Sports has shut down, so here’s a new League Table…

Go to: 

Go to the ‘Total Cases’ column and order the countries from largest to smallest number of total cases. Right, this is the new league table. Whoever has the smallest number of total cases wins.

I know this might seem inappropriate but I’ve been trying to think of ways to get people I know to care about Coronavirus. For me, the idea that we have a collective goal is really important. A national campaign is hard to get behind when the notion of a real ‘Australianness’ is quite foreign to us. But a league table and a team speaks to everyone.

As a team member for Australia I’m up there, within touching distance of Brazil and Sweden (see?), which is a source of real motivation to work together to keep away from the worst names like USA and China.

The nation is a pretty empty signifier, but unfortunately it remains the best we’ve got as far as current statistics are concerned.  I believe there’s real potential in localising statistical analysis of new cases and creating local league table. Imagine if you could set Primary school communities, or Suburbs, against each other? Harness the feeling that you could actually contribute to the success of your team by being more vigilant and helping others to do so. The collected data could also be really helpful in tracing the progress of COVID 19.

Of course the game will disadvantage the underprivileged but it will also bring attention to those areas which lack adequate healthcare (USA I’m looking at you) or transparency (ahem, China). And after all, it’s just a game.

Nobody wins but some do better than others. It simply invites reflection on your choices and a way to positively orient your community thinking, you’re doing it for the team.

Thoughts on the coronavirus

Well there are quite a few things that this virus is bringing to mind and, while I listen to my workplace’s ‘townhall’ about how we’re going to deal with this, I’d like to get some of them down.

Nationalism is an embarrasment

Maybe I’m just speaking from an Australian perspective but I find that one of the most interesting things about COVID-19 is that it makes clear that we are a global community. While the recent bushfires indicated that decisions made around carbon production could effect us here in Australia, via global warming, that ‘problem’ was localised and rendered within the Australian nation, and confounded by the inability of our conservative government to honestly assess and act on the situation. COVID effects everyone, it will eventually become ‘part of the furniture’ and its spread indicates how intrinsically connected we are as a planet and a species; just as with global warming.

John Stuart Mill once said that ‘nationalism is a pox on humanity’ and I think that COVID has illustrated how humanity must deal with such poxes collectively. Moreover I am more than a little ashamed of how ‘Australians’ have reacted to the virus. Brawls over toilet paper, hoarding and general self indulgent panic is behaviour that is one million miles away from the national self image. Whereas I was raised thinking that the qualities that made Australia great were courage, community support and primarily ‘mateship and a fair go’, COVID has shown that the national character is now one of profound individualism and selfishness. I believe this has changed. I believe that Australian culture is not as Australian as it once was. When my Nana lived through the depression in Coolgardie they allowed families to share their house and camp on their verandah indefinitely; simply so they could help. Our ANZAC stories are replete with tales of soldiers who would not leave the battlefield without their mates, regardless of their own peril. I know COVID appears to be a slightly different situation but for people to be hoarding toilet paper in a city where there are yet to be any cases of community transmission does NOT speak of courage, mateship and a fair go. It speaks of profound selfish individualism and a cowardly panic inspired by global media. Overall it reflects upon an inability to think of your community or yourself as somehow distinct or different from the individualistic global order.

The neo-liberal world view is dangerous and inefficient

Which brings me to my next realisation. We have all become Americans, at the worst possible time. There is a global culture that has replaced Australian culture and it is that of small state, big individual, responsibilisation that suggests that community is meaningless, the individual matters. It’s here and it rules this place, I suspect it rules everywhere.

I feel very sorry for the US at this time when people’s inability to fund sick leave combined with their incapacity to pay for medical attention is liable to make COVID a particularly thorny problem. This system works to develop herd immunity as quickly as possible (because of, not despite, it’s terrible inefficiency) meaning the sick and the old die quickly and production can return to profitability. A strong social health system would only slow this process, allow more ‘weak’ people to live and be far more expensive. The economic value of refusing to care (in the most literal sense) cannot be refuted. It doesn’t shock me that the US government has taken this route; what shocks me is the extent to which their ideology has become ubiquitous and that the US population can’t see the value in spending some of their trillions on universal health care rather than junk for a military that is, like its health care, already far more expensive than everyone else’s.

