Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

African 'Gangs' of Melbourne - crisis or media beat-up and politically expedient tool for conservatives?

African 'Gangs' of Melbourne - crisis or media beat-up and politically expedient tool for conservatives?

The Liberal Party of modern times, has shown that it has no capacity for debate, only for division.

James Buchanan, 15th President of the US, stated, 'The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there'.

The federal Liberal Party has not been eliciting greatness from Australians, but dog-whistling to elicit fear and hated.

Their latest target has been so-called 'African gangs' allegedly running amok in Melbourne.

The issue with these 'gangs' kicked off a few years ago when a group of people who supposedly called themselves 'The Apex Gang' rained havoc on the streets of Melbourne through car-jackings, home invasions, assaults and robberies. One of their most notorious escapades was when a large number of them descended on the Moomba festival in March 2016 and attacked innocent festival-goers. It made for sensational headlines and the media went on a feeding-frenzy, whipping up hysteria within the community.

The media reported this 'gang' as being African, which caused all sorts of issues with racial profiling and stereotyping. The police were reluctant to call them a gang, which greatly upset a lot of people who felt the cops were being 'politically correct'. However, there were two things the police pointed out. One was that gangs are organised and comprised the same people meeting regularly, whereas this was a loose collection of young people who occasionally hung out together with no regularity in attendees. They did commit crimes, but it wasn't the organised style of activity that police are used to seeing with 'gangs', such as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. Of course, 'gangs' helps to generate more fear among the population than if they are referred to as a 'loose collection of young people connected on social media'. Additionally, they were not all Sudanese, even though this was how it was reported. The police issued numerous corrections stating that Apex was comprised of Anglo-Saxons, Maoris, Pacific Islanders, Afghans and Sudanese(1).

Yet, the public bays for blood and wants to know why the government isn't deporting these young criminals. That is probably because most of the so-called Apex 'gang' were Australian-born, which contradicted the popular narrative in the media. The Police Commissioner went on to state that 'young people born overseas were less likely to commit crimes'.(2). Nonetheless, at least four have been subject to deportation proceedings(3). It is pertinent to note that three of the four are from New Zealand and one is from Sudan.

The stereotyping of Africans as being criminals or gang members is counter-productive. It encourages racist taunts and attacks, which mean that many in the Sudanese community need to stay close together for their own protection. This garners even more negative attention from those fear-ridden people who are manipulated by headlines to fear groups of Sudanese(4).

The danger with this stereotyping and dog-whistling is that police are pressured into addressing crime within the South Sudanese community, while crime by other groups is not responded to as quickly. For instance, in December 2017, a group of about 60 African youths rioted at a McDonald's restaurant in St Kilda, before attacking people in and around the restaurant(5). Obviously a bad situation, very anti-social and people have a right to be upset about it and demand justice. However, just a few weeks after that, more than 100 white people rioted in the Victorian town of Torquay. It barely rated a mention in the paper, and the rioters were described as a 'group' rather than a 'gang'(6) ... (hmm, who's being politically correct now?). Since then, the Murdoch papers have been reporting every infraction by Africans and seemingly ignoring crimes committed by white Aussies, even though white Aussies commit the vast majority of crimes in Melbourne.

It has become a political issue ... not for community safety, but for political points scoring. The federal Liberal Party has been attacking Victoria's Labor government under Premier Daniel Andrews, blaming them for the problem, even though the Andrews government has committed $2 billion to hiring 3,000 new police officers, $288 million for a high security youth detention centre, and breached human rights laws by housing children in adult prisons(6). Hardly an example of a 'soft-on-crime' government. But then, the federal Liberal Party has been breaching international laws on human rights, refugees, children and torture for years by indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and refugees in inhumane off-shore detention facilities ... oh and subjecting them to torture and human rights abuses(7). Perhaps that is what the Liberal Party is expecting of the Andrews government ... to torture African youths.

Peter Dutton's new year's resolutions


While complaining about Labor being soft on crime, the previous Liberal Party led Victorian government had slashed more than $100 million from the police budget and reduced police numbers by 400(8). As is often the case in Australian politics, the Liberal Party budget cuts impact essential services and exacerbate social issues, including crime, leaving the next Labor government to increase spending to rectify the damage the Liberal Party caused. 

Victoria's Police Commissioner ripped into the federal government and sections of the media for misrepresenting the issue of 'African gangs'(9). One of the so-called 'African gang' incidents that the media went apoplectic over was an affray at Tarneit Central Shopping Centre in which African youths got into a scuffle with Police and journalists. However, Police later discovered that the incident did not involve a gang, nor did it involve African youths going on a violent rampage. What they did discover was that the incident had been provoked by the aggressive behaviour of a journalist who saw some African youths just sitting around behaving themselves. This mental giant decided that because they were African, they must be trouble-makers and went over to take photos of these kids simply because they were African. Not surprisingly, the young fellas got a little upset about this and things went pear-shaped from there. The photographer later apologised and acknowledged his behaviour caused the incident, however, his employer, The Daily Mail, did not mention this but instead reported how the youths abused their reporter. The police sent a terse email to a number of media outlets warning them against such behaviour and to not inflame situations(10).

On 11 January 2018, a South Sudanese family living in Brisbane was followed home, racially abused and threatened by an enraged white Australian man who for some inexplicable reason then invoked the names of a number of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The victim of the attack posted videos of it to Facebook and placed the blame for the attack on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, for creating division and racism.(11) The government's racist rhetoric normalises hate speech and empowers aggressive, violent behaviour by people who have a warped sense of patriotism. But their idea of patriotism equates to white supremacy and fascist control over all who disagree or are different. The government should be condemning racism, but instead thrives on it. It should be condemning nationalism and fascism, yet these are the tools it uses to spread fear and hatred so it can portray itself as society's saviour, riding in like a shining knight on a white horse draped in flags of white supremacy.

Johannes Leak, The Australian,
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/briefing/your-morning-briefing/news-story/9116f30698c0ded5f6e80e3d97bc42a8

The issue has escalated to a point where it is becoming very dangerous for anyone who appears to be Muslim or from Africa. Concerns about innocent people being attacked by African 'gangs' are understandable given the sensationalist reporting by the media and dog-whistling by unscrupulous politicians. However, what about attacks on innocent Africans? There have been calls for vigilantes to do what the police can't. This in itself is disturbing because the police are taking action and vigilantes will just make it more difficult for them to do their job. Vigilantes will be adding to the crimes that police need to investigate, making things worse, not better. Far Right groups are threatening to 'take a stand' against the African gang crisis(12). Dutton, Turnbull and sensationalist media coverage are empowering racism and hate crimes. Channel 7 was heavily criticised for reporting on a far-right meeting about taking action against the 'immigrant crime crisis'. Channel 7's story was sympathetic to the views of the far-right group, rather than challenging the groups' intentions to target immigrants who are already persecuted and discriminated against(13).  Victoria Police has reported an increase in death threats against African-Australians(14).



Yes, those who commit crimes should answer to the law, whether they are from South Sudan, Australia, New Zealand or anywhere else. However, if people genuinely want to address youth crime, then we need to acknowledge and address the cause of the problem rather than only react to the symptom. Following Apex's rampage through Moomba, a Victoria Police summit to get to the root of the problem identified that disengagement, disadvantage and 'feeling locked out of society', were key contributors(2).

Disengagement and 'feeling locked out of society'. The blatant racism, stereotyping, demonising and victimisation of refugees and asylum seekers, along with disgraceful attacks against Islam, are THE reasons why many refugees feel 'locked out of society'; why many feel a disengagement. The right-wing state that many of these refugees can't assimilate, yet the right-wing does not give them a chance to. The right-wingers do not want refugees to assimilate because they do not want them here. It is the right-wing who is refusing to assimilate. They are more than happy to embrace messages of hate and fear if that matches their own racist views. Interestingly, the Islamophobia that is promoted by everyone from neo-Nazis to pentecostal preachers is often used to tar all refugees and asylum seekers, yet most refugees from South Sudan are Christian(15).

It is easy for the federal government to dog-whistle and blame Victoria's Labor government, however, part of the issue can be firmly blamed on the government of Tony Abbott, which banned many refugees from working or undertaking educational programs, while constantly referring to them as illegals and whipping up fear and hatred against them. Additionally, the federal government has defunded employment and training programs for young people, which is a contributor to the disadvantage that the police summit identified. Gee, what could possibly go wrong.

