracy-charges-greenpeace-activists-hooliganism/5042078

http://news.com.au/world/breaking-news/russian-piracy-charges-remain-greenpeace/story-e6frfkui-1226751684090

http://news.com.au/technology/online/anonymous-indonesia-hacks-dry-cleaning-plumbing-websites-in-response-to-australia-spy-claims/story-fnjwnj25-1226752860278

Festival of Dangerous Ideas

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Sydney Opera House are delivering a unique opportunity for Australians to listen to thoughts on issues that confront society.
http://www.fodi.sydneyoperahouse.com

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas challenges our assumptions, forces us to confront what society usually ignores, and will make you think, react…. and maybe even change your mind.

I was very excited to hear that Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Arlie Hochschild, was delivering a speech titled ‘We have outsourced ourselves‘ .

Remote assistants respond to calls and emails. Life coaches assist with personal decisions. Smartphone apps tell us where to eat dinner. Nameologists help choose names for babies that will be raised by live-in au pairs.

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild looks at the long-term consequences of a frictionless existence and the implications of replacing the community with a marketplace in favour of faster, lonelier lives.

Delivered in conjunction with St James Ethics Centre

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Geoffrey Robertson QC – Global Human Rights Lawyer

I had the privilege of hearing Geoffrey Robertson deliver an address on ‘Australian Values for Australia Today’ and highly recommend watching this.  Geoffrey Robertson “Australian Values for Australia Today” – August 2013

Geoffrey spoke of history being vital in understanding what has shaped current values, this includes the evils.

Geoffrey is a distinguished human rights lawyer, author and broadcaster.  He has defended Julian Assange, prosecuted General Pinochet and sat on the UN War Crimes Council amongst many other high profile cases.  He uses his great intellect and success to fight for the rights of humanity – an inspiration to us all.

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Does money buy us happiness? My first foray into why we…

About a decade ago I had to complete a major work (Personal Interest Project) for Society & Culture in High School, where we could pick any social issue to research and discuss.

I knew straight away that I wanted to understand whether money buys us happiness? At the ripe old age of 16 I knew that perhaps I wouldn’t find any research on the topic I had invented… However a trip to the NSW State Library soon revealed there were many models that were relevant to my research such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the law of diminished marginal utility and the fact that its human nature to never be satisfied.

After designing a questionnaire and asking relatives things like ‘If you won a million dollars what would you spend it on?’ and researching the topic further it was evident that money doesn’t buy us happiness.  The consumerist culture of the modern era largely drives individuals to think they will achieve self gratification the more they buy.

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Dalai Lama in Sydney

Thrilled to see the Dalai Lama and to hear his insight into the inner workings of humankind and interdependence and how we all have the ability to use common values such as compassion, love and kindness.

His focus is not solely on Buddhism but ‘secular ethics’.  He is a really cool chilled guy who laughs a lot and I think we can learn a lot about how to live in harmony with one another from him.

As they say in Hawaii ‘Your blood is my blood, your bone my bone.  Your happiness is my happiness, your pain is my pain’.  If everyone in the world tried to make the biggest contribution by being kind and helpful to everyone they meet, the world would be a better place.

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