Traditional gender stereotypes are still propagated in the most horrible ways

The Australian government is yet to close schools and one of the justifications for this is that they don’t want health care workers to have to stay at home to look after children. Now I can’t for the life of me imagine WHY health care workers would have to take care of children? Surely these health care workers have partners who could perform caring roles?

So the underlying issue is that health care workers are thought of as female and that family caregives are also imagined to be female. Here are the women in our lives being asked to double shift in quite the most impossible way. Of course, not all health care workers are female and not all family caregivers are female; but that’s sort of being forgotten, and ‘by and large’ these traditional gender roles remain unproblematic. Which is such bullshit.

Here’s a revolutionary idea. When the health of the entire community depends upon it, the CEO of BHP can take time off to care for children while their partner, who works in health can continue to do the health work that remains a priority to save lives. Gender is and should be irrelevant.

Are we seriously saying that we’ll endanger the health of our families and communities because we can’t imagine a man taking time off work to look after the kids? The fact that this statement is plausible speaks to the fact we really need to look at how we propagate gender roles, as well as how we underpay and underappreciate care work!

OK, rants over for now. As you can see COVID 19 has bought up a few beefs and I am hopeful that we might learn from this experience. Anyone who reads this, please stay safe and if you need anything to help you through this difficult time, please don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve got enough TP to share.

Being woke; or identity politics destroys my mind, pt.2

So a few things have happened lately that have bought my issues with identity politics back to my mind.

First, I had a student complain that I used the N-word in a lecture.

Second, the UWA student guild made a motion to stop the Dalai Lama (or his representatives) from speaking on campus, because it might offend our Chinese students.

Third, I went to see Jonathan Pie – an excellent comedian who somewhat echoed my concerns about where this was all leading us.

Finally, this:

So to deal with the first issue first, before you stop reading because I am such a horrible racist.

I was conducting a lecture on how language carries power through discourse. We were discussing Ed Sheeran as a group (funny how he keeps coming up in these discussions). He had just toured and a lot of the students had just been to the concert at Optus stadium, so I knew that his ‘power’ would be tangible for them. But I asked ‘is he really any good?’ and then (after fielding some yes and no answers) offered this unwise and unnecessary perspective which I will quote at length to ensure that you get the context:

I thought it was interesting because the music editor from The West panned him and said ‘well his music is all a bit same-ish’. And I have to say that I think within the frame of discourse he’s a fine musician and clearly a nice and sincere person but I don’t think that 20 years ago he would have been successful as he is.

He only sticks out now because so much of contemporary pop music is facile and horrible, and talks about ‘bitches’ and ‘niggas’ and whatever I’m buying; and he doesn’t do that, and so he sticks out.

By saying this I offended someone and was reported to the faculty.

Now let me say I am a little mortified that I offended one of my students – that was -hopefully clearly – never my intention; and I didn’t think that my use of the N-word was derogatory, inflamatory or even capable of creating offence.  But it was, and for that, I’m sorry.

But I do think that I have every right to say the word. Based on the idea that if anyone can say a word, then I can too. The word was on my mind because I had been conducting a rhetorical analysis of Kendrick Lemar’s ‘Humble’. Which is peppered with the ‘N-word’ and the ‘B-word’. That’s why this issue was on my mind and I do think this kind of language is culturally toxic. But I discussed the lyric to ‘Humble’ in the following lecture and received no complaints. So from that I can only deduct that it’s ok for a rapper to use the word, just not ok for me to use it. And I’m not ok with that.

It is not about being free to spout my racist views, or being free to use language to perscute people; I don’t want to do those things and I’d happily be censured on the grounds of offence if I did that. It is about my freedom to use a word which others are allowed to use. I was not directing it at anyone, I was not calling anyone the ‘n-word’, I was discussing the fact that this is a word that was proliferating in popular music. It is happening, so I think I can defend my right to use the same word to describe what’s happening.

Do not give me the ‘only a ginger can call another ginger “ginger“‘ defence. Kendrick is not a woman and yet he is allowed to use the word ‘bitch’; despite the long and horrible history of female oppression and the continued use of that word to segregate and demean a group of powerless people.  So, where’s the consistency Lemar? Maybe he self- identifies as a woman? great, but can’t I identify with a black person then?