The federal government has taken a scatter-gun approach about who to blame for the so-called 'African gang crisis'. They are also blaming the judiciary for being full of civil libertarians who are 'soft on sentencing'. Not surprisingly, the judiciary hasn't appreciated this attack on them by a government that is doing its best to sow division, fear and hatred in the community for the sake of maintaining its political power. The Law Council has criticised the federal government, pointing out that these attacks undermine the rule of law and threaten the independence of the judiciary(16).

Facts haven't factored into the federal government's dog-whistling, even though the Police have pointed out numerous times that youth crime has reduced over the last few quarters. By comparison to other states, Victoria's youth crime is quite low, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that in 2015/16, Queensland had 12,931 youth offenders, New South Wales had 20,051 and Victoria languished at 8,726(17).

South Sudanese comprise 0.14% of Victoria's population, with 1.5% of criminal offenders being Sudanese, indicating that they are over-represented in crimes. In relation to charges of riot and affray, Sudanese contributed 6%, while people born in Australia comprised 71.5% and 5.2% were born in New Zealand(18). Fiona Dowley, chief statistician from Victoria's Crime Statistics Agency, explained that these figures include people who have been linked to crimes, but who 'may not have been through a court process, they have not been found guilty of anything, and they may not even have been charged'(19). Clearly, there are crimes being committed by some from the South Sudanese community, but they are not the majority of criminals.

There is a school of thought that the 'gang crisis' is the creation of the Herald-Sun. This wouldn't be the first time that a media outlet has created a gang crisis. In Adelaide a few years ago, media coined the term 'Gang of 49' in relation to a number of indigenous people who were committing crimes. They weren't a gang at all(20). Yes, they were committing crimes ... but, gang? Why? Again it helps to promote racism and fear if the community can be convinced that they are under attack by an organised syndicate of people who are somehow different to them.

Similarly, the Apex 'gang' was hardly that ... until the Herald Sun ran with it. The upshot was that what started as a loosely aligned group of about 200 young people, mushroomed to 400 through the notoriety that Apex gained from the sensationalist coverage in the media(21).

The dog-whistling and sensationalism is not helping the issue. It is pressuring police in such a way as to potentially cause police resources to be redirected from other areas to focus on a small community. It has resulted in police racially profiling Africans even though people born in Australia are responsible for most car-jackings, home invasions and aggravated robberies(22). Some media outlets and the federal government are thriving on community division ... all because some media outlets want to sell papers and undermine the Labor government, while conservative politicians profit from racism and fear in order to undermine Labor.

Rather than help the poor and persecuted, conservatives exacerbate poverty and persecute the persecuted.

Rather than do what's best for the country, conservatives do what's best for themselves.

Rather than allay fear, conservatives thrive on it.

Rather than condemn racism, conservatives revel in it.

Rather than build community, conservatives divide it.

African 'gangs' are not the biggest problem facing Australia; the rise of ultra-conservative nationalism and the normalisation of hate speech and hate crime is.

Media sensationalism declaring Victoria is a 'State of Fear', while politicians exploit the issue for votes


References

1. The Age, Nino Bucci, Has Apex gang been mortally wounded?, 21 February 2017,    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/has-the-apex-gang-been-mortally-wounded-20170220-gugziq.html. Accessed 13 January 2018.

2. The Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Koziol, Apex gang: most youth crimes committed by Australian-born offenders, police say, 12 April 2017. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/apex-gang-most-youth-crimes-committed-by-australianborn-police-say-20170412-gvj964.html. Accessed 13 January 2018.

3. Business Insider, Sarah Kimmorley, Australia is deporting members of Melbourne's Apex gang, 19 January 2017. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australia-is-deporting-members-of-melbournes-apex-gang-2017-1. Accessed 13 January 2018.

4. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, 'We're not a gang': the unfair stereotyping of African-Australians, 6 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/06/were-not-a-gang-the-pain-of-being-african-australian. Accessed 13 January 2018.

5. The Weekend Australian, Olivia Caisley, Wild gang brawl sees teens bashed by African gang in St Kilda, 15 December 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/wild-gang-brawl-sees-teens-bashed-by-african-gang-in-st-kilda/news-story/dcaa764ff97fbb7ad1b752ca46d9dd22. Accessed 13 January 2018.

6. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, Victoria's 'gang crisis' and how the election creates a double standard on crime, 9 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/09/victorias-gang-crisis-and-how-the-election-fuels-a-double-standard-on. Accessed 13 January 2018.

7. The Guardian, Ben Doherty and Daniel Hurst, UN accuses Australia of systematically violating torture convention, 10 March 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/09/un-reports-australias-immigration-detention-breaches-torture-convention. Accessed 14 January 2018. The full report can be found here: United Nations Human Rights Council, Twenty-Eights Session, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E Mendezhttps://static.guim.co.uk/ni/1425873116713/Mendez-report.pdf.

8. Herald Sun, Peter Mickelburough, More police staff to be made redundant despite crime being on the rise, 13 June 2013, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/more-police-staff-to-be-made-redundant-despite-crime-being-on-the-rise/news-story/424fae31f76b2db7259a839728a9352f. Accessed 13 January 2018.

9. Junkee, Osman Faruqi, Victoria's Top Cop Has Ripped Into Peter Dutton's Comments Over "African Gangs", 10 January 2018, http://junkee.com/police-commissioner-african-gangs/141999. Accessed 13 January 2018.

10. The Guardian, Margaret Simons, Melbourne police say Daily Mail provoked African 'gang flare-up' scuffle, 11 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jan/11/victoria-police-say-daily-mail-provoked-african-gang-flare-up-scuffle. Accessed 13 January 2018.

11. The Guardian, Christopher Knaus, South Sudanese-Australian man blames Turnbull and Dutton for 'racial attack' on family, 12 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/12/south-sudanese-australian-man-blames-turnbull-and-dutton-for-racial-attack-on-family. Accessed 13 January 2018.

12. The Age, Liam Mannix, Far Right group threatens to take a stand over 'African gangs', 12 January 2018, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/far-right-group-threatens-to-take-a-stand-over-african-gangs-20180112-h0hcha.html. Accessed 13 January 2018.

13. The Guardian, Melissa Davey, Channel Seven under fire over interview with far-right activist, 15 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/15/channel-seven-under-fire-interview-far-right-activist-blair-cottrell. Accessed 15 January 2018.

14. The Age, Nino Bucci, 'How long since you've been out for dinner?': Police chief rubbishes 'gang crisis', 11 January 2018, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/how-long-since-youve-been-out-for-dinner-police-chief-rubbishes-gang-crisis-20180110-h0gcn9.html. Accessed 13 January 2018.

15. Australian Government, Department of Social Services, Sudanese Community Profile, 2007, https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/11_2013/community-profile-sudan.pdf. Accessed 13 January 2018.

16. The Guardian, Paul Karp, Legal body says rule of law threatened after Dutton's criticism of judiciary, 15 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/15/legal-body-says-rule-of-law-threatened-after-duttons-criticism-of-judiciary. Accessed 15 January 2018.

17. SBS News, AAP - SBS, Victoria Police, African leaders talk gang crime, 12 January 2018, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/victoria-police-african-leaders-talk-gang-crime. Accessed 13 January 2018.

18. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, Is Melbourne in the grip of African crime gangs? The facts behind the lurid headlines, 3 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jan/03/is-melbourne-in-the-grip-of-african-gangs-the-facts-behind-the-lurid-headlines. Accessed 13 January 2018.

19. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, #AfricanGangs: social media responds to Melbourne's 'crisis', 10 January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/jan/10/africangangs-social-media-responds-to-melbournes-crisis. Accessed 13 January 2018.

20. Adelaide Now, Bryan Littlely, Special Report - Inside SA's violent street gangs, 9 April 2010, http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/inside-the-gang-of-49/news-story/6f81664dda17ce10f20b63f1a6dc8608. Accessed 13 January 2018.

21. Crikey, Emily Watkins and Kanika Sood, Did the Herald Sun invent the Sudanese youth Apex gang?, 21 April 2017, https://www.crikey.com.au/2017/04/21/did-the-herald-sun-invent-the-sudanese-youth-apex-gang/. Accessed 13 January 2018.

22. The Age, Tammy Mills and Bianca Hall, Apex fears spark concerns about racial profiling, 8 January 2017, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/apex-fears-spark-concerns-about-racial-profiling-20161122-gsvete.html. Accessed 13 January 2018.



Monday, January 1, 2018

Drugs are bad ... mkay? BUT the War on Drugs is badder!

Drugs are bad ... mkay? BUT the War on Drugs is badder!

One of the fallacies that dominates the thinking of many people, is that if something is legalised, then it is being condoned.

Drugs are a case in point.

