Like a long stream I’ll bear all this echoing… Trying to revisit ‘The Legend of Zelda’ @NintendoAUNZ

The Legend of Zelda series is arguably one of the greatest video game series ever created; very possibly the greatest video game series.  Perhaps its real strength is how entry after entry in this series has captured the sense of exploration and adventure.  As a child playing A Link to the Past, I would dream about how I could solve an unsolvable dungeon, testing out my theories the next day about what might help me to push the game forward.

In 2019, I’ve decided to try to play all of the games in the series (with the exception of Link: The Faces of Evil and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon).  I fired up my Switch to see if I could download any of the old games, but came up empty.  Confronted by this minor obstacle, I let myself become overwhelmed by theorising. Continue reading “Like a long stream I’ll bear all this echoing… Trying to revisit ‘The Legend of Zelda’ @NintendoAUNZ”

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Come to my room, I’ll lower your IQ… Why do we force minorities to justify themselves?

I’ve seen a number of good movies recently.  They were good because I enjoyed them and I engaged with the themes and ideas that they offered.  When somebody says that they enjoy a movie, we tend not to require that the person defend their view with any kind of sophisticated aesthetic theory.  As fun as it would be, very few discussions about the movies that we like end up in heated arguments about the finer points of Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics.

A number of political issues, on the other hand, appear to require participants in the debate to have mastered complex (and contentious) theory.  The marriage equality debate, for example, forced the LGB community to become educators about the nature of sexual attraction.  For whatever reason, it wasn’t enough merely for two consenting adults to be attracted to each other in order to have their relationship considered valid.  There had to be a theory.

We see it also with the trans community.  It is not enough that they feel more comfortable expressing a particular gender identity, there is an expectation that they will also be sophisticated gender theorists.

And also with race and Indigeneity.  If you’re born with the ‘wrong’ skin colour, you better have been born with a copy of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks in your hand because white people will quiz you about colonialism whenever you complain about structural racism.

I want to argue two things: first, because we don’t make the same expectations of straight, white men, we normalise the expectation that Others must validate their identities; second, it encourages performative politics.

Continue reading “Come to my room, I’ll lower your IQ… Why do we force minorities to justify themselves?”

It’s hard to bite your tongue and smoke at the same time… Should we all join political parties?

It is difficult to find membership numbers for political parties in Australia.  The Liberal Party claims that it has more than 80,000 members, but this number doesn’t appear to have changed since 2014.  The ALP has more than 50,000 members.  The Greens appear to have more than 15,000.

Let’s argue that I’m out by 100% to include those who are also members of the micro parties.  That brings us to a whopping 290,000.  There are more than 16 million voters.  The percentage of people who are a member of a political party is negligible: 1.8%.  And that number was calculated by doubling the number of people known to be in a political party.

I want to unpack this a little bit to argue that we should have a social norm which obliges us to join a political party.  But I say this as a person who is not a member of a party and would rather gnaw my own arm off than join.

Continue reading “It’s hard to bite your tongue and smoke at the same time… Should we all join political parties?”

Walk bold, hard. That’s my creed, my code… Should ASIS have its guns back?

A Bill has been introduced to amend the provisions of the Intelligence Services Act which relate to the capacity of Australia’s intelligence services to use weapons overseas.  There’s a lot to debate and query about how our intelligence services are being shaped, so of course it’s been flushed out by talk about James Bond.

The Bill will authorise certain members of the Australian Secret Intelligence Services to use force overseas in situations other than for self defence.  It surprises people to know that our intelligence services have only recently been given the authority to use weapons.  To understand the situation and to explore our intuitions, we need to go on a little bit of a history tour.  35 years ago today (November 30) at the Sheraton Hotel in Melbourne (a fifteen minute trip from where I’m currently sitting).

Continue reading “Walk bold, hard. That’s my creed, my code… Should ASIS have its guns back?”

It was summer; now it’s autumn… National security law isn’t magic

The stabbing attack in Melbourne’s CBD on 9 November breathed more oxygen into the debate about how Australia’s national security laws should work.  The attacker, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali, had his passport cancelled in 2015; should he have been monitored more closely?  Mr Ali was out on bail for minor driving offences and had missed a number of court appearances; should the rules about granting bail be tightened?  Mr Ali appeared to have a history of mental illness and substance abuse; was this a failure of the mental health system rather than the national security system?  And Mr Ali was Muslim; wasn’t this more evidence that all Muslims are somehow, in some way, all collectively responsible if not actually guilty?

I want to dig around a bit in these intuitions, but it is worth highlighting an event that happened the day before in Canberra: the High Court handed down its decision in Strickland (a pseudonym) v the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.  This is a complex case, but it asks us to think about exactly how much power we want to give to authorities when people are suspected of engaging in illegal behaviour.

Continue reading “It was summer; now it’s autumn… National security law isn’t magic”

We were talking, about the space between us all… Federalism is hot garbage

I cannot say enough genuinely lovely things about Frank Bongiorno.  It is perhaps one of the most wonderful things when talent, determination, integrity, and kindness converge in one person, and I can honestly say that Frank demonstrates these qualities consistently and unfailingly.

I say these things not because he can very easily get me fired (which he can), but because his argument in favour of Australian federalism is bad.

Frank’s argument draws on the pro-States rhetoric about being ‘laboratories’.  Using examples from across Australia’s federal history, it is argued that States can innovate and push progress in areas of policy that a single, unified system of government could not.

Continue reading “We were talking, about the space between us all… Federalism is hot garbage”

Reading, writing, arithmetic are the branches of the learning tree… Independence and the ABC

I’ve argued before that debates about ABC funding are poorly constructed.   The nutshell point: we should have a clear vision of what we want from the ABC before we get embroiled in arguments about its funding:

That clear vision of the public good might sound subjective, but a pluralist approach is amenable to reasons.  That is, a clear vision of the public good should inform programming and editorial decisions and we can engage in criticism where we can argue that decisions are clearly not motivated by the public good.  Calling a person standing for office a ‘c-word’, for example, seems to fall outside anybody’s reasonable articulation of the public good.  The jester liberalism nonsense that pollutes Wednesday night ABC in general is very difficult to justify with a reasonable conception of the public good.

The argument also works to motivate a defence of the ABC.  If there were a clear vision of the public good articulated by the ABC, the public would be more inclined to defend it against budget cuts.

We still don’t have that clarity of vision in the debate, but we do have a new element: the role of the Minister in running the ABC.  The prevailing wisdom is that we need an ABC that is independent of the ABC, with a few voices (like that of the former Chair, Justin Milne) saying that there needs to be a ‘conduit’ between the Government and the ABC.  It’s a point worth interrogating.

Continue reading “Reading, writing, arithmetic are the branches of the learning tree… Independence and the ABC”