The only way for Lemar to defend his position is to suggest that because he is black he is marginised and therefore can speak for/as/on behalf of all marginalised groups. Whereas I am white, so I can never know what it means to be marginalised. I’ve never heard make that argument but that’s the only possible way to defend it.

But there are problems with that argument, because why are race and gender the only things that matter in terms of judging marginalisation? They are facile elements of identity and, I would argue, while they do invite summary judgment (because they are apparent on surfaces) they are actually less determining that just about every other aspect of identity (because they only manifest at the level of surfaces).

Now, in saying that I’m not saying that being black/female and being oppressed have nothing to do with each other. What I’m saying is that there is actually nothing innate about being black or female that contributes to that oppression. The long history of African slavery did not happen because of blackness, blackness was used as a reverse justification for the economic exploitation of a human resource. It was the system of slavery that created the racism and the N-word, not blackness.

Yes a large number of black people are poor, marginalised and powerless (and a large number of women) – but so are a large number of white people, and a large number of men. Do you know who is not poor, marginalised or powerless? Kendrick Lemar. That’s who. He’s also famous, he’s beautiful. He has a freaking Pulitzer Prize. These are the things that are determining.

Black people, women (along with white people and men); they do all kinds of things, have a wide variety of experiences, they suffer, they succeed, it is almost impossible to tell who they’d be or what they’d be interested in based upon their gender or their race.

However, if you are born poor, you are likely to die poor, and your poverty is likely to determine (and limit) your education, your employment prospects and your experience of the world.

If you are born unattractive by conventional standards, you are likely to die unattractive by conventional standards, and your relative attractiveness is likely to determine your social standing, your group of friends, your mate and yes, even your employment prospects. Where is the representation for the marginalisation of ugly people?

I see nothing consistent here, just a fashionable form of group think which is doing exactly what it is supposedly fighting against – perpetrating race/gender as determining categories (‘you are black so you can…’ is the same logical premise as ‘you are black so you cannot…’). Understanding the world only in terms of surfaces (the Dalai Lama is Tibetan, so he must be offensive; a white person said ‘nigga’ so we must be offended) is the best way to create a world where only surfaces matter. And surfaces shouldn’t matter.

And on that, I’ll finish with this quote from Arendt.

It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never ‘radical’, that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is ‘thought-defying,’ as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its ‘banality’. Only the good has depth and can be radical. [1]

[1] Arendt, The Jew as Pariah, p250-251


The video of Iranian women sneaking in to watch a football match made my day

I loved seeing this story last night about 5 Iranian women dressing up like men to sneak in to a football ground and watch their team win the league.

It tickled me for a number of reasons. First, it reminded me of this:

While I’m generally all for respecting regional custom and law, the prohibition of women doing things because of their gender is unequivocally abhorrent and an aspect that needs to change in any culture it is rooted (including my own obvs). So, the fact that these Iranians flouted the law, supported by the fact that so many of the other football supporters at least implicitly enabled the act, which was then shared through the power of social media, made me really happy for the prospect of humanistic progress in the world.

Also, it made me remember how great sport and play is as a tool for overcoming social and cultural division; something I wrote about in my paper ‘The Smooth Spaces of Play’.

It is rare that I see news that makes me happy – so thanks to those five brave Iranian women!

This page has nothing to do with TAL insurance. Let me tell you why insurance is a con

So Tauel is a strage word and not one that I hear a lot. Imagine my surprise when I heard this TVC for TAL :

Nothing not to love here, right? I dig the Sia cover, the diversity of ‘Australianness’ represented, some beautiful shots and I can also see the clever messaging of starting with young people and finishing with the target market of older people. And then there’s hearing ‘Tauel’ as a brand… sort of intoxicating.

But I HATE it; because if there’s one industry I struggle to respect, it is insurance. And in this post I’m hoping to explain why.

First, a confession. I’ve actually had a lot of really bad experience with insurance companies, so I am in some sense prejudiced by my own experiences. I have repeatedly been in situations where insurance companies have done everything possible to avoid paying out on claims and employed guys in suits to come up with reasons not to pay, or to chase innocent parties up for the costs they’ve incurred.