Legalising drugs doesn't necessarily mean or imply that proponents advocate blazing up at every given opportunity.

Instead, the case for legalisation is in response to evidence that criminalising drug use causes more harm than it prevents. The irony is that legalisation, or even its poor cousin, decriminalisation, actually saves lives and makes it easier for users to get off the drug.

Why?

Criminalisation means that drug users become criminals if busted and may end up being jailed. Prison is not a rehabilitation centre, it's a place to network with other criminals. Prison is nothing more than a school for developing or honing ones criminal skills. Recidivism rates have increased in Australia as incarceration rates increase. With prisons at bursting point, the courts should be limiting incarceration to those who have committed serious crimes against other persons or property, not those whose actions are not harming others.(1)

Perhaps the most ubiquitous drug has been marijuana, or cannabis. Modern society was founded on the cannabis plant(2), from the hemp products used on the ships that facilitated international trade and colonisation,to the paper used for writing, manufacture of clothing, provision of food and nourishment, to the spiritual element of the plant that is mentioned in ancient scripture of numerous religions. The bible refers to it as both incense and intoxicant, for example, one of numerous scriptures where it appears is Exodus 30:21-25, in which God drops a recipe on Moses for making a holy anointing oil that includes myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet 'calamus', cassia and olive oil. Calamus is a modern translation of the original word 'kaneh bosm', which is the Ancient Hebrew word for cannabis.(3)

Marijuana is the people's drug. It is easy and quick to grow, doesn't require a degree in chemistry, and there have been no deaths from the direct consumption of the natural grown product. However, the prohibition of this drug has destroyed countless lives, through execution, incarceration, children being removed from parents by over-zealous authorities, wars waged in developing countries that have directly killed innocent people, increases in famine and starvation as a result of removing such a viable food source. Having a criminal record makes it more difficult for people to be accepted back into society. Many employers will not employ people who have a criminal record or have spent time in the big house.

The decades-long US-led War on Drugs has been a dismal failure. The United States started it with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. This was followed by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which had nothing to do with keeping Americans safe from marijuana and everything to do with pandering to big business, in this case, the DuPont Corporation.

Of course, pandering to big business is not going to resonate well with the electorate, so the government resorted to the old chestnuts: fear and racism. It produced ludicrous propaganda movies, with one of the most famous being Reefer Madness. This little piece of blatant fear-mongering, showed how quickly murder and mayhem would ensue from one toke of a reefer! Shock, gasp, horror! Lock up your daughters and protect them from the evil herb!



This followed on from newspapers in the early 20th century reporting that cocaine-crazed black men were raping white women. William Hearst, the newspaper owner, reveled in sensationalism and had used racism for years to attack African-Americans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos, going back to the 1898 Spanish American War. The demonisation of the world's most useful and versatile plant to a sinister turn through terminology. Everyone knew the usefulness of hemp. Hell, they were either growing it or wearing it. They knew of the medicinal qualities because most had used cannabis tinctures. So the demonisation could not refer to hemp or cannabis if it was to be most effective. Hearst used a Mexican colloquialism that had the added benefit of not only being unknown to most English-speaking people, being Mexican added to the mystery and fear. The word: marijuana ... or as it became known in the United States by people who couldn't reconcile the letter 'j' being pronounced as an 'h': marihuana.(4)

The ubiquitous hemp plant had been used for the production of clothing, rope and medicine until 1937. Up to 90% of rope products were manufactured from hemp(5). After 1937, this was replaced by petrochemical products mainly manufactured by DuPont. Both of these Acts effectively outlawed cannabis products, including cannabinoid medicines which had been used to treat conditions such as glaucoma, asthma, tumours, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, back pain, muscle spasms, arthritis, herpes, cystic fibrosis, rheumatism, migraines, as well as provide nausea relief and increase appetite in patients undergoing cancer treatment. In the 19th century, cannabis tinctures were prescribed to men, women and children in daily dosages that would equate to today's marijuana user's moderate to heavy intake over a one to two month period(6)

 It was used as currency for decades in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. Farmers were encouraged to grow it during this time. During World War 2, farmers were again encouraged to grow it for the war effort(7). The American government considered hemp to be a patriotic crop and produced posters and movies declaring Hemp For Victory. After the war, it was again demonised as a killer crop and was again rebadged as marijuana.


Videos of both Reefer Madness and Hemp for Victory are embedded at the bottom of this article.

Hemp is a crop that was the staple go-to for civilisations around the world for centuries. It has the potential to end starvation in developing nations, yet the War on Drugs has decimated hemp crops. In the 19th century, Australia survived two famines through a reliance on hempseed for protein and roughage.(8)

American conservative commentator, William F. Buckley Jr, stated, 'Marijuana never kicks down your door in the middle of the night. Marijuana never locks up sick and dying people, does not suppress medical research, does not peek in bedroom windows. Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could'.

As previously seen, racism played a significant role in the demonisation of marijuana and it didn't stop in the 1930s. In 1994, John Ehrlichmann, a former assistant to disgraced President Richard Nixon, admitted that Nixon's war on drugs during the 1960s and 1970s was based on the exploitation of racism and fear. Ehrlichmann stated:

'The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did'.(9)

Like any product, the drug industry obeys the laws of economics, namely supply and demand. It also follows the law of greed, that is, the maximisation of profit, which can occur through driving the price up or diluting the product.

Despite the best efforts of drug enforcement agencies boasting of large-scale drug busts and increasing numbers of users incarcerated, drug overdose deaths have increased 540% and drug problems worsened since 1980(10). This is a result of the 'balloon effect', that is by squeezing the drug industry in one area, only results in shifting the problem to another area.

Efforts to stop the supply of drugs have done nothing other than shift the problem to other regions or products. For instance, in the 1970s, the US targeted marijuana production in Mexico and Jamaica. While production of marijuana in these regions reduced, the overall production of marijuana merely relocated to other regions, such as Colombia. As US efforts zeroed in on Colombia's marijuana production, the Colombian producers expanded into other areas that were easier to transport, namely cocaine. Targeting supply-side factors is like squeezing a balloon; one area may be constricted, but it will pop up in another area. Demand for marijuana did not decline, while supply and demand for cocaine increased.

United States efforts to target methamphetamine commenced with regulating the precursor ingredients that the large drug labs were using to produce it. This initially saw a reduction in hospital admissions of people addicted to meth. However, the regulations did not stop the small scale producers, and resulted in the spread of small meth labs all over the country using readily-available over-the-counter chemicals, such as cold and flu medication. While the final product was less pure than that developed by the large-scale producers, it was still an effective methamphetamine. There was also an increase in do-it-yourself production. So the balloon effect of targeting supply, initially reduced usage, but ultimately ended up increasing supply using smaller labs selling cheaper product and eventually increasing demand. And then the government focused on the ingredients that the small labs used. This reduced local production, but increased imports from countries such as Mexico, which facilitated the growth of drug cartels throughout this region.

Targeting marijuana in Mexico did effectively reduce marijuana production there, however, the Mexican drug cartels increased as they expanded into more lucrative and easier to transport products, such as heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine (ice), which was driven by demand to fill the void created by the reduction in domestic US production following law enforcement efforts at home.

In terms of harm to the individual and its flow-on effects to wider society, the banning of drugs in general has done more harm than good, with increases in consumption and prices, increased organised crime, increased property and violent offences as poorer users try to find money to pay for the drugs, increases in HIV/AIDS because of poor injection practices, increased drug purity and potency, increased hospital admissions because of the higher demand and increased potency, increase in human rights abuses and environmental damage in developing nations being forced to comply with US drug policy in order to access aid funding.

Prior to banning of drugs, usage was lower and subsequently there were fewer addicts. The 19th century and early 20th century saw the usage of drugs such as opium, cannabis and cocaine. From a health perspective, marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.

The wiser alternative to the war on drugs, is to treat drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one. This strategy is known as 'harm reduction'. In Australia there has been much controversy about the opening of drug injection rooms. In Switzerland, a similar program established heroin maintenance facilities, providing a safe environment to treat and stabilise addicts. This resulted in a sharp decrease in drug-related crime and a third of the addicts obtaining employment. There was a 50% reduction in the number of injection-related HIV/AIDS cases(11). It did not result in an increase in drug use.

In Holland, authorities provide facilities to test the purity of ecstasy tablets. Users are warned if dangerous chemicals such as strychnine are identified. Additionally, Holland decriminalised marijuana and hashish, resulting in fewer arrests for minor possession, no increase in drug use, heavy investment in treatment, prevention and harm reduction(12).

