Monday, 27 February 2012

Compulsory Immunisation- where are we now?

An article in the Huffington Post today reminded me of one of my looong standing interests- immunisation and whether it shoudl be mandatory. Oh, I've had many a discussion with many a person on this issue, and I find it really hard to be at peace with my own opinion on this issue.

So, for those who don't know the score, it goes a little something like this: Back in the good old days we kept the poor, the young and the black man down by awful deadly viruses such as small pox, ruebella and polio. Then scientists discovered that these dreadful diseases could be prevented by one or a series of injections (don't ask me how immunisations actually work, I'm no scientician). Everyone was happy, and the prevalence of these diseases decreased dramatically (at least in the Western World- if you want to help immunise those in developing countries, you can, and should, donate here:

This is, until the 1990's, when the horror of those diseases and the pain, disability and death they cause were a distant memory for most people. Along came Dr Andrew Wakefield, who published a medical article stating that he had found a link between the common MMR (measles, mumps, ruebella) vaccine and autism in children. As the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders had exploded in the past decade, it is completely understandable why parents jumped on this bandwagon. It's so much easier to blame a third party than to accept that there was nothing that could be done for your child to be "normal".

Even though the research provided by Dr Wakefield has since been discredited, and allegations of conflict of interest have been somewhat proven, the link between MMR and autism, and immunisation and abnormal child development in general, has stuck. Now parents don't tend to attribute they refusal to have their child vaccinated to Dr Wakefield's research specifically, but often cite "religious reasons" for not vaccinating their child.

Which brings me to the Huff Post article. According to this paper, many State laws in the US are making it incresingly easier for parents to refuse to vaccinate their children on this ground. At what point do we say "you don't have the right to bodily integrity, one of our most basic human rights, because you may endanger other people"? Apparently, many US States have changed their answer to this question, and are adjusting their laws accordingly.

One question that I'm always left asking is "do the parents of the child realise the impact of their non comforming is probably not going to impact on them, but someone else who did not have the choice, such as someone elderly who's vaccine has worn off and is weak, or a child who is not old enough to have been immunised"?

At the end of the day, I do side with "herd immunity", but I'm not completely comfortable about it. Also, we must ask ourselves if the governement can ovverride the rights of the child for the good of society, can we override the rights of the adult? Does society have the right to make it compulsory for adults who have not been immunised to do so?

What do other people think? Individual freedom, or rights of the collective?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Happiness? More like Schmappiness!

Beautiful, if not completely pointless and vapid opinion piece by Ross Gittins (call me old school but when did an economist become an expert on heppiness/ meaning of life?). The article is worth reading for the opening paragraph alone:

“FED up with all the wrangling and speculation over who should be leading the Labor Party? Want something more substantial? How about the meaning of life?”

The article goes on to go nowhere in particular, stating the meaning of life is to have “wellbeing”. And here I thought the meaning of life was 42 (or 7, if you ask my good friend AW!).

Perhaps we should stop asking what the meaning of our own life is, and start asking how we can act to give meaning to other people’s lives? Be a little more giving and a little less egocentric? *shock horror* we might find that doing things for other people gives our own life meaning! Something economists, I'm sure, would find very foreign indeed! 

All’s I know about life is you can’t take money with you to the next one, so I’m hitting up the pub this afternoon!

What gives your life meaning?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Robert Manne, You Da Man!

My absolute adoration of Robert Manne was rekindled when I watched Q and A on Monday night (13 February 2012). You can watch the program, or read a summary or full transcript here: I thought I'd blog about him because nothing else interesting is happening in my life, and might inspire you readers to learn something.

My love affair with this man's brain was ignited when I read his Essay "In Denial: the Stolen Generations and the Right", which explored how the Right Wing Australian Media, and the Howard Government, covertly yet actively waged a war against Aboriginal Rights by undermining the inquiry "Bringing Them Home", tabled in Parliament in May 1997. This is the report that famously brough Kim Beazley to weep openly in Parliament. For those who are not familiar, a five second summary:

- The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission was granted $2 million by the Keating Govt to look into the idea of the "Stolen Generation", the incident of wide spread removal of Aboriginals of mixed descent from traditional Aboriginal settlements, and place them into institutionalised care, between 1901 and 1970's.

- The inquiry found documented evident in Government archives that identified that the reason for this removal was largely to "breed out the colour". By taking Aboriginals of mixed descent, and placing them in environments where they could only associate with whites, they would dilute the Aboriginal blood lines, with the ultimate outcome of the extinction of the Aboriginal race.

- The inquiry interviewed upwards of 500 Aboriginals who identified as being of the Stolen Generation, who overwhelmingly had ongoing emotional and psychological issues because of their removal.

- The inquiry found that the blanket excuse for the removal of children, that removal was for their wellbeing, was largely false. The inquiry concluded that the majority of those removed from their families were either no better off, or worse off, than those children who were not removed.

Well, that took a little longer than five seconds. Phew. Now, Robert "The Man" Manne documented how "journalists" (I'm using the loosest version of the term here) such as Piers Akerman, Frank Devine, and the worst of the worst, who we all love to hate, the dreaded Andrew Bolt, among others, reacted to this report. The Right Wing media convinced the public that this report was an exaggeration; poorly handled; and UnAustralian.

Luckily, since Manne's concise and intelligent deconstruction of these events, the Commonwealth has said Sorry. Watching it still gives me shivers up my spine...

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I would have loved to stand beside Manne and other outspoken intellectuals and advocates when this Apology was given. I wish I could have been there more and done more on a personal level.