I’ll mention a few incidents so you get the idea. When I was 18 a mate accidentally caused me to have an accident that totalled my insured car to the value of $1600, the insurance company was going to charge me $800 excess for being young, as well as the loss of my no-claim bonus; and then go after my mate legally to make him pay the full $1600. So just to recap – because they intended to recoup the money it took to fix the car PLUS my $800 excess, they stood to make $800 out of my honest reporting of what was an accident. We subsequently cancelled the claim and my mate and I sorted it out between us.

Another example was when the communal plumbing in a flat complex we were in flooded and caused damage to carpets and flooring in the adjacent rooms. The building insurer refused to pay to repair the flooring based upon the argument that the damage may have pre-existed the flood because there were cracks in some of the bathroom tiles – and couldn’t be attributed to the flooding caused by the burst communal plubming. There was, of course, no flooring damage before the flooding but the insurance company stood by the claim that if we couldn’t prove that there was previously no damage then we couldn’t prove that the damage was the result of the burst plumbing. So they maintained the position that we had tolerated a wet floor and seeping walls for however many months, just waiting for a colossal failure of the plumbing system, which we then used as convenient excuse to ask them to repair a separate problem which just coincidentally looked like being caused by the plumbing issue. That is a ludicrous claim and an ethical operation would stump up the money for repair clearly caused by the plumbing issue.

Finally, when my 1971 VW Beetle (which was in my family for 25 years) was totalled by a driver using their mobile phone, the driver’s insurance company gave me $600 compensation for the written off vehicle. When I complained that sum no way recognised the value of the car I was told that the age of the car depreciated its value… the car was almost 40 years old at that point and almost, but not quite, in the ‘vintage’ range – but no one would really claim that a 40 year old Beetle is depreciated in value because of its age. $600 was not enough to repair the vehicle and I had no money at that point in my life, so I lost my beautiful little car I’d had for 15 years.

All of these incidents have encouraged me to loathe insurance. I see it as a corrupt industry that ought to be avoided at all costs; even those insurers who ‘aren’t very insurancy’.

I also think that it doesn’t make sense financially to use insurance. Let me explain why. If you are running an insurance business then the only way you can make money is to charge your customers significantly more than the value you’re actually ‘risking’. That is, any insurance premium has to equal the net cost of insurance claims PLUS the cost of employing people to handle the claims, PLUS the cost of administration and management, PLUS the cost of advertising your company PLUS the profit your company needs to make.

So, in all cases, if you’re wealthy enough to absorb the financial risks associated with your lifestyle, then you’re better off without insurance. If you can ride out the bad years, overall, you’ll pay less; among other things that’s just less administration, marketing, management and shareholder profit you’re paying for. I understand that not everyone is that wealthy but that makes insurance an even more unfair imposition upon those who are already financially precarious.

Insurers are obligated to their shareholders to do everything possible to ensure that their clients don’t ‘beat the system’- meaning they will try to ensure that every customer pays far more in premiums and excess than they ever receive from the insurer. That means jacking up premiums at the first sign of an added risk (the person is infirm, young, old etc), and avoiding paying claims wherever possible. It also means that, at the lower ends of the spectrum, there are peculiar advantages to making people feel precarious, threatened and isolated in order to motivate them to take out insurance. It’s sort of a self reinforcing system of creating bad karma in exchange for money.

So yeah, I don’t love insurance. I now avoid any form of insurance I can and generally only hold it where it is compulsory. My family has swallowed the pill of ‘if you can afford private health insurance then you should take it out because it places less pressure on medicare. But this bothers me because of the inefficiency created through having multiple private insurers. Since the larger your customer base becomes you would lower your exposure to peculiar risks, the closer your premiums can get to a median value and the fairer your insurance would be. Similarly, the larger your customer base the more efficient your management and administration could be. Similarly if there were just one insurer, there would be no need for advertising expenditure. In short – if there is just one insurer (say medicare, for instance) insurance premiums would be almost entirely used for their purpose – to pay for the claims made against the insurance – instead of used to pay for marketing the need for further insurance, or creating a new brand to appeal to a safer insurance market.