In the year 2001, Portugal decriminalised all drugs, and has since proven to be an exemplar for harm reduction. Its model was to treat drug possession and use of small amounts of drugs as a health issue rather than a criminal one. While drugs remain illegal, people caught with drugs may face a small fine and possible referral to a treatment program. They do not get jail time and are not saddled with a criminal record. There has been a significant reduction in the number of overdose deaths, with Portugal recording 3 deaths per one million citizens, compared to the European Union which records an average of 17.3 deaths per one million. In the UK, there are 44.6 deaths per million.(13) There has also been a 90% reduction in drug-related HIV/AIDS infections, significant reduction in use of dangerous 'legal high' drugs such as synthetic marijuana, 44% reduction in incarceration of drug-related offenders, and a 60% increase in the number of people in drug treatments(14). Following decriminalisation, there was a slight increase in drug use, that peaked in 2007, but has since been declining, with two of the three measures used showing lower drug use than in 2001, as shown in the following table(15).



A number of Australian jurisdictions have decriminalised marijuana, with no significant increase in drug usage. Additionally, there are some areas with harm reduction programs in place, such as safe-injection rooms in Sydney's Kings Cross and trials of similar facilities in Melbourne's Richmond precinct. The number of ambulance call-outs in Kings Cross have reduced by 80%, there has been no increase in crime, and the number of publicly discarded needles and syringes has halved. Similar facilities in Vancouver, saw a 35% reduction in fatal overdoses and 30% increase in people seeking detox and addiction treatment.(16)

Globally the war on drugs has failed. In 1998, the UN unleashed a war on drugs as well. Like the US-led one, this was also a failure. The winners of the war are the criminal organisations raking in $320 billion per annum. There have been thousands executed, millions incarcerated, including more than 1.4 million in the US during 2014

A number of countries still have the death penalty for possession and trafficking. Every year, Iran executes hundreds of people for drug offences, including juveniles, yet drug addiction doubled in the six years from 2011 to 2017(17).

Clearly, even the harshest penalties do not deter people from using drugs.

While there is little attention given to the hundreds of people executed globally each year because of drugs charges, there have been some high profile executions, including Indonesia's execution of Bali 9 duo, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in 2015, and Malaysia's execution of Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers in 1986. Some people have no sympathy for drug traffickers being executed. Their argument is that had these people succeeded in their drug trafficking countless lives would have been ruined with the drugs. However, this argument fails to consider the fact that most drug dealers do not push drugs onto people. Drug users have a way of finding the drugs themselves. People who start on drugs generally have a desire to try them without anyone needing to force the drugs onto them.

The argument that traffickers could have killed innocent people is absurd and fails to acknowledge the responsibility that drug users must take for their habit. The term 'pusher' is a misnomer. Drug 'pushers' are drug dealers. It is rare for one to actively force people to take drugs. Dealers are simply meeting the demand of the market.

People should not be executed because of the demand of people who fail to take responsibility for themselves or who blame others for their situation.

In 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report condemning the war on drugs as a dismal failure that has destroyed lives. It acknowledged the balloon effect discussed above, in which the war on drugs has merely displaced the areas of production, as well as resulted in substance displacement, in which users have moved to new substances when their drug of choice experiences supply shortages because of law enforcement actions. Ironically, marijuana has often been described as a gateway drug, despite any evidence to the contrary, however, the gateway is provided through the War on Drugs itself as it targets supply-side activities. Additionally, as users are interacting with dealers, they are exposed to other drugs and may be more willing to try those. Among the Global Commission's recommendations were replacing criminalisation and punishment with health and treatment services, as well as recommending governments experiment with legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organised crime and safeguard the health and security of citizens.(18)

In 2016, an international commission of medical experts found that drug laws caused 'misery, failed to curb drug use, fuelled violent crime and spread epidemics of HIV and hepatitis C through unsafe injecting'. The commission was established by the esteemed Lancet medical journal and John Hopkins University. The report stated that drug laws had 'harmed public health, human rights and development'. It asked the UN to support decriminalisation of minor, non-violent offences and made a number of recommendations, including 'move gradually towards legal, regulated drug markets ... '.(19)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, acknowledged the damage caused by the war on drugs when it noted, 'Global drug control efforts have had a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions'.(20) 

After almost 20 years of the UN war on drugs, the United Nations and the World Health Organization have released a joint statement on ending discrimination in health care settings, which includes calling on member states to take 'targeted, coordinated, time-bound, multisectoral actions', including:

Reviewing and repealing punitive laws that have been proven to have negative health outcomes and that counter established public health evidence. These include laws that criminalize or otherwise prohibit gender expression, same sex conduct, adultery and other sexual behaviours between consenting adults; adult consensual sex work; drug use or possession of drugs for personal use; sexual and reproductive health care services, including information; and overly broad criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission.(21)

There are two main approaches that could be taken: legalisation or decriminalisation. There is no country of recent times that has legalised all drugs, so it is difficult to fully understand the impact that this would have. However, it is anticipated that legalisation would carry the following benefits:
  • reduce black market activity and organised crime involvement
  • enable regulation that can ensure purity of product, for instance, similar to alcohol content labels found on alcohol products
  • enable taxation of drugs which can be channeled into harm reduction strategies, such as health treatments
  • reduction of people incarcerated, so any addictions can be treated as health issues rather than criminal issues
If legalising is a step too far, then drugs should certainly be decriminalised which will realise the following benefits:
  • addresses demand-side, rather than supply-side issues through education, treatment and harm reduction activities
  • keeps people out of the criminal justice system
  • reduction in associated crime
  • reduction in HIV/AIDS that occurs from poor injection habits, by providing education and safe-injecting facilities
  • reduced cost to tax-payers, through reducing policing and incarceration issues
  • reduced burden on welfare systems as users do not have criminal records, providing them with a greater chance of obtaining employment
  • reduced numbers of overdoses through providing safe-injecting rooms, drug purity testing, education and treatment
  • instead of increased recidivism under criminalisation models, decriminalisation increases the access to detox and addiction treatment programs
The war on drugs has stigmatised and demonised users as criminals in order to garner public support and create an 'us and them' mentality. Yet, not all drug users became addicts and those who do have often suffered traumatic experiences(22) which is another reason why drug use should be treated as a health issue. It should include education programs in schools, so that people learn to appreciate it as a health issue and are more willing to seek help if they need it, without stigma or the threat of incarceration.

In the United States, legalisation of marijuana in states such as Colorado, Washington and California, has had a dramatic impact on Mexican drug cartel's profits. Legalisation has led to a burgeoning market for domestically grown cannabis which has produced lower prices and higher quality than produced in Mexico and Jamaica. Legalisation is achieving what the drug war failed to do as the following graph shows.(23)


After decades of policies that have wreaked havoc across the globe with no reduction in drug use and massive increases in organised crime, it is clear that a change in tactic is long overdue. The evidence clearly shows that decriminalisation and harm reduction programs achieve what the war on drugs could only dream of.




References

1. The Guardian, Christopher Knaus, Prisons at breaking point but Australia is still addicted to incarceration, 29 December 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/29/prisons-at-breaking-point-but-australia-is-still-addicted-to-incarceration. Accessed 30 December 2017.

2. Robinson, R., (1996), Chapter 4 - A Global History of Hemp, The Great Book of Hemp. Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont.

3. Bennett, C., Osburn, L., Osburn, J., (1995), Chapter 5 - Ancient Hebrews, Green Gold, The Tree of Life - Marijuana in Magic & Religion, Access Unlimited, Frazier Park, CA 93225.

4. Herer, J., (1995 Australian Edition), Chapter 4 - The Last Days of Legal Cannabis, The Emporer Wears No Clothes.

5. ibid, Chapter 2 - Uses of Hemp.

6. ibid. Chapter 12 - Cannabis use in 19th century America.

7. ibid. Chapter 9 - Economics: Energy, Environment and Commerce.

8. ibid. Chapter 8 - Cannabis Hempseed as the Basic World Food.

9. Harper's Magazine, Dan Baum, Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs, April 2016, https://harpers.org/archive/2016/04/legalize-it-all/ Accessed 30 December 2017.

10. Laffiteau, C., 2011. The balloon effect: The failure of supply side strategies in the war on drugs. Academia. edu, 1, pp.1-18.

11. Reuters, Stephanie Nebehay, Swiss drug policy should serve as model: experts, 26 October 2010, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-swiss-drugs/swiss-drug-policy-should-serve-as-model-experts-idUSTRE69O3VI20101025. Accessed 30 December 2017.

12. Open Society Foundations, Kasia Malinowska, For Safe and Effective Drug Policy, Look to the Dutch, 16 July 2013, https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/safe-and-effective-drug-policy-look-dutch. Accessed 30 December 2017.

