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 This is Coco. She is my 1-year old Bull Arab puppy. I adopted her on 17 January 2014 from the Hawkesbury Companion Animals Shelter. The reason why I did was because I was lonely. 

In 2012, the world was inhabited by 7 billion people. It’s perhaps a little sad for me to realise that of that 7 billion people, the one I am closest to is my dog. 

I’ve always had trouble connecting to people. From as early as I can remember, I have had trouble making friends, and I have always been insecure about making friends. 

My earliest memory of friendships was when I was in kindergarten. My best friend at the time was a girl named Rachel. As deep as any kindy relationship can get, our friendship was built entirely upon her love for lions, and my star sign as a Leo. With the Lion King being newly released, we both pretended to be lions and had a great love for them. While I remember her being my best friend, I wasn’t hers. Hers was Belinda. They had known each other through their older brothers, and had been friends since before Kindy. I remember wanting to be her best friend, but I never was. 

It’s not really a sad story though. As soon as I left high school, I had decided to get used to being by myself. I see movies alone. I go to breakfast alone. I’ve learned that a book is better company than a person. It’s strange because being alone is a double-edged sword for me. I am happiest when I am alone, but I am also at my saddest.

I can go days without getting an SMS, and I can go weeks without receiving or making a phone call. Socialisation to me is a mere Facebook comment, and my contact with the world is in a Facebook like. Nobody posts on my wall. Nobody sends me a message. I like it that way because I don’t have to impress anyone, and I don’t have to pretend.

It comes in waves though, the feeling of sadness in loneliness. I’m generally fine not going out. Sometimes I don’t go out for weeks. I’ve long since been invited to birthdays or dinners or outings and now that I am growing up, almost all of my close acquaintences have partners, and thus they no longer need another person around. I see their photos on Facebook and oddly enough, I don’t feel anything despite what research claim I should. No jealousy. No isolation. It’s just more news on my newsfeed. 

Every once in a while though, I feel loneliness weigh on me and I think about where I went wrong. Tonight it was my mum getting angry at me and storming off. I wanted someone to talk to about it, but then there was nobody I could talk to without feeling like I was bothering them. Everybody else has their own lives to lead, why would they be concerned with mine? 

But that’s why Coco is so special to me. In a very lame way, Coco is my everything. I’m a boring person. I’m an introvert who becomes extraverted when I need to be. I’m weird. I’ve got quirks. I’ve got the inability to be like everyone else. But Coco doesn’t care. If I’m somewhere, she’s right by my side. Not because she wants food, but because she loves me. She is sad to see me leave for work each day, and she’s over the moon when I get back home. When I stretch my arm out for a hug, she’s right there in my embrace. When I cry, she licks my face and smiles and seems to just understand that her being there makes all the difference to me. 

I know my parents love Coco too, but they’re forever bitter about her. She is my dog, and I bought her on spur without their informed consent. It’s often the only reason why my mother gets angry. But ultimately, I know that Coco has been the key reason as to why my bipolar hasn’t gotten any worse. My bipolar has a lot to do with loneliness, and she has been my buffer and my company and the reason why I’m still alive. 

But it is sad that I should feel this way. But I guess it’s a girl and her best friend. We are inseparable, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Radio show shock-jocks, Kyle and Jackie O, have never been a favourite of mine on the air. Whilst I have nothing against Jackie O, Kyle Sandilands should have been long dismissed for his vulgar and arrogant dickwaddery. He, together with Mike E from the Mike E and Emma Show, are not my favourite people, and despite the good music both KIIS 106.5 and The Edge 96.1 play, I am off-put even by the sound of their voice. 

The topic on KIIS 106.5 was about a staff member of the company wanting to remove her subdermal birth-control rod and ‘accidentally’ fall pregnant to her boyfriend, who does not live locally nor knows that she has removed the rod. Today, it was about discussion. 

I’m a supporter of freewill. However, freewill is only effective when there is an element of personal responsibility. Thus, I am also a supporter of personal responsibility. My religion (Theravada Buddhism) suggests that I am not to kill or take a life and thus, I am effectively restricted from having an abortion. This, however, does not impact my opinion that women, should they choose to have an abortion, should be entitled to do so. It is their body, they can do what they want in the same way that I would choose not to have an abortion in the event that I can choose to have one. 