Finally, I think that the idea of spending money to protect the material wealth we already have is a form of intense conservatism which seeks to preserve the worst aspects of our current existence (commodity fetishism, reification, materialism) and inhibits some of the best aspects (challenge, responsibility, compassion). There are reasons to collectively defray the impact of catastrophe – but using profit oriented companies to coordinate that is a misstep. And yeah, I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with insurance companies. So I’m certainly not endorsing TAL.

On time and drumming with Taylor Hawkins

So I went to watch the Foo Fighters on the weekend and had a few moments when I achieved a philosophical appreciation for the excellent drumming of Taylor Hawkins.

Taylor Hawkins – according to Dave Grohl ‘The answer to the question – “What if Freddy Mercury had a surfboard”? – is one of the better drummers I’ve seen live. And I think the fact that he’s clearly a Queen fan is no coincidence. Hawkins has a remarkable ability to enter into the moment and alter it both with his singing, drumming and presence more generally.

Don’t get me wrong, Dave Grohl is also a consummate showperson – every time I’ve seen him (3 times now) I’m impressed by his commitment to perform. He’s always interested in reactions, and responsive to them, 1 and I usually spend some of the show thinking about whether his musical legacy is more important than Kurt Cobain’s… and I generally answer ‘yes’, and that’s some testament to his talent and endeavour.

But with Hawkins, he is equally in control and also (at least seemingly) possessed by the performance – just like Freddy Mercury. When I’m watching him I get the impression that what he’s producing is in and of the moment. Possessing ‘haecceity’, or ‘thisness’ that makes something truly unique.

As a communication theorist the reason I find this fascinating is that communication is typically understood in our world as a process of ‘information exchange’. That is, according to both scientific and empirical theories of communication, when I’m listening to Hawkins and the Foo Fighters I am receiving information – here’s the high hat, here’s the kick drum and so on. However, the experience of being at a Foo Fighters concert is significantly more than that information. Hawkins slight altering of the tempo and beat patterns are in and of the moment and adaptive to the feeling of the music which is immanent to the crowd and the occasion.

I have previously written about why live music experience cannot be replicated and I touched on this issue there. There is something incommensurable (incommunicable) about such experiences and that is – in essence –  the thing. I also know that great theorists like Ron Bogue and, of course, Heidegger, have written about time and experience in far more interesting ways.

However, my take away, and something that I think is helping me think through these issues, is that communication (real communication) is a process, not information exchange. In identifying it as a process you come to understand the difference between information and communication. We have the ability to exchange information globally, and indeed you can even see examples of Taylor Hawkins performance on the weekend right here.

But while the information has complete parity with what happened on the weekend, it is not communicating the same thing. The reason is because there is a process involved in watching music live that is not replicated in reading a blog.

While understanding that process is important seems to replicate McLuhan’s ‘Media is the message’ what I think is really important is to understand what is not happening in ‘information exchange’… a reduced appreciation for iteration and immanence for one, a failure to appreciate our human capacity for another… and an absence of reduction to purpose, a celebration of experience in its place.

Been gone a while

It has been some time since my last post. Partly this is because I’ve had no immediate teaching reason to be playing around with web design, partly this is because I haven’t had much spare time of late but MOSTLY this is because the last time I wrote a post (about the inherent corruption of insurance) word press swallowed up the draft. This was enough of a kick in the teeth for me to stop this hobby for a while.

But today, the kids are at their grandparents and I have a moment to myself so I thought I would take the time to update all my plugins (etc) and make a post about what has been going on.

1. Australia says ‘Yes’ to marriage equality.

Phew. *packs application for NZ citizenship back into drawer*.

I have nothing insightful or intelligent to add to this, except that this was a case where a ‘no’ answer would have driven me to the pits of despair. I can also add that I did not encounter a ‘no’ argument that made any logical sense and while I understand that ‘no’ voters are scared of change, I’m a big believer in Yoda’s claim that fear leads to hate, hate leads to anger and anger leads to suffering. Fear is not the basis of an argument, it’s an emotion (and an often irrational and dangerous one at that).

Mostly I am just relieved that Australia wasn’t revealed to be more conservative than Ireland and the US(!) and hopefully this shift towards equality can be realised in ever more broader terms.