13. The Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham, Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal, 5 June 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/05/why-hardly-anyone-dies-from-a-drug-overdose-in-portugal. Accessed 30 December 2017.

14. Business Insider, Drake Baer, 6 incredible things that happened when Portugal decriminalized all drugs, 26 April 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/what-happened-when-portugal-decriminalized-all-drugs-2016-3. Accessed 30 December 2017.

15. Transform Drug Policy Foundation, The success of Portugal's decriminalisation policy - in seven charts, 14 July 2014, http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blog/success-portugal%E2%80%99s-decriminalisation-policy-%E2%80%93-seven-charts. Accessed 30 December 2017.

16. Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Medically supervised injecting centres, 17 February 2017, https://adf.org.au/insights/medically-supervised-injecting-centres/. Accessed 30 December 2017.

17. The Independent, Bethan McKernan, Number of drug addicts in Iran 'doubles' in six years, 26 June 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-tehran-drug-addiction-opium-heroin-afghanistan-taliban-a7809046.html. Accessed 30 December 2017.

18. Global Commission on Drug Policy, (June 2011), War on Drugshttps://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/wp-content/themes/gcdp_v1/pdf/Global_Commission_Report_English.pdf. Accessed 30 December 2017.

19. The Guardian, Sarah Boseley and Jessica Glenza, Medical experts call for global drug decriminalisation, 25 March 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/24/medical-experts-call-for-global-drug-decriminalisation. Accessed 30 December 2017.

20. The Guardian, Jamie Doward, The UN's war on drugs is a failure. Is it time for a different approach, 3 April 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/02/un-war-on-drugs-failure-prohibition-united-nations. Accessed 30 December 2017.

21. World Health Organization, Joint United Nations statement on ending discrimination in health care settings, 27 June 2017, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2017/discrimination-in-health-care/en/. Accessed 30 December 2017.

22. News.com.au, Katie Horneshaw, Why you should stop judging addicts, 8 March 2016, http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/mind/why-you-should-stop-judging-addicts/news-story/e8c46674873e0c07e8abdeb7af4a3933. Accessed 30 December 2017.

23. The Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham, Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn't, 3 March 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/03/legal-marijuana-is-finally-doing-what-the-drug-war-couldnt/. Accessed 30 December 2017.

Embedded movies

Reefer Madness (1936):




Hemp for Victory News Reel (1942):


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Abortion caution - patriarchy, pro-birthers and poverty

Abortion caution - patriarchy, pro-birthers and poverty


There are two issues that are guaranteed to mobilise the moralistic masses out of their social justice torpor: homosexuality and abortion. Recently, Australia saw these self-appointed guardians of morality taking time out from their bible studies and prayer groups where social justice is a dirty word, so they could attack marriage equality and bully LGBTIQ+ people while attacking anti-bullying programs such as Safe Schools. It's a pity these guardians of morality don't get as upset about the human rights abuses meted out by the Australian government as they do about people having the choice to marry whom they chose.

But abortion. The other moralistic meat. It is fodder to the self-righteousness of the pro-lifers ... or, more accurately, anti-abortionists ... because their idea of pro-life ends with birth as you will soon see. These anti-abortionists clapped and cheered and waved their flags when President Donald Trump stated he was going to cease funding health care providers around the world, if they gave advice about or provided abortions, even though evidence indicates an increase in backyard abortions when these programs are de-funded(1) and abortion is outlawed(2).

Many of the anti-abortion brigade are Christians who will quote the bible as evidence of why abortion is bad. These are mainly scriptures about being formed in the womb, such as Psalm 139:13, 'For you created my in most being, you knit me together in my mother's womb', and Psalm 22:10, 'From birth I was cast on you; from my mother's womb you have been my God'. This scriptures are used by some Christians to argue that human life starts at conception, however, none of them address abortion - either in prohibiting it or in addressing the causes of abortion.

Anti-abortion Christians, often miss some critical scriptures; some to do with the horrid treatment of babies in the bible and some to do with reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Firstly, the bible has some terrible examples of the treatment of children and babies. For instance, 1 Samuel 15:3 is one of many scriptures that advocates killing every man, woman and child.

Psalm 137:9 really sets the scene by declaring, 'happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against rocks'. I can't remember Dr James Dobson ever recommending this as an effective child-rearing technique, so hopefully no-one takes this scripture literally. As an interesting aside, that verse is in the same psalm that gave us the awesome Boney M song from the 1970s, Rivers of Babylon ... but I digress.

Numbers 5:11-31 prescribes abortion for unfaithful wives, or for wives whose husbands are jealous and merely suspect the wife of infidelity (even if the wife has committed no wrongdoing).(3) Verses 30 & 31 state 'when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a man, and he becomes jealous of his wife; then he shall stand the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute all this law upon her. Then the man shall be free from iniquity, but that woman shall bear her guilt'. Note, these verses are printed in full at the bottom of this article. SO according to this scripture, if a man is jealous it is all the woman's fault (regardless of whether he has cause or not) and he can force her to have an abortion just because he is jealous - or at least drink poison that will mess up her ability to have kids if she isn't pregnant. She drinks the poison and if she cheated and is pregnant, she will have an abortion. What if she is pregnant to her husband and hasn't cheated? Are we to expect the magic potion can tell the difference? The abortion will happen anyway. The victims here are the wife and the fetus. The man gets away scot free for being unable to keep a lid on his jealousy. Sticking with songs of the 1970s, it's fortunate that John Lennon wasn't an advocate of this scripture ... he even wrote a song about being a Jealous Guy. Poor old Yoko could have found herself in a world of pain.

Numbers 5:11-31 applies to the woman's alleged infidelity. But what of the man's infidelity? This isn't a one off. Centuries later, Jesus rescues a woman who was about to be stoned for adultery. As it takes at least two to tango, where was the man with whom the woman allegedly committed this indiscretion? The society of the day was particularly paternalistic and gave women fewer rights than men. Perhaps referencing the values of such a patriarchal society is not the best thing when discussing a woman's choice to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

And then there's Hosea 13:16 which takes abortion, raises it to murder and then knocks it completely out of the park with 'Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, And their women with child ripped open'. This was a result of the hapless Samaria disobeying God. This disobedience thing comes at a high cost. Hosea 9:16, 'were they to bear children, I would kill the darlings of their womb'. Hmm ... forced abortion ... abortion is murder according to the anti-abortionists.

If one wishes to be anti-abortion, then clearly the bible is not the hallmark to use for defending the fetus.

Given the extremely patriarchal society described in the bible, it should not be used to justify legislation that affects a woman's right to chose what happens to her body. Women should have the right to chose whether or not they get an abortion. Not the church, not the self-appointed guardians of morality who will picket an abortion clinic while thanking God for a conservative government with the fortitude to torture and abuse asylum seekers fleeing persecution and war.

It is understandable that some people find abortion abhorrent and wish to stop it, after all, the fetus represents the potential for a life. But with backyard abortion rates increasing when abortion is banned, the so-called pro-life lobby needs to re-calibrate their position and look to the drivers of abortion if they truly want to stop it.

One of the main drivers of abortion is poverty, which affects the ability for people to afford contraception, thus increasing unwanted pregnancies, as well as the difficulty in meeting the cost of raising children; all of which contribute to an increased rate of abortion for poorer people(4). It's interesting that many of the pro-life brigade are also opposed to welfare, increasing the minimum wage and penalty rates, Obamacare (or universal healthcare) and cheered on Trump's cuts to funding of programs across the globe that provided contraception and advice on safe abortions: all things that reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy, abortion and backyard abortions, thus resulting in fewer terminations and saving the lives of countless women. In fact, most of the pro-lifers aren't interested in the child once it's born. Instead of calling themselves 'pro-life', they should call themselves 'pro-birth', because that is where their concern ends.

Anti-abortionists are more concerned with arguing when life begins than in protecting life once it's born.

Anti-abortionists focus on banning abortion even though the evidence shows this is ineffective. Banning it is quick and easy, but drives it underground and makes the anti-abortionists feel like they are doing something. As long as they can't see it, anti-abortionists are happy. Out of sight, out of mind. So they're not really anti-abortion, they are anti-legal-abortion. If they really wanted to do something they would address the causes of abortion, not sweep it under the carpet. Addressing the causes is more difficult than simply banning it.

It's interesting that so many 'pro-lifers' reference the bible to support their anti-abortion stance, but ignore the scriptures that would actually reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. No, not the scriptures about remaining celibate! You know the scriptures. They're the ones that tell us to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan. Yet the moment that the government puts forward programs to do just that, these uber-religious types start looking for a socialist to crucify ... something like they did with Jesus a couple of millenia ago.