I've since seen Robert Manne on Q and A a couple of times, and whilst he holds my heart on an intellectual level, the poor man doesn't seem to have an ounce of humour in him. Plus he's old. What a shame.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

One of the most insanely awful things I've ever heard...

Ok, so, I originally read this article (which is terrible in itself): A Saudi Judge has called for a female journalist to be charged because she spoke out against the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue (an authority I've heard a little, but not much about). Yeah, it's bad, but attempting to stop people from being critical of authority is a game that's neither new nor confined to Islamist states.

But then I read one of the examples she gave to justify her criticisms, and it made me want to vomit:
“A fire broke out in a girls’ school in Saudi Arabia. It would have been easy to extinguish the fire without any girl getting hurt. But members of the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue stood at the door of the school and prevented any student from leaving, because the girls were not wearing the hijab. How were they supposed to get a hijab when the school was going up in flames? They prevented the fire brigade from entering to extinguish the fire, and they prevented the parents from going in… 15 girls from the school died – because of the Authority for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, and not because of the fire. They could easily have been rescued. Has any member of the Authority been placed on trial?”

Fucked up level 9000 bajilion. Ok, it happened in 2002, but from what I've read, things haven't much changed. Doesn't <insert name of deity here, from whatever religion> care more about the sanctity of human life than people being offended? Not according to this Authority.

What irks me the most is that people probably have heard this story (I hadn't before today, but I'm a tad slow up the uptake) and judged the religion of Islam- they were acting in the name of their religion, right? Um, no WRONG! They are just people who are addicted to the rush you get from power. Nothing religious about it. There are people who do fucked up things in the name of power in any society (Westwern businessmen exploiting developing nations by setting up sweatshops just so they can keep a glorious profit margin springs to mind. Money=power, and the ability to buy your way out of any mess you make expanding that power).

Wow, super quick tangent, I use a lot of brackets (thanks Anna!) when I write, don't I?

The point is
1) It's fucked up that girls died a preventable death because of This Committie of Virtue;
2) It's fucked up that a Judge has now called for charges to be laid on a woman who spoke against them (would the judge called for charges had the critique come from a man? Hmmm???)
3) It's fucked up that when people hear this story, they will use it to full their Muslim bashing (so in vogue these days) rather than seeing the full pictuure that it's a classic case of men oppressing women, and religion has nothing to do with it.

For the full story, you can see here:
and here:

Monday, 6 February 2012

Rant about Advertising...

The other day a mate texted me that he was “Not happy Jan”. My immediate response was to groan and say to myself “That ad is, like, ten years old! Why do people still refer to it?!?”

Cue rumination on the beauty (note the Orwellian “doublespeak”) of advertising. Who doesn’t remember the following classic Aussie ads?

“don’t push me, push a push pop!”

“That’s not how you make porridge <insert annoying Scottish accent>”

“Guide dogs are either Labradors or German Shepherds” “Then what have they given me?”

“As I… shampoo my hair, I really love… my Decore…”

“You can get it any old how, matter of fact I’ve got it now”

The list goes on (feel free to share your own memories in the comments!). I guess the point of this ramble is that advertising scares me. Scares me, because it is just so goddamn effective. And Affective. Advertising companies are paid major major bucks to brainwash the populace into buying things they neither need nor want. I recall from Year 11 Business Studies (10 years ago- *gulp* I’m old!) the king, or rather the Grandfather of advertising, is Coca-Cola. Now, things had been advertised before, for a long time, but they were things that people essentially needed, or that made life more convenient or safe. Coca-Cola was the first product that was sold that had no real benefit to the consumer. “Here, have this drink, that not only does not quench your thirst, but actually dehydrates you and tastes terrible and rots your teeth…” Well, they obviously couldn’t use that as a marketing campaign. So they focused on an experience- how you would feel drinking coke, how people would think you were smart and sophisticated. Today their focus has shifted, but not much. They don’t tell you the benefits of coke (there are none) but focus on words like “happiness” “refreshment” “summer” to brainwash us to believe that by drinking coke we will obtain all these intangibles.

I find it rather ironic (not to say, devastating) that when political parties use tactics like this, it is labelled as propaganda. Yet when the same tactics are used to sell a product for profit, it’s advertising!

Share your thoughts/ favourite ads/ brainwashing techniques….

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Winning! Community Sector, Women, and vulnerable people Australia wide!

“Union” seems to be becoming a dirty word again these days. I am not only an active member of my Union, the Australian Services Union, but also a union delegate for my workplace. And so I’m proud as punch that yesterday, I became an important part of Australian History.

The ASU submitted a claim to the newly formed Fair Work Australia in 2010, claiming that community sector workers are underpaid for the work they do and the qualifications they hold, as compared to public sector workers in comparable roles. And the reason for this is because we are a female dominated industry.

Yesterday the FWA handed down a ruling to say that they agree with us. And that we should be paid approximately 30% more than we are.

Here’s the main points from the ASU NSW President, Sally McManus:   

• The work of social and community service workers has been undervalued on the basis of gender.

• The rates of pay should be significantly increased

• The rates of pay should effectively be the same as the Queensland rates of pay

• The new rates should phase in over an 8 year period not a 6 year period

• The graduate entry points for 3 and 4 year graduates should be increased one pay point on the new Modern Award scale so that they are the same as the Queensland Awards for 3 and 4 year graduates should be increased one pay point on the new Modern Award scale so that they are the same as the Queensland Award

But who cares about the details right now. The point is, everyone who was a part of this campaign should celebrate! It is the first of its kind in the world, and the most important decision for equality of women in the workforce for 30 years.

Come next week, my pay won’t be any larger, but it does mean that I (and so many other community sector workers) are more likely to still be here in 10 years, which would be the case if this decision had gone against us.