2. Zombie writing continues apace.

My article with Katie Atwell and Ian Dolphin ‘Wishing for the Apocalpyse: The Walking Dead as ecosophic object‘ was turned around very quickly by Continuum and has been published. It was great fun to write with Katie and Ian, who are old friends and TWD afficionados. I’m not sure it makes a strong a fist as it could – I was hoping to make a broader important point about the fate of literary criticism needing to avoid profound ‘individuation’ – but we were really hampered by the word limit.

The next project is really the book Humans vs Zombies, which will draw on that article and other work I’ve been doing on big data, and previous work on what it takes to be human (as well as the central conceit, that mobile phones may be helping us become zombies). I’m having trouble really figuring out whether its a book concerned with zombism (the lack of agency in desire) or a book concerned with technology (a summary of all the research out there about what mobile phones and digital media are doing to our culture). But I’m trying to snythesise those two arguments. At the moment, I’m reading Zombie Capitalism by Chris Harman, and he’s definitely using zombie as a pejorative adjective rather than a possibly creative concept. It has been a useful refresher on Marxism and thus has reminded me of endless units from undergrad.

3. Teaching semester is wrapping up

Hence the blog post. Grades more or less all done now. I had some great students this year but overall am a little alarmed about the declining level of ‘investment’ or effort in tertiary students. Don’t get me wrong – the great students are still great – but the ‘middle’ students who could once be inspired now listen online, work from Google and learn the bear minimum. They avoid effort and they avoid difference and thus the net effect of teaching (lifting people beyond what they already know) is being reduced IMHO. I see this as a little bit of a crisis for education, at the very least at the tertiary level. And I guess I’ld like to write more on it later.

Anyway, that’d be enough for now. There’s more on my mind – such as the #MeToo campaign and the role of social media in policing social crime. But I’ll stop now to keep it fresh and hopefully not spend too long before I do this again. And hopefully, this time, the internet won’t swallow my draft.


Identity politics destroys my mind

Recently there was a social media uproar (read: twitter shitstorm) about the fact that the Glastonbury headliners for 2017 are all white males – Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran. People are up in arms about the fact that this doesn’t represent the true diversity of the music world… I am less sure about condemning Glastonbury because of this choice, partly because I know at least two of these bands are great live acts and a perfect choice for festival goers who expect the headliners of the mainstage at Glasto to be, well, great live acts. While I do reccognise the structural inequality that has led to these acts becoming great, I don’t lament their right to be where they are… and I feel that to do so is actually somewhat unfair. Yes, I am saying white males can be treated unfairly. I am not trying to get ‘in’ with the MRA people, I just really struggle with identity politics.

My colleague and friend warns me not to be ‘white marxist dude’ who reduces all social problems simply down to inequal distribution of wealth and power. I am that guy, to a certain extent. And yes, I’m a rich, white male. So nothing I say from here on in really counts right? As I could never know the pain of structural inequality and I am always passively benefitting from that inequality. I get that, and I acknowledge that it is true. However, I don’t actually think that means that nothing I have to say on the issue could matter.

Structural inequality comes in many, many forms. For instance, among rich, white males, there is a hierarchy of height. Taller men earn more money, have more status and are more likely to find a mate. Similarly, people born to wealthy parents are more likely to be wealthy themselves. Finally, people with anglicised names do better than people with strange names in job interviews, dating sites and promotions. (etc).

Now, as a relatively short man with a very strange name, who didn’t come from an exceptionally privileged background, I have to say that these inequalities are not necessarily determining – I’ve managed to find employment, a mate and some financial comfort despite these things. And I don’t think that is merely because I have had the good luck of being born white and male. My sister, who is notably not male, has had similar successes; and has been coveted by far more employers, more suitors and more accountants than I’ve ever been. And power to her, she’s worked hard for every bit of it. As have I.

Another way of putting it is that I think that everyone is unique, and while we can certainly detect overarching, or ‘molar’ systems of inequality (and unfairness should be battled wherever possible) our identity should never be reduced to those overarching ‘molar’ categories.

