How this ordinary aircraft will change my life

Photograph of Thai Airways International Boeing 747-400 at Sydney Airport

This Boeing 747-400, photographed at Sydney airport last Friday, belongs to Thai Airways International. If you happen to have decent eyesight, you can confirm this by the fact that it has “Thai” painted on the side. Ownership is not about paint, however.

If you paint “Thai” on my side, I do not then become the property of Thai Airways, not even if you’re employed by Thai Airways to do so. Paint is just paint, whereas ownership of property is an abstract concept. A concept which can be supported or asserted by paint or other physical signs, but still an abstract concept which can only be agreed upon by sentient beings.

But what about another concept: nationality?

Nationality is not about paint either. Paint “Thai” on my side if you like. If you use the right brush I might even enjoy it. But I won’t become even remotely Thai. However is nationality something which is just agreed upon? Or is there something essential — in the core meaning of the word, having to do with essence — which makes someone immutably Thai or Australian or Czech or Chinese?

And how does nationality relate to similar concepts, such as ethnicity or race or culture?

I usually don’t think about these categories. The variation within them outweighs the supposed differences. People of every nationality range from amiable to arsehole. However that aircraft — that specific aircraft — has brought it all into focus.

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A Meditation at 11,700 metres, 719km/h

I’m currently sitting in seat 30A of Virgin Blue’s 737-800 airliner, registrated as VH-VOK but nicknamed “Smoochy Maroochy”, sipping a moderately acceptable cabernet merlot which arrived in a little plastic bottle.

I’d chosen this seat for two reasons. Statistically this is the safest seat in the aircraft. But more importantly, it’s the first time I’ve crossed the Nullarbor, and I wanted a clear view of the desert uninterrupted by wings.

My plans have been thwarted. But I have been given an unexpected treat.

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Exploding the “economic manager” myth

If “economic management” is a key factor in the election campaign, then I’m hoping someone manages to finally explode this myth that the Howard government is a good economic manager.

Yes, unemployment is low. Yes, interest rates have been low. Yes, there’s been a mining boom. But after (supposedly) 11 boom years under the Truthful Rodent, what have we got to show for it apart from huge credit card balances and a series of “emergencies”? What have we actually built for the future, as opposed to aspired to do?

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Political advertising “blackout” loophole. Or not.

There’s a “blackout” on political advertising in electronic media the last three days before an election — but not on the Internet. Is this a loophole which needs closing? Or is the blackout a pointless relic from the past?

The rules on electoral advertising include this blackout…

…to ‘provide a “cooling off period” for electors to consider their stance on the issues without the influences of electronic media advertising’. This provision had been in place for about 50 years before being deemed unnecessary in 1991 when a complete election advertising ban was imposed. However, it was re-enacted in 1992 after a High Court decision declared the complete ban invalid. The ‘blackout’ can also be seen to prevent parties making claims late in election campaigns that cannot be scrutinised before election day.

But political parties will be able to continue broadcast-style advertising over the Web.

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Pinky goes to Hillsong

Whaddya think about the Hillsong Church, eh? No, actually, I’ll go first. It worries me.

Of the various controversies about Hillsong, two stand out for me:

  • Fundamentalism is A Very Bad Thing, whether it’s about Islam, Christianity, Marxism, Free Market Economics, wind power generation or whether the milk goes in first. The Church of Virus lists Dogmatism as one of the Three Senseless Sins, and while CoV is somewhat tongue in cheek it’s nevertheless spot on. Fundamentalism denies individual thought or adaptation to changing circumstances. Fundamentalism is nothing more than intellectual bullying: “I will tell you what to think.” This is dangerous. When people cease to think for themselves they become slaves. Hillsong is a Fundamentalist organisation: internal debate is not permitted.
  • Prosperity Theology is a hypocritical perversion of what that Joshua bar Joseph bloke was actually saying. OK, the gold-plated silk-clad parasites of the Vatican aren’t exactly a shining example of his teachings either. But to appropriate the Jesus brand and leave out all the difficult bits is a lot like that Che Guevara t-shirt as a symbol of enlightened rebellion.

Now I’m all for freedom of religion. Please, everybody, think for yourselves and decide your own beliefs! That’s a fundamental human right. I support you in your endeavours. But another fundamental right is freedom of speech. I get to say why I think you’re wrong (and vice versa), and out of that interchange some glorious new synthesis might arise.

Hillsong denies those fundamental human rights to its own members — by suppressing thought through Fundamentalism and suppressing free speech by denying dissent.

Pinky Beecroft, the sometimes-scrambled former lead singer of Machine Gun Fellatio, has been attending Hillsong and wrote about it for Manic Times. Long, but packed with ironic observations.

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The Space Age is Dead

Photograph of Sputnik 1What has happened to our sense of adventure? 50 years ago today that Russian metal thing (left) went “Beep, beep, beep” and we were thrust into the Space Age. But now the Space Age is dead.

On 4 October 1957, it was a beach ball with a beeper inside. A month later, 3 November, it was a differently-shaped Russian metal thing with a dog inside.

“Jay-zus,” thought America, collectively. “Those goddam Commies have gotten into space! And they’ve got The Bomb.” They called it “the Sputnik Crisis” and the US created ARPA (which eventually developed the Internet) and New Math (which created a huge market in hula hoops for primary schools).

The first human in space was in 1961. And only eight years later people were walking on the moon.

But now, in 2007, it’s been 35 years since anyone’s been to the moon. Indeed, it’s been 35 years since anyone’s been more than 480km from Earth.

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