It's ironic that the only scriptures of the bible that will help reduce poverty and homelessness, and therefore reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortion, are the scriptures most often ignored by anti-abortion Christians.





References

1. World Health Organization, Eran Bendavid, Patrick Avila, Grant Miller, United States aid policy and induced abortion in Sub-Sahara Africa, 27 September 2011, http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/12/11-091660/en/. Accessed 28 December 2017.

2. The American Prospect, Nathalie Baptiste, This is What Happens When Abortion is Outlawed, 17 June 2015, http://prospect.org/article/what-happens-when-abortion-outlawed. Accessed 28 December 2017.

3. Bergant, D. and Karris, R., (1992). The Collegeville Bible Commentary: Old and New Testament Set. Liturgical Press, p. 156.

4. Guttmacher Institute, Heather D. Boonstra, Abortion in the Lives of Women Struggling Financially: Why Insurance Coverage Matters, 14 July 2016, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2016/07/abortion-lives-women-struggling-financially-why-insurance-coverage-matters. Accessed 28 December 2017.



Numbers 5:11-31 (New International Version)


11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[e] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’”

Political Correctness - the go-to bugaboo of the perpetually offended

Political Correctness - the go-to bugaboo of the perpetually offended


Australia's conservative parties, including the reigning Liberal and National party coalition, as well as right-wing fringe dwellers, Pauline Hanson's One Nation and Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives, use fear to great effect in attracting people to them. Their chief bugaboos include Unions, Socialists, Islam, refugees, Safe Schools (ironically, an anti-bullying program), and the ill-defined-but-great-as-an-all-round-bad-guy 'Political Correctness'.

What is this evil and insidious beast known as 'Political Correctness'? Well, it is whatever the fear-adled right-wing say that it is; usually it's anything that they disagree with. In reality, this thing called political correctness is about treating people with respect and being sensitive to their situation or concerns. For example, once upon a time, people who were unable to speak, were called dumb. Some would even carry a sign around their necks stating that the wearer was dumb, or if they were particularly beset, the sign might state that they were deaf, dumb and blind. The politically correct term these days for people who can't speak, is 'mute', for blind it is 'vision impaired' and for deaf it is 'hearing impaired'. Similarly, people were once labelled as cripple or retarded, then they were called handicapped, now they are known as 'having a disability', or even as being 'able challenged'. Back in the day, jobs were often labelled with gender-specific titles, such as policeman, fireman or chairman. Now they are known as police officer, firefighter or chairperson. Homosexuals are known as gay or lesbian, or even LGBTIQ+, which recognises the variations in sexuality. Sex change is now known as gender reassignment. This be the evil beast of political correctness. End of the world, right? Sadly, too many right-wingers see it as such.

The right-wing claim that political correctness is an assault on freedom of speech and that it is a facade that hides the true meaning. Some will even say it is part of a larger conspiracy, for instance, to mask a 'gay agenda' to exterminate gender, make us all gay and end procreation as we know it by sprinkling gay fairy dust over our children. So the right-wing wish to call things as they see it, without some namby-pamby politically correct epithet. Unfortunately, the idea of being sensitive to other people is not a strong suit for the right-wing - when it suits them.

The right-wing trundle out political correctness in a self-righteous, smug way as though they are not riddled with such platitudes. They'll even bust out age-old invectives to prove their pride in being politically incorrect. However, the right-wing is riddled with its own version of political correctness. They will use terms that match their own political or world-view. For example, a white person who shoots up a school or concert is referred to as an 'armed assailant' or a 'gunman', but if a Muslim does it, they are labelled as an 'Islamic terrorist' without waiting for the motive to be determined. The leader of a country friendly to western nations, would be known as President or Prime Minister, however if the country's politics are contrary to western politics, the leader will often be referred to as a dictator or tyrant.

Recently, US President Donald Trump banned seven words from use by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018 budget documents. The offensive words are 'vulnerable', 'entitlement', 'diversity', 'transgender', 'fetus', 'evidence-based' and 'science-based'(1). After all, we can't have a scientific organisation reporting on evidence-based programs in case it offends the perpetually outraged right-wing and disproves their flaky hold on the science of the natural world.

And god help anyone who dares to say 'happy holidays' at Christmas time. Some on the right-wing boycotted Cadbury's at Easter time because of the false reporting that Cadbury's had banned the word Easter from their Easter eggs. While some of Cadbury's products had removed the word 'Easter', or not prominently displayed it, some of this was on products sold all year around or which Cadbury felt was obvious that they were Easter eggs. Additionally, many of their products still had 'Easter' plastered all over them.(2).

These days there are a lot of food products that allow for various dietary sensitivities, whether those be physical allergies (e.g. peanuts), physical sensitivities (e.g. gluten) or religious observances (e.g. halal and kosher). The right-wing had no concern with peanuts, gluten or kosher. However, when food companies started catering to Muslims by having products halal-certified, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth from the right-wing. There were petitions and boycotts against products such as Vegemite. The Islamophobes linked halal-certification to terrorism even though the Australian Crime Commission stated there was no evidence of direct links between halal-certification and terrorism(3), a finding which was confirmed by a parliamentary inquiry(4). But let not truth stop the right-wing from stirring up fear and hate in the community.

The way these right-wing fear-mongers and hate-preachers tell it, terrorism is the domain of Islam. Other non-Muslim groups who have used terrorism in their political aims are often referred to by the right-wing as separatists or rebels. This includes groups such as Basque 'separatists', Sandinista 'rebels', Tamil Tigers, right-wing military 'juntas' in Central and South America. And then there's the christian Phalangist Party in Lebanon who, under direction of Israel, unleashed the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians, including children and babies, in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982. But that's ok because, you know ... Israel: God's chosen ... genocide doesn't count when God has tapped you on the shoulder ... and yet the rabid right will have the hide to accuse Palestinians of killing in the name of God, when it is clear that Israel is killing in the name of God to ethnically cleanse the 'Promised Land' of those pesky Palestinians who have lived there for thousands of years.

But as the old saying goes, 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'. While a simplistic interpretation of terrorism, the saying does succinctly summarise the role that perspective has in terrorist activity. Scottish politician George Gallaway made a number of pertinent observations on this when he stated, 'One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. You are totally wrong in saying that in most people’s eyes Hezbollah are terrorists. In most people’s eyes Israel is a terrorist state. It’s the fact that you cannot comprehend that fact that leads to bias that runs through all of your reporting and every question that you’ve asked me in this interview!'. Galloway also stated, 'We want to make reparation to the Palestinian people for the crimes of Balfour which were committed in the building behind me, when one person, on behalf of one country, promised a second people the lands of a third people - the Palestinians. We are determined that we should stop the privatization of basic services of the British people. We are determined to defend the liberty of the British people which is being taken away day by day under the name of anti-terrorism. Ancient freedoms, which we had for hundreds of years, are being taken away from us under the name of the war on terror, when the real big terrorists are the governments of Britain and the United States. They are the real rogue states breaking international law, invading other people's countries, killing their children in the name of anti-terrorism, when in fact, all they're achieving is to make more terrorists in the world, not less, to make the world more dangerous, rather than less. These are our priorities'.

Another of Galloway's poignant criticisms of the west's role in terrorism, 'Stop invading Muslims lands! How can you expect Muslims to love you when you are forcefully occupying their lands and murdering their people?'.

Most terrorism has little to do with religion and more to do with land and power, for instance, the illegal theft and occupation of Palestine by Israel. It's easy for the right-wing to blame Islam while failing to look in the mirror at their own actions. Most of the leaders of western invasions and wars are christian, and many right-wing christian groups cheer on western military actions, as well as Israel's war-crimes in Palestine. For those who like to make terrorism about religion and who revel in xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, Ellen G. White has a great comment, 'Christ tears away the wall of partition, the self-love, the dividing prejudice of nationality, and teaches a love for all the human family'.

Another target of the right-wing's political correctness sensitivity is Australia's public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS. Both have been criticised for promoting 'left-wing' agendas. The ABC has faced particular attacks on their alleged lack of bias. These attacks are by people who want to silence any opinion that differs to their own. It is clear that many of the people who attack the ABC do not listen to or watch it. The current affairs shows, such as Radio National's AM, PM and Breakfast, give equal voice to politicians from Labor and Liberal, in addition to the Prime Minister, the Deputy PM and the Treasurer, regular interviews are given to Matthias Corman and Christopher Pyne.