One of my go-to people on this topic is Hannah Arendt.  In The Human Condition and ‘Reflections on Little Rock’ she advanced a highly controversial interpretation of identity politics. She urged everyone to feel pride in and celebrate the things that made them uniquely who they were but, at the same time, felt that the things which make us who we are ‘never condition us absolutely’ (HC, p.11). Now, she was a Jewish woman who fled the Germans and saw many of her friends and colleagues killed in the process. When asked to report on the trials of Adolf Eichmann, she demured from her ‘Jewishness’ and instead reported on them as a philosopher. She identified that the underlying mental fault of Eichmann was not that he was monstrous, rather that he was banal.

It is this banality that I see in identity politics – a desire to reject the specific and gravitate toward a global ideal that can be ‘intersectional’ for sure but also demands a deadening of sophistication and the creation of straw men (strawpeople?) for twitter drive-by abuse and social condemnation.  In the end it seems to reduce people back to their identity – and that is not their identity as defined by them and their actions but rather their identity as defined by their skin colour and gender. In prioritising the global and exclusive categories (white, male), as opposed to the global inclusive (human) or specific and local (white, male, middle class, depressive, introverted, arrogant and more) we obscure both the difference we’re trying to celebrate and the REAL systemic causes of exclusion and inequality.

So while no doubt there is something about men generally having less time pressures in their lives, which has allowed more men to experiment with the possibly frivolous pursuit of pop music I have to say that all of those headliners deserve to be there. Choosing to pursue a career in rock is a risky move and there would have been no safety net if they failed…  They have worked hard to get where they are and their hard work (and ability) is what is recognised in the headline slot… not their maleness, not their whiteness. I mean Thom Yorke has facial paralysis, Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters battled for a long time with  heroin addiction and Ed Sheeran is a redhead (nuff said). They’ve all known marginalisation and they all make art about resisting it.

So as much as it feels good to condemn people for what they inescapably are, it is, I feel, more instructive to celebrate what they uniquely bring to the world. And in what we can bring, we are actually all inescapably different.




Introduction: Why a website?

This year I’ve started teaching a masters unit in digital media for strategic communciation. I have a massive research interest in the are having written a number of books and academic articles on the issue. However, in order to bring real insight to my teaching and research I thought I ought to re-engage with the practical aspects of maitaining a web presence. When learning the ins and outs of Google Analytics, for example, there is nothing better than having your own account, your own TLD and your own vested interest in doing so!

Having a rather unique name meant that was available as a top level domain name and rather than invent some strange portmanteau it seemed logical to get tauel for myself. I’ve been told all my life of various meanings for the word tauel and I thought that the word should have its own space. If you have any ideas about what tauel might mean, I’d love to know.

Of course, the only problem with having a site is that you need to have something on it. So far, that has meant including a few of my favourite photos and a brief run down of things that I’d like to promote to everyone (sort of scream from the rooftops good stuff) and things I’d like to warn people about. I’ve also imported some old html pages from my first attempt at web building in the year 2000. A lot of that content has gone missing but I included everything I could find with minimal effort :).  One of the better parts of that site (and its raison d’etre) was my travel diary from my year of travelling through Asia, Europe and the Americas in 1999… at the time it was the only way of allowing friends I met overseas to keep up with what happened in my travels (no facebook/instagram/flickr back then).  So that’s there too, along with a large pdf file of my first big solo trip in 1996, where I started out going to Thailand and then ended up hitching around Britain and Ireland. On that trip the world didn’t even have internet cafes – and travellers had to talk to each other and make stories instead of constantly updating friends back home. The world was a very different place in 1996.

Back to now, there are, of course, a number of reasons that academics should have a public profile and part of me fantasises about the potential of blogging and sharing information over the net. So I’ve also resolved to blog occasionally to get things off my chest and play around with ideas for research and writing. The hope is that people will engage and respond but if nothing else, it is a space for some venting. While I can’t always guarantee my ideas will be well thought out or articulate, I can promise to be at least as reasonable and informative as Andrew Bolt.

Finally, I’ve set up what I call ‘the ideal speaking space‘ simply as a little experiment. The ideal speaking position is a theoretical concept that establishes the conditions that allow a conversation to be reasonable. I have always wanted to play with that concept on the web, so there it is. As I’m still learning the ins-and-outs of forums it is definitely a work-in-progress… but I hope one day someone will ask a question in that space and we can see how it works.

That’s it really. Hopefully not too conceited and painful. Please let me know if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, or questions we can find the answer to together.