Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scott Morrison: tragedy seen in dillusions of worthiness

ABC News Victoria last night was one of the most tragic I have ever seen. The bulletin began with a report on twin four-year old boys, fighting for their lives after being severely burned following an explosion at their home. Next we were told of the death of a 16 month old child, run over by his father in the driveway of their home. And then the funeral for those asylum seekers whose bodies were recovered in the waters off Christmas Island. The death of children and of the parents of children, their bodies encased in plain wooden boxes. No flowers. Whole families lost. An eight year old boy sobbed as his father was buried. His mother and brother were never found. He has no family left. He has no home. He has no country. His prospects are bleak.

If this were not tragedy enough, we then heard from Oppostition Immigration Spokesman Scott Morrison, who has so little empathy he is complaining about the transportation costs of flying relatives to Sydney for the funeral.

Who exactly is Scott Morrison, and what qualifies him to make such a call. On his website we read that Mr Morrison: believes in "helping young people prepare for their future" and "supporting families to stay together". He espouses the values of his parents who taught him "that success in life was about what you contributed, rather than what you accumulated", but he values prosperity. Ironic really. 

Morrison grew up in family active in local community through youth groups, local church and local government. He attended Sydney Boys High, and the University of NSW, where he received an honours degree in Applied Science. He has worked in senior management positions for several companies. Mr Morrison has the privilege of being a regular kayaker on Port Hacking,  "heavily involved in sports" and enjoying "the local beach lifestyle". Sounds lovely doesn't it.  He has a gorgeous young family. He is highly active in the church and attributes a Christian faith as the driving force for his beliefs and values .

And herein lies the tragedy.

Comparisons are rarely fair, and yet I cannot help but wonder how someone who didn't lose his entire family at the age of eight, has presumably never been homeless or unemployed, subject to poverty, racial predjudice, or political persecution, can make such a call. Nowhere do I read that Mr Morrison's family could not even hope to have him educated, or believed that life in their country of origin was so unbearable that they would risk everything in the pursuit of freedom. How is it possible that someone who has been so lucky, can have become so squintingly mean?

None of us had any power over where we were born, and into what circumstances. And this goes for those bruised by cyclones, bushfire and flood in recent days. Likewise good  luck should never be confused with deservingness. Life is never a level playing field and we need to be on guard against anyone who feeds our dillusions of worthiness. All we can do is attempt to walk a while in other's shoes and to respond with the most compassionate of hearts.

Monday, February 7, 2011

No Mate, She WON'T Be Right: facing up to the climate crisis

Australia's Warmest Decade on record.
Eastern Australia's Wettest Year on record.
Northern Australia's Wettest "Dry Season" on record.
South Western Australia's driest year on record.
Australia's Wettest Year since 2000 (3rd wettest on record)

As Australia comes up for air after an unprecedeted series of natural disasters, the Bureau of Meteorology's Annual Australian Climate Statement has offered some salient statistics on our changing climate.

It's not the national picture that has me gasping for air, but the extremes experienced across vast tracts of country. Pictorial representations in the report illustrate the climate crisis we appear unwilling and therefore ill-equipped to challenge. Take a look.

Australia's south-west has recorded its lowest rainfall on record at 392mm, well below its previous record low of 439mm in 1940.You can do the percentages on that one. While Northern Australia's "dry season" (May - October) has been the wettest on record with 190mm eclipsing the previous record of 176mm in 1978.  The Murray Darling Basin, notorious for its legendary dryness, has suddenly recorded its wettest year on record.

Nationally Australia has recorded its warmest decade. 2010 was the third wettest year since records began in 1900, and the wettest since 2000. The Bureau of Meteorology  explains that "this underscores that the warming of Australia's climate continues, even though individual years may be cooler than other years".

Suddenly "she'll be right mate" sounds more irresponsible and lazy, than endearingly laid-back.

More on this subject from a global perspective:
Skeptical Science - 2010: Record Warmth and Weird Weather
Grist: Crazy Storms highlight the crazy climate mess we're in

You may also be interested in Wearing Bamboo: Slip, slop, slap with an environmental plus