But why allow truth and balance to infiltrate the right-wing. The coalition government has appointed conservative reporters and critics of the ABC to influential positions, including former Liberal Party politician Janet Albrechtson appointed to the ABC panel(5). This followed the controversial appointment of Michelle Guthrie as ABC Managing Director. While Guthrie was CEO for Rupert Murdoch's Star TV network, she had attempted to bypass China's media ownership restrictions(6). Since then, Guthrie has restructured and gutted the ABC through axing shows and sacking staff(7).

Without a doubt, the rabid right-wing has its own form of political correctness, launching into paroxysms of manufactured outrage and spraying spittle at anything that doesn't conform to their narrow world view.

While the right-wing argues that the left-wing is shutting down their freedom of speech, it is often the right-wing who aims to ban or shut down left-wing commentators and media that gives voice to the left-wing, or to people who stand up against the human rights abuses perpetrated by the right-wing, such as Australia's inhumane and malicious treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, or even to scientists who present scientific evidence that discredits the right's benighted postulating.

Many on the right will argue that their freedom of speech has been curtailed because of political correctness. Yet again, this is complete rubbish aimed at manufacturing outrage and fear among the gullible. No-one is stopping anyone from having their opinion. The problem with the right-wing is that they see any form of criticism as an attack on their freedom, while not understanding or accepting that freedom of speech means that others can voice dissent. This results in the rabid right-wing trying to shut dissenters down by screeching 'political correctness' whenever they feel their diminutive world-view is being threatened, in a manner reminiscent of the 'repressed peasant' in Monty Python's Holy Grail:

'help, help, I'm being repressed - look at the evil socialist making evidence-based, fact-checked, peer-reviewed, scientific arguments against my everything-phobia ... help, help, I'm being repressed'.

In the United States, the rabid right melted down when NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick dared to remain seated during the national anthem, and on later occasions to kneel, because he wouldn't stand to show pride in the flag of a country that continues to oppress and kill black people. Some military veterans showed support for Kaepernick, saying that they fought for his freedom to make this expression. The right however, wanted him sacked, sanctioned, jailed. The anger was palpable. There were boycotts of NFL games and Kaepernick received death threats. Don't cross the perpetually outraged right-wing. Kaepernick's actions did not affect anyone else, he wasn't trying to stop the national anthem being played, but the rabid right certainly tried to stop him.

One of the lies that the right-wing loves to revel in, is the rubbish claim that they are prevented from saying Merry Christmas, and can only say things like Happy Holidays. Even that doyen of bullshit, President Donald Trump, stated that under his rule, people could again say Merry Christmas ... implying that they had been prohibited from saying it before he rode in like a knight in shining armour. However, former president Barack Obama never stopped people saying 'Merry Christmas'(8). This was yet another example of Trump's many lies aimed at manufacturing rage and hate in his gullible followers. There is no war on Christmas, no-one is stopping anyone from celebrating Christmas, but the perpetually outraged rabid right create one and then blame 'political correctness' for it.

One of the mantras used to explain the actions of terrorists, is 'they hate our freedoms'. Which is not the issue, however, it is becoming increasingly obvious that many on the right-wing hate our freedoms. They don't want to see the left-wing express their freedom of speech, or see LGBTIQ+ free to marry those they chose, or Muslims free to worship at the Mosque they wish to or wear the clothes they chose.

The right-wing is constantly squawking about their right to freedom of speech, yet most just want the right to not have their myopic views or fatuous beliefs challenged. Nineteenth century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard accurately nailed the problem with this approach when he said, 'People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use'. Little thought is given to much of the arguments put forward by the rabid right.



What is it that the rabid right wishes to say that they can't say now? The only thing that might land them in trouble is racist or hate speech. Is this what they are so angry about? That they want the right to be hateful and racist? It says a lot about their character.

The following pyramid was designed by Ellen Tuzzolo for Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-Violence. Even though it was designed for US audiences, much of it is applicable throughout the world. It shows that Covert White Supremacy is socially acceptable, but just because something is accepted socially, doesn't make it right. It is this insidious racism that 'political correctness' aims to address in order to stop the rise of Overt White Supremacy. Similar pyramids could be developed for other targets of bigotry, such as homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia.

Original designed by Ellen Tuzzolo for the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-Violence
But why should the left, or scientists, or academics be silenced because of the bigotry, ignorance, blind nationalism, religious intolerance and hurt feelings of those on the right-wing who can't see beyond their bubble of bigotry and bunkum? As Martin Luther King said, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'.

Challenging bigotry and ignorance does matter. Calling out and challenging mindless assertions and hate speech does matter. Those who disagree with the claims of the right-wing should not be silenced. They have freedom of speech too.


References

1. The Washington Post, Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilprin, CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity, 15 December 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cdc-gets-list-of-forbidden-words-fetus-transgender-diversity/2017/12/15/f503837a-e1cf-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.

2. Snopes, Dan Evon, Easter Bannies, 24 March 2016, https://www.snopes.com/cadbury-banned-easter/. Accessed 27 December 2017.

3. ABC News, RMIT ABC Fact Check, Fact Check: Does halal certification fund terrorism?, 21 April 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-14/fact-check-does-halal-certification-fund-terrorism/6383238. Accessed 27 December 2017.

4. Parliament of Australia, Jean Murphy, Halal certification in Australia: a quick guide, 30 August 2016, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/Quick_Guides/HalalCert. Accessed 27 December 2017.

5. The Guardian, Amanda Meade, Conservative commentator Janet Albrechtsen appointed to ABC panel, 2 July 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jul/02/conservative-commentator-janet-albrechtsen-appointed-to-abc-panel. Accessed 27 December 2017.

6. The Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Knott, The tumultous News Corp past of new ABC boss Michelle Guthrie, 17 December 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-tumultuous-news-corp-past-of-new-abc-boss-michelle-guthrie-20151217-glq4xf.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.

7. The Sydney Morning Herald, Debi Enker, The news is sad for ABC viewers under Michelle Guthrie's rule, 12 October 2017. http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/the-news-is-sad-for-abc-viewers-under-michelle-guthries-rule-20171009-gywwmj.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.

8. The Independent, Maya Oppenheim, Trump claims he saved 'Merry Christmas' from assault, despite Obama having said it every year, 25 December 2017,
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-merry-christmas-assault-twitter-barack-obama-a8127921.html. Accessed 27 December 2017.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour - the insidious rancor infesting the mind and spirit of Christianity

The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour - the insidious rancor infesting the mind and spirit of Christianity


Proverbs 11:9 - 'The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered'.

Proverbs 11:12 - 'He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbour, But a man of understanding holds his peace'.

And right there, these two scriptures describe the hypocrisy and fatuousness of those Christians who are constantly attacking Islam, demonising Muslims and persecuting refugees, with much of their vitriol based on lies, misrepresentations, stereotyping and plain hatred.

Matthew 7:5 challenges these hypocrites with the much-ignored scripture: 'Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye'

While some Christians are demonising all Muslims over the actions of a few terrorists, they cheer on the bombings and invasions of Christian leaders. These Christians also support the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestine through Israel's war crimes and illegal occupation because 'the bible tells them to' while they ignore the parts that clearly blow Zionism out of the water. (Refer to 'Challenging Zionism: http://thepandarant.blogspot.com/2017/04/challenging-zionism-illogical-christian.html). In fact, they deny Israel's war-crimes and the very existence of Palestinians. Ethnic cleansing much?

There was the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the so-called 'Coalition of the Willing', led by illustrious Christians, President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and perennial international lapdog and US apologist, Australia's own lickspittle-in-chief, Prime Minister John Howard. This war resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people (far more than despot Saddam Hussein ever killed), and gave rise to ISIS.

Throughout the 20th century, most genocides and wars were caused by Christians. The benchmark was of course set by Adolf Hitler with his genocide of Jews, socialists, gypsies, homosexuals, the sick and infirm, and anyone who was considered a dissident. Germany was a Christian nation and most soldiers serving the Nazi regime were Christian. Other wars which Christians unleashed included the First World War, the Korean War, Vietnam, and of course, the ubiquitous Cold War in which the 'Christian' United States and the atheist Soviet Union went head to head in everybody else's countries except their own. Much of the Cold War was waged through the Middle East and Asia, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam and Indonesia. These wars resulted in the deaths and displacement of hundreds of millions of people, with many of them becoming refugees.

Those refugees are then demonised, abused and tortured by the same Christians who supported the wars that caused their displacement. Australia's mistreatment of refugees has been widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, aid organisations and many in the international community. The UN accused Australia of torturing refugees(1), Amnesty stated that humane solutions existed but Australia chooses to abuse refugees(2), and the New York Times slammed Australia's treatment of refugees as a disgrace(3).

