1. Waiting for Godot
Part of my delay in completing this week’s edition was waiting for something that wasn’t ridiculous to happen. There is plenty like Boris Johnson suspending parliament, and Trump attacking Fox News, and Fox News hitting back.
To be honest, I’ve been knocked a bit askew by the David Spratt’s question At 4°C of warming, would a billion people survive? The answer according to some respected scientists is, in brief, probably not, something less than a billion, and 4°C seems to be where we are heading.
That would mean on average more than a million deaths from global warming each week for the next 90 years.
Then the IPCC is preparing a new report saying that rising sea levels and catastrophic storm surges could displace 280m people “immediately”, whatever that means.
Please note, one of the chief bearers of these glad tidings says we can fix it if we stop waving our arms, said he, waving his arms, and things go better with optimism.
I started a post, but I had to put it aside. Next cab off the rank.
2. Julian Assange
Julian Assange should have gone to Sweden, did time for his sexual misadventures, and then where? Russia?
I know someone who had lunch with Julie Bishop the other day. It was a group of a dozen or so, and the person I know was sitting almost opposite Ms Bishop.
She decided to ask Ms Bishop why the Australian Government did not provide any help to Assange. The answer may surprise.
Assange was offered help from the outset, but refused, because we had extradition arrangements with Sweden and the US. Now that Ecuador is unsafe for him, his choice of countries has narrowed even further. Ms Bishop said that at any given time there were over 1000 Australians banged up somewhere in foreign lands, some on death row. We only get to hear about the high profile ones.
3. Citizen Yang Hengjun
Which brings to mind the case of detained Australian citizen Yang Hengjun, who has been accused of spying by China.
People should understand that being detained in China is pretty much a case of the justice system processing the guilty, so going public is unlikely to change anything. It has more to do with political agendas, internal and external.
My son Mark has just been to Sydney, where he had a chat with a Chinese friend who is here doing a PhD in sociology. She said that anti-Chinese discrimination and hysteria has definitely escalated in the last two years.
Her more interesting comment, however, was that Chinese sociology was conceptually different from Western sociology. It’s a matter in part of how language works within society.
We can already see this in how Anglo sociology was different from its French and German roots in Auguste Compte and Max Weber. For example, Weber’s concept of the “iron cage” is generally used as a translation of “stahlhartes Gehäuse”, which is literally “steel-hard housing”, substantially different conceptually. Gehäuse houses not only the gearbox, which actually works unlike a bird in a cage, it also houses the snail.
That’s just one accessible example. The situation is worse with philosophers like Hegel who was a big influence on Marx. It is said that German philosophers in part used the language they did so that their political masters would not understand what they we talking about. They also wanted to be precise, not subject to the vicissitudes of common language, so they ended up with almost no-one understanding what they were on about.
The basic point here, though, is that in 30 years time the sociology Australian students may be using has a fair chance of owing more to what is written in Chinese, rather than the European variety, which will no doubt live on in Ramsay Centres devoted to preserving the Western variety, which may become an historical curiosity.
However, I rather think that notion is going to be interrupted by the effects of global warming.
4. John Mearsheimer and Australia’s dilemma
John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science University of Chicago, gave a talk Australia’s choice in a US-China conflict at the Lwy Institute entitled Australia’s choice in a US-China conflict. It’s no doubt paywalled, but he spoke to the AFR’s Lisa Murray in ‘Security trumps prosperity’: Australia will choose US over China:
- ‘If you take the long view, Australia has never been able to sit on the fence when there was a threat in East Asia.’
His basic message is that the US will force us to choose and punish us if we don’t choose them.
He bases this on some mad theory of how hegemons work. He says the the US is a hegemonic power in the Western hemisphere, and will not tolerate any other power becoming hegemonic in their own region, because they would then threaten the US.
What he does not see is that with globalisation economies become so interdependent that mortal conflict is against the interests of any hegemon. I would have thought that the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated the limits of US power.
However, the speech was worse than that. It valorised the European expansion across the North American land mass which involved defeating, even exterminating the existing tribes. He said, that is just the way things work and accepted the analogy of Hitler moving east for “Lebensraum”.
The idea of national self-interest is toxic and is getting a new run.
This is serious at a time when humanity needs to see itself as one tribe, and essentially one class. Survival is not going to be automatic for the next few generations. It is the powerful who are not acting on climate change.
5. Compassion needs to become a leading value
Lately I have been asking myself whether preserving human life can be an ultimate human value, if what we are preserving is a peak predator like no other and a palpable danger to life on the planet.
How is it that American lives, their freedom and capacity to pursue happiness is worth so much that harm to others is acceptable?
Here in Oz, Martin Parkinson declares ‘entrenched disadvantage’ in Australia a disgrace, Explosive mortgage debt growth [is] putting the squeeze on older Australians and Tamil family’s supporters ridicule DFAT report [that] they’ll be safe in Sri Lanka.
Two children who I understand to be Australian citizens are to be evicted along with their parents. This family is wanted and valued by a Central Queensland community and a petition of (last I heard) 220,000 Australians want the minister to show compassion and let them stay. Are they a threat to our safety? To say that Ministerial discretion can’t be exercised is humbug. The circumstances are unique, and this is what ministerial discretion is for. Fran Kelly babbling about thousands of similar cases on Insiders this morning was just humbug. Just use common sense for once!
For a variety of reasons I have been thinking about my earlier life. We were lucky, I think, to buy a house in the early 1980s when you could still do it on one salary. On Fathers day, I think about my three children who have not been so lucky.
Back in the 1950s Florence Kluckhohn said there were three value orientations to our perceptions of human nature.
Intrinsically we can be seen as good, bad, or both good and bad. The latter category can be further split two ways – capable or incapable of change. If you work your way through those concepts there is only one way to go. We all need to work for the betterment of everyone. What that means in practice is too big for Sunday morning.
Happy Fathers’ Day
Irrespective of the above, happy Fathers’ Day. Where would we be without them?
I thought I might slide through unnoticed, but my daughter was on the phone this morning, and our local domestic manager has decreed that the four of us who sleep under this roof shall be present for pizzas this evening. Which will be more than enough. It’s good to be alive!