Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day

Australia Day. The 26th of January, a public holiday Australia-wide. It commemorates the day, back in 1788, that Captain Arthur Phillip rowed ashore from his ship, the HMS Supply, and formally claimed this land in the name of King George III. It is clearly an important date in this nation's history, and in the history of all Australians descended from Europeans. It is the date that got us here in the first place.

Yet I find myself unwilling to celebrate our national day, or even care much about it. I look around and I wonder what this Great Southern Land would be like without us, and sometimes I can't help but conclude it would be nicer. I'm not talking about Aboriginal rights or the fact that they were disregarded and slaughtered by white men, although that is also pretty heinous. I'm just talking about what we've made of the country, our culture, our contribution to the world stage.

We are, in European terms, a young country. Our history is short, although glorious - our contribution to worldwide efforts such as World Wars I and II was pretty awesome. We are an isolated country, geographically; we are (at least in our minds) hard to get to and hard to communicate with. We are a country of wide open spaces, and sprawling cities.

We are also a nation of beer-swilling bogans, self-important nobodies, and nationalistic racists. We so strongly believe ourselves to be the best country on earth that we behave in a way that negates any merit that idea had. We are proud of our "Australian values" which in reality are shared by people worldwide. We don't want to become like America, but we are doing exactly that more and more each day.

I read the news most days, and accordingly I find it very difficult to be happy about my country or my countrymen. For such an apparently great nation where everybody is happy and we're all mates, we do an awful lot of shitty things to each other. We hurt and endanger each other daily, we are rude and inconsiderate, we even kill ourselves to get away from it all.

Let's not allow patriotism and the Australia Day celebrations to blind us to the problems we still face and the issues that must be addressed. We could indeed be a great country, and we could meet our own expectations, but only if every single one of us wanted to.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"All babies are a gift from God"

"All babies are a gift from God and i think people really need to remember that!"

I think people really need to remember that not everybody believes in God, and if they do, it may not be the same God you believe in. Approximately one third of the world's population is Christian, which means two thirds (that is, a vast majority) are not. And even that one third can't agree on anything; that one third includes about fifteen different major denominations and countless smaller ones. What right does one third of the world's population have to impose their values on the rest of us? But they do, all the time, in ways both subtle and overt.

I have heard it questioned why Atheists feel the need to be so militant, why we are so vocal and determined to prove the non-existence of God. I'll tell you why - it's self-defense! We are bombarded by the opposite view, it is all around us all the time, and we are expected to back down before it and allow the bulldozer of Christianity to knock down our house of Atheism.

It's offensive. It's illogical. Give me a break! Let me disbelieve; I think I'm happier doing so than many believers!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Centrelink Woes

Centrelink are so good. At being useless, that is. It's a funny thing; most of the people in their call centre are helpful and friendly, but somewhere in the background, behind the scenes, Centrelink is a looming hulking monstrosity.

About 6 weeks ago I applied for Austudy. Well, first they lost my paperwork and I had to re-lodge it. Ok, annoying, but not fatal. Very quickly after that I was approved, granted Austudy, a nice respectable sum each fortnight. Hooray, now I can afford dentists and optometrists and driving lessons!

Here is my own personal mistake: I completely forgot that I had to report Aidan's income to them every fortnight. I've never had to do it before, so it just slipped my mind. So yesterday I got a letter from Centrelink saying my Austudy had been canceled for lack of reporting. Ok, no worries, my fault. So I called them to report the income and get the payment re-instated.

"Oh, your husband's income is too high. You will not be getting any Austudy."

But WHAAAT?! It hasn't changed since I gained approval. Nobody at Centrelink seems to know quite what has happened, as apparently I should not have been granted Austudy at all in the first place.

So now I await their little investigation and a callback to tell me what the hell is going on. Am I special? Will I get any money? Or am I just another poor sod mislead by the misinformation machine? I'm tipping the latter...