Thursday, February 3, 2011

Summery Musings

Once it was clear that cyclone Yasi hadn't actually eviscerated anybody I know, I dragged the kids out today. We've been blindsided by rain for a few days, and at least once by 30C heat. (Yeah, okay. I know. "That's not hot!" Bite me, you hippies. Down here, 30C is hot.)

We jumped into the Mighty Earth King and roared off in the direction of Lilydale. Cunningly, I told the sproutlets that we were going to walk to Lilydale falls. They weren't overly impressed, but I didn't care. I've lived here for ten years and never bothered to visit Lilydale falls. That seemed like something to remedy on a beautiful, clear summer day.

I did, however, have an even more cunning plan.

The pick-your-own blueberry farm we visit each summer has had an odd year. They've had a week or two without any picking at all, due to (according to their ad in the paper) 'unrippened fruit'. I didn't know whether they'd reopened yet or not, but I figured that I could check as we drove by (since it's on the way to Lilydale), and if it WAS open, I could change the agenda and we could pick blueberries.

It was open. We went picking, to the delight of the kids. An hour and a half and eleven kilos of big, perfect, ripe blueberries later, we decided we'd had enough (filled our buckets!) and headed home.

I'm not surprised they've had issues with ripening the fruit, though. Summer has been cool, and slow in arriving, with unexpected rain. I had good raspberries this year, but the blackberries have been disappointing: affected by fungus, often weak in flavour from heavy rain, and more than a little tart. I'll cut them back drastically in late autumn, dump plenty of blood-and-bone around them just on springtime, and hopefully next summer we'll be swimming in blackberries again.

I really was relieved that cyclone Yasi passed with so little harm to people. Sure, there's property damage, but so far I've only heard two people reported missing, and no major casualties or injuries. That's damned amazing for a storm of that size. I had a phone call from my stepmum this evening. She and my dad live up Mareeba way. She ducked into Mareeba to see out the storm with her sister, in a brick house. Dad stayed at the old wooden place, battening it down.

In Mareeba, the power went out, so my stepmum and her sister played cards by candlelight, and drank champagne. (They do it tough up there, yep.) Dad, however - in that old, wooden place well outside the town proper - eh. The power never went out. He just sat and watched the one-day cricket-match to its conclusion.

So much for their cyclonic experience.

Back on planet Oz, though, there's that buffoon Tony Abbott again. I hear he's made some sort of halfwitted retraction for that signed letter he sent out, requesting donations to fight against the flood levy. Yeah, fine: retract away, Tony. Like it makes a difference.

It does fascinate me, though: the difference between social conservative voters (as opposed to fiscal conservatives such as Paul Boylan, who has a disturbing habit of demonstrating both compassion and rationality) and liberal/progressive voters. I'm aware of the research linking conservatism with fear-dominated thinking, yes. I am also aware of the research which indicates that hardcore social conservatives really don't respond to logic or rational debate - that confronted with evidence which disproves their pet theories, they are actually MORE likely to believe those theories than they were before.

And it's scary. Because, of course, if you are a fundamentally rational person with a live-and-let-live approach; if you believe in tolerance as a principle, and in debate and discourse as a means to discovering a path to acceptable social policy -- you are by definition incapable of working with these people. Further: the only effective way to oppose them is either to be fortunate enough to outnumber them and to live in a country where tolerance, debate, and discourse are ensrhined constitutionally and in the national character... or to compromise your own principles by taking a hard line against these idiots.

Take this latest caper from that craphound Abbott. If you take a pace back, and consider what's going on: on one hand, you have a government which has with obvious reluctance raised the issue of a one-off levy to find the money to make infrastructure repairs in the wake of the most damaging natural disaster of a generation... or even more. And on the other hand, you have an Opposition leader who is asking for money from people so he can campaign AGAINST raising this levy.

There really is no way to put a nice face on it. It's the act of a man without conscience or empathy. Sure, he can oppose this levy on ideological grounds (although you have to wonder about that, in the wake of all the goddam levies the Howard government created: the gun buy-back, the Stevedore affair, the Ansett collapse, and the milk thing... I think there were others, but that's all I can remember off the top of my head.) but to produce that kind of thing even while the same state slammed by floods is being blasted by the biggest cyclone in Australian history shows a lack of empathy worthy of a genuine sociopath.

And yet if you read the debate playing out in various columns and blogs around the country, time and again you see the reactionary/conservatives defending Abbott, and desperately trying to put the boot into Gillard. Some very few are prepared to admit they are embarrassed by Abbott's behaviour. Most simply continue with the same ideology-driven ranting drivel; screaming about 'taxes' and the 'battlers' and the 'fiscal irresponsibility of Labor'.

No embarrassment. No acknowledgement. Nothing.

If a Kevin Rudd or a Julia Gillard or even a Paul Keating pulled a stunt like that, it would be the end of them. Not because the Labor party is particularly progressive, but because Labor does depend on votes from the progressive end of the spectrum... and progressive voters are prepared to stop supporting candidates who do not behave appropriately. (Because we're 'weak', you see.)

It really does raise a question, one which keeps arising when I watch US politics too: what would it take seriously to discredit a conservative 'hero' like Abbott?

In the US, Republican politicians have rampant gay sex in public toilets, snort cocaine, embezzle -- hell, I doubt I can list it all. And yet all they have to do is break down, announce that they're sorry and that they're making nice with God, and voila! It's all forgotten.

Here? I dunno. I'm really curious. I wonder what it would take for Abbott's zombie army to wake up and smell the horseshit. A dead hooker? A kilo or two of coke? A closet full of leather-wearing gay soccer stars? Co-star role in a pedophilic snuff movie? What?

There really ought to be some kind of experiment done. It would be fascinating to see just how much degeneracy, depravity, corruption and bastardry the average hardcore social conservative can handle before the cognitive dissonance makes them explode with rage. I realise that the ethics of such experimentation would be tricky... but on the other hand, if we just let the stupid fuckers govern for a while, I'm sure they can fix the ethical obstacles for us, eh? I mean, who really needs ethics in science if there's corporate money to be made?

Not Tony Abbott, one strongly suspects.