Dutton calls for pro-Christmas uprising while abusing innocent children and adults(4)


Two of Australia's Immigration Ministers who reveled in the vote-winning policies of abusing innocent people, were Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison. While justifying their abusive treatment of innocent and traumatised people, both men defended their Christianity against criticism. Dutton angrily called for a 'pro-Christmas' uprising against political correctness because Australia is a 'Christian society'(4). Meanwhile the sickeningly smug Scott Morrison, always happy to blame Islam for everything bad in society, vowed to defend Christianity against mockery(5). Morrison vowed to stand up to 'mockery and jokes about Christianity'. But conservative Christianity is a joke because of hypocrites such as Morrison, Dutton, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and arch-conservative Cory Bernardi who have all waged an unrelenting war against Islam based on fear-mongering, hate-speech and the active abuse and torture of people fleeing war and persecution. Sadly, it's not a funny joke, conservative Christianity is a mockery of the Christianity of Christ.

The actions of these so-called Christians in their incessant attacks on Islam, have more in common with terrorists than with Jesus. Just like terrorists, including the world's latest bogeyman Islamic State (ISIS), anti-Muslim Christians cherry-pick the Quran while refusing to acknowledge or understand context. The Quran itself states that the 'whole' is from God, the whole needs to be considered(6). The Quran talks of those who claim they understand the whole of the scripture but instead twist it. Chapter 3 verse 8 says '... those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and seeking wrong interpretation of it ... they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding'.

But why worry about truth or context when you're consumed with hate and have an agenda to destroy everyone who isn't Christian. The small-minded, the hypocrites, those lacking wisdom take Islamic out of context. So if Christians aren't going to keep the Quran or Haddiths in context, then neither should the Bible be kept in context when discussing it with them.

It's ironic that Christians accuse Muslims of having a violent religion when history clearly shows that Christianity is the most violent religion the world has known. For centuries, Christians have led wars and invasions into almost every nation in the world, killing hundreds of millions of people. Whereas most Muslim wars were in defence of invasions by Christians. Where Muslims only fought against those soldiers who fought them and left alone those who didn't fight, Christians were happy to massacre every man, woman and child. Muslims were fighting in accordance with the Quran which instructed them to only fight in self-defence, as stated in Chapter 22 verse 40: 'Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged', and to only fight those who are fighting them, which is made clear right at the start of the Quran, in Chapter 2 verse 194: '... no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors'. This is the meaning of jihad - to fight against those who attack Muslims. It is self-defence. It isn't a waging of genocidal war against non-Muslims in order to conquer the world. For people who claim to follow a religion of truth, many conservative Christians are more than happy to lie about Islam.

The Quran instructs Muslims not to fight with Christians and Jews (which the Quran calls People of the Book) unless the People of the Book are inflicting the wrong as stated in Surah 29:46 'And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury)'.

Contrasting the Quranic scripture of only engaging active combatants, to some of the Old Testament writings which called for genocide by 'killing every man, woman and child', in other words, kill everyone even if they are not actively fighting. 1 Samuel 15:3 is but one scripture (yes, there is more than one), that calls on this: '... Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys'. Deuteronomy 2:34: 'At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them--men, women and children. We left no survivors'. And it goes on. Deuteronomy 3:6, 20:16-18 (which says to leave nothing alive that breaths). And then there's Numbers 31:17-18, which raises a disturbing issue of rape, sex slavery and pedophilia, 'Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man'. Why would they keep the virgins? It wasn't out of mercy. Keep in mind that most girls were married by puberty, so most of those who hadn't slept with a man were female children.

Challenge a conservative Christian on the violence of the Old Testament and they will immediately claim it needs to be understood in context ... which is a luxury that they don't afford Quranic scripture. Funnily enough the Quran has advice for these Christians (who are called People of the Book). Surah 4:171 says, 'O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth'. Yet conservatives commit excesses all the time ... in their waging of war, their abuse of refugees, their attack on Islam ... and then there's prosperity doctrine! But that's another story.

Many conservative Christians are quick to quote the Quran and ignore much of their own bible; a book that defends the poor and the persecuted. Christians can't argue that these scriptures are just Old Testament and therefore don't apply, as the New Testament states in Matthew 5:17, 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them'.

Just a reminder of some the scriptures to which conservative Christians give a cold-shoulder:

Leviticus 19:33-34: 'And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God'.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19: 'He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt'.

Malachi 3:5: 'So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me," says the Lord Almighty'.

Matthew 25:25-36 (the entire parable of the sheep and the goats), including: 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me'.

Matthew 5:1-12 (the Beatitude, or the Sermon on the Mount, which is the Manifesto of Jesus), including: 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy'.

Matthew 5:44: 'love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you'.

And just so that Christians can't possibly get lost in the overwhelming volume of scripture, Jesus dumbed it down to six words:

Galations 5:14: 'For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself" '.

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Seven words that sum up Christianity, yet many conservative Christians just don't grasp how to live this.

The church has become more concerned with making money than in making peace, it is more concerned with spreading hate than in spreading love, it is more concerned with increasing church numbers than in being a living witness for Jesus - which would mean loving their neighbour AND loving their enemy. In Australia, the recent marriage equality debate saw conservative Christians mobilised like never before to condemn LGBTIQ+ people through the use of lies and fear in the name of defending 'Christian values'. Some of this turned ugly, with violence and vandalism unleashed on pro-marriage equality people(7).  Yet most of these self-righteous Christians have been either deadly silent or vocally supportive of perpetuating the abuse of refugees and demonising of Muslims. One wonders how Christian their values actually are.

If Christians wish to 'defend Christianity', then they should defend it against the insidious rancor that has permeated the minds and spirits of conservative Christianity. Before lashing out at Islam, Palestinians, LGBTIQ+ people, refugees or anyone else, Christians should consider their actions and words in light of the teachings of Christ in loving our neighbour and caring for the poor, the refugee and the persecuted.

One of Christianity's biggest celebrations is Christmas, when a jolly fat man spreads materialistic cheer through consumerism. Santa Clause is a capitalist manifestation of a true Christian named St Nicholas; a man who helped the needy and the sinner. He once helped three sisters who were in poverty by secretly placing three bags of gold coins in their house to prevent them from having to prostitute themselves. He is the patron saint of repentant thieves, pawnbrokers, prostitutes and he defended Christianity against heresy. St Nick would be horrified to see what his legacy as become in the name of capitalist Christianity. One can't help but think that the real St Nick would punch out the Santa Claus. His actions were not based on people being naughty or nice, but being worthy of being loved.

Sadly, far too many Christians, those of the Scott Morrison ilk, are more concerned with fighting for the right to say 'Merry Christmas', then in actually living their lives as Christ commanded.



But let's give God the last word:

Matthew 25:40 - 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'






References

1. The Guardian, Ben Doherty and Daniel Hurst, UN accuses Australia of systematically violating torture convention, 10 March 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/09/un-reports-australias-immigration-detention-breaches-torture-convention. Accessed 24 December 2017.

2. Amnesty International, Four years on: Humane solutions to offshore detention exist but Government chooses abuse, 19 July 2017, https://www.amnesty.org.au/four-years-humane-solutions-offshore-detention-exist-government-chooses-abuse/. Accessed 24 December 2017.

3. New York Times, The Editorial Board, Australia's stranded refugee prisoners, 20 October 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/20/opinion/australias-stranded-refugee-prisoners.html. Accessed 24 December 2017.

4. The Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Koziol, Peter Dutton calls for pro-Christmas uprising against 'political correctness gone mad', 16 December 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/peter-dutton-calls-for-prochristmas-uprising-against-political-correctness-gone-mad-20161214-gtbj63.html. Accessed 24 December 2017.

5. The Guardian, Michael McGowan, Scott Morrison vows to stand up to 'mockery' of Christians, 22 December 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/dec/22/scott-morrison-vows-to-stand-up-to-mockery-of-christians. Accessed 24 December 2017.

6. Independent, Qasim Rashid, Anyone who says the Quran advocates terrorism obviously hasn't read its lessons on violence, 10 April 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/islam-muslim-terrorism-islamist-extremism-quran-teaching-violence-meaning-prophet-muhammed-a7676246.html. Accessed 24 December 2017.

7. BuzzFeed, Lane Sainty, Josh Taylor, 65 Times The Same-Sex Marriage Debate was Definitely Not Respectful, 10 November 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/lanesainty/please-make-it-stop1. Accessed 24 December 2017.