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.

Continue reading “How this ordinary aircraft will change my life”

Dead cat waving

Go read John Birmingham’s angry rant about the government’s recent straight-up racist demonisation of Sudanese migrants. I was so angry with immigration minister Kevin Andrews last week I couldn’t actually write for fear my brain would explode. Birmingham has let his explode — and the world is a better place for it.

The Citizenship Dog-Whistle

Video of Australian Citizenship Test advertisementAnother week, another big-spending government TV “information campaign”. This one’s for the new Citizenship Test — and gosh, that just happens to be a Coalition-specific policy and it just happens to be running when we’re not in an election campaign, honestly.

And last night immigration minister Kevin Andrews was seen on TV with a bunch of potential citizens — all of whom, by some happy coincidence, had reasonable English and were not particularly unphotogenic. But he was still defending the test.

This TV advert is little more than dog whistle political propaganda. That’s clear for two reasons. First, look closely at the script (below). And second, if you wanted to reach the people most directly affected, mass TV advertising is far from cost-effective.

Continue reading “The Citizenship Dog-Whistle”

Failing the Citizenship Test

Excellent. On the basis of the Draft Citizenship Test Resource Book released yesterday I’d fail Australia’s new Citizenship Test. And if a privately-educated 5th-generation Aussie-Anglo like me can’t do it, I reckon few other Australians would pass either.

But that’s OK, because a multiple-choice “Citizenship Test” is meaningless. Let’s remind ourselves what happened when Apu went for US citizenship in The Simpsons. “Being American” was reduced to a cliché.

And the booklet itself is a gorgeous piece of political propaganda that’ll achieve the following:

  • The bitter old Alan Jones listeners Howard thinks he needs to placate will be relieved to see an emphasis on the UK as the biggest source of migrants and Christianity as the biggest religion. They’ll think this will stop the “wrong” people becoming citizens. Once more, Howard is Big Tough Daddy protecting them from the woggy bogeymen.
  • It’ll cause Howard’s much-hated “elites” — that is, anyone capable of using logic, analysis, multi-syllable words or joined-up thinking generally — to run around in circles for a week or two, losing focus on real election issues.
  • Howard gets another chance to moisten over all those “achievements” he personally considers important but which he could never achieve himself — being a soldier (because of his hearing problem) and playing cricket (because he’s completely bloody hopeless).
  • It’ll create a minor black market in the answers to the test, which will appear approximately a week after the first potential citizens are processed.

What’s remarkable is how backward-looking the booklet is… and how biased to Howard’s personal interests.

The words “science”, “physics”, “medicine”, “genetics”, “aviation”, “satellite”, “solar” and “film” don’t appear at all, despite Australia’s renown contributions in those fields. “Beer”, “ale” and “lager” are completely absent. “Literature” appears just once. “Computer” only once too — in the context of the test being computer-based.

Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia? Who cares? “George Washington,” suggested our Korean cleaner this morning with a laugh — but of course most Australians would indeed know more about the US system than our own. Do we really need to know where Phar Lap’s heart is? Will the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics really be of any relevance in 5 years time?

Are we choosing Australian citizens for the 21st Century, or putting together a geriatric pub trivia team?

One question really makes me laugh, though. Who do members of Parliament represent? This is a trick question, right?

From the “It must be true” department…

Crikey has brought to my attention a media statement by the Australian Federal Police regarding the Mohammed Haneef case. In part it reads:

AFP Professional Standards has investigated suspected leaks to the media and is satisfied that there has been no unlawful disclosure of information by AFP members. The matters identified as possible inappropriate conduct by officials of other agencies will be referred to the appropriate authorities.

The AFP has acted appropriately throughout the investigation.

Well that’s good then. Some “other agencies” are to blame.

However the statement also says:

The continuing attempts by Dr Haneef’s defence team to use the media to run their case is both unprofessional and inappropriate and the AFP has raised this aspect with the Queensland Legal Services Commission.

Uhuh. And how about an equivalent sentence complaining about the government’s attempts to use the media to run their case? Yes, Ruddock and Andrews, I’m looking at you. Is your behaviour not also “both unprofessional and inappropriate”? No, no equivalent set of words? Oh.

I was under the impression that in Western democracies the police (as well as the “other agencies”) were there to independently uphold the rule of law, not act as the minions of the government of the day. Silly me.