Fingers in paints, in paints we brought… It’s Human Rights Day! Let’s celebrate, Australia!

It’s been 69 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Australia does not really celebrate its involvement in the creation of the Declaration.  William Hodgson is all but unknown to most Australians.  I’ve sometimes wondered why Australians aren’t taught about the role we’ve played on the global stage — some kind of cultural cringe, maybe.  Hodgson was on the drafting committee that was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and Doc Evatt was the President of the United Nations General Assembly at the time of its adoption.

Even detractors of the Declaration have to recognise its importance.  In the period immediately following the Second World War, there was a desperate need to recognise a universal humanity that would provide a moral basis to international law.  And the document reflects the aspirations of elites at the time.

But good intentions only get you so far.  International Human Rights Day is a good opportunity to be intellectually serious about human rights as a moral and a legal concept, and to defend Australia’s approach to the legal recognition of human rights.

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So shave your face with some mace in the dark… Obligatory marriage equality post

It was inevitable that this would be the outcome.  There were no good reasons to discriminate between people based on sexual identity, and now the law reflects community values.

That should be the end of the matter, and yet it isn’t.  The path that we took to the inevitable deserves critique, not least because we took the pathway that did the greatest possible damage to the Australian community.  We should also ask ourselves if this is the way we want democratic society to work, or whether democratic styles are being used to cloak antisocial behaviours.

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Quick Update: Still Alive

With the mad rush of everything, I haven’t been making enough time to sit down and write.  It’s a weird dynamic.  I feel much better after I’ve written something, but I have recently found myself too stressed, too tired, or too miserable to write.  We need some way of bringing the future psychological reward of an activity back through time to immediately before you undertake the activity.  Get cracking, STEM nerds.

I keep feeling like I haven’t achieved very much this year.  And it’s weird how that feeling — a feeling which often severely interferes with my day — doesn’t align with objective facts.  Although it has been an extremely rough year for me personally, I got my postgrad degree, started two more postgraduate degrees (but one of them is a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, so it doesn’t really count), and am now more firmly on the pathway to my PhD.  It feels like those achievements were so long ago; I graduated in July.

Anyway, I hope you are all well.  Write back soon.


Got a big plan, this mindset maybe its right… the Politics of Mindfulness

Focus on your breath.  In and out.  Be genuinely curious about your breath.  Your mind is like a puppy.  It will wander and you will gently pick it up and place it back on the mat.  Focus on your breath.  Focus on your breath.  Return to the present moment.  Mindfulness might be able to cure AIDS.

Mindfulness is a meditative practice for white people who are disconnected from culture and meaning.  For a few minutes per day, you can indulge your current experiences by focusing your attention on yourself.  Be curious about yourself.  Notice yourself.  But do it uncritically.  Einstein maybe did the same thing.

It’s important to know that there are Studies.  You might not be able to understand the Studies, but they definitely exist.  And they’re definitely good Studies.  And there is definitely no evidence against spending money on mindfulness retreats.

The focus on the self as an atomic, self-formed object has clearly resulted in its adoption by two very different groups.  The New Age, anti-authoritarians on the one side, and executive management types on the other.  For all its claims to being scientific, mindfulness is an inherently political practice and it should be critiqued as such.

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Is it wrong to think it’s love when it tries the way it does?… Blade Runner 2049 review

First up, the boring part of the review: Blade Runner 2049 is amazing and you should go see it.  It is a very good heir to the original Blade Runner, if only because it compels you to think about the original in a new way.  Even down to basic questions like: ‘Could the original Blade Runner be made today?’  ‘How do we feel about the legal/political/social questions of the original movie today?’ and ‘Should we think more closely about the genre of film that seems to be defined by multiplicity of versions?’

It is a beautiful movie that somehow matches sophomoric and boring questions about authenticity with much more difficult questions about technology and sexuality.  The movie is closer in substance to the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner than to the Final Cut: there’s very little ambiguity about the content of the movie, and the movie does a lot (too much for my tastes) to make it really, really clear where we’re up to in the story.  I would have been happy with many of the movie’s questions to remain unresolved. In a sense, even the biggest questions from the plot don’t really need an answer.  I look forward to watching a dozen edits of this movie over the next three decades.

For those of you who unwisely avoid spoilers, here is where you should stop.  I want to discuss a few scenes in particular, and why some of the criticism about the film’s sexual and racial aspects are unwarranted.

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In a country that’s half insane, In a country that’s banned the rain… A Bill of Rights will not fix Security Policy

It’s a well-known dance.  The government announces a new national security policy, then the media and the usual human rights organisations breathlessly inform us that this is Orwellian, Kafkaesque, and the last piece of evidence we need to support their preferred policy option (usually some Bill of Rights or a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption).  After a few days, we go back to normal when a Kardashian posts a ‘problematic’ selfie to Instagram or something similarly edifying.

Why does the debate happen like this?

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A bunch of stereotypes all in my head… No votes and the Stolen Generation

‘Every child deserves a mum and a dad.’  ‘Every child has a right to their biological parents.’ ‘What about the children?’  ‘What about the rights of the child?’

I kept hearing this rhetoric repeated again and again by the No campaign.  Biological family was inalienable, a birthright with which the State should not interfere, an entitlement beyond the reach of social engineering.

Even as a conservative myself, I find this position a bit basic.  It’s certainly not historically how our society has operated.  For all the dodgy studies trying to convince us that there is something essential that a person gets through a relationship with a biological mother and biological father, there is the obvious preference that people have stability and certainty.  People will love each other and bring children into their family units; it would be preferable that this unit be as stable as possible regardless of the gendered accidents of the people involved.

Australia has not had the greatest history of protecting families.  Even recently, rules have changed on family visas making it harder to reunite families in Australia.

But perhaps the worst example of this attitude towards families was the genocidal attack on Australia’s Indigenous culture through what would become known as the Stolen Generations.  For all this rhetoric about the need to preserve family units, we should expect that the loudest voices behind the No campaign are also the most outspoken about the atrocity of forcibly destroying family units.

Lol no.

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