Working in social welfare, I have seen issues to do with broken families and the ramifications of it. Often, parents choose to make unhealthy decisions for themselves, and the ones who have to pay for it are their children. For example, a friend of mine has a father who left her mother for a younger Javanese woman. He has not visited the family for the past 4 years, despite having 3 children under 10, and two under 20 and another at 22. With a large and young family, my friend is left to carry the burden of providing for her siblings as the parents are ‘financially separated’, and thus he has no obligations to pay child support nor provide for his children. The two oldest ones have been working for the last 4 years to support the neglected family, whilst he enjoys his time worry-free in Java. 

I maintain the thorough belief that having children is not a decision to be taken lightly. Like a puppy, it’s not just a matter of having one, then dumping it when you’re over it. Children are a lifelong obligation, and for a productive society, we need a community which loves and nurtures children rather than deals with the consequences of bad decisions. 

I have no predisposition towards marriage, and whilst most people calling were saying ‘Get hitch before you get preggers’, I don’t believe this is relevant as marriage does not necessarily indicate the strength of a relationship. However, it is a key indicator that her move is fundamentally selfish, ‘I want to have a baby‘. A baby is not yours. It is the baby of both the the father and the mother unless one went to a sperm bank in the absence of a father. Should she wish to have a child with this man, she is putting an extreme obligation and responsibility upon him to support a child. 

A comment which struck me was her statement of ‘If I get accidentally pregnant, what’s the difference between that and a couple planning to have a child?’ I dunno, maybe honesty and preparation?? Judging by the inability of the woman to communicate her desire for a child to her partner, I have the distinct belief that their relationship is probably not as perfect as she claims it to be. What he tells her may differ from fact. He may feel emotionally unprepared, or be financially unstable. God forbid, but if they can’t communicate properly, he may well want to break up with her and not gotten around to it. 

A child is not yours. A child is an individual who should be entitled to a loving, wholesome family. She may fall pregnant, and he may find out the true circumstances, and be forever bitter that she couldn’t be honest to him. I would feel that way. I would feel exploited and untrustworthy. The child may well have been a ‘mistake’, but it was a child created in deceit. Whilst I would still love and cherish them, my bitterness would exist to the one who exploited my ignorance – the mother. (I speak as a woman, but I’m thinking as though I were the man)

As I drove down the Pacific Highway this morning, I found myself distinctly disappointed that it is even a topic on the radio. For all I know, it could be another stupid stunt to generate interest by KIIS 106.5 (and that wouldn’t go above me because they’ve done some stupid ones before). I do however have faith in humanity. There was an overwhelming number of people who confronted her, telling her how irresponsible and selfish she was being in her actions and the ramifications of what she was doing. Many spoke from experience of the emotional wellbeing of the child for the decisions they’ve made, whilst men voiced their feelings about trust and communication. 

Her responsibility is not only to herself in knowing how she can support the child, but to him, and to most importantly, to the child, none of which she truly considered. 

So alas, I switched back my radio to Fitzy and Wippa, and though those boys aren’t the brightest, their humour is not only funny but also mostly harmless. There are no sexist jibes and their fun is usually based on themselves. 

I feel for the child, if it ever comes down to it. 

There are a few words which have been beaten to an inch of what it once meant. ‘Resilience’ is one. ‘Pride’ is another. 

Pride is both a negative and a positive word. When used negatively, pride is an inflated sense of one’s ego or status. Positively, it is a sense of satisfaction and elation attached to one’s actions or values. To be proud is a heavy word, ladened with emotion. It is a deeply spiritual introspection into one’s self. Aristotle once believed it to be the height of one’s virtue. He states:

Pride, then, seems to be a sort of crown of the virtues; for it makes them more powerful, and it is not found without them. Therefore it is hard to be truly proud; for it is impossible without nobility and goodness of character.

I have come to believe this. Pride is difficult to feel as for me as it requires a heavy sense of duty and action to provide grounds for justification. To be suicidal and come out mostly unscathed the next day isn’t pride to me; I feel relieved. To be establishing a charity to connect young people to mental health services isn’t pride; that’s duty. It’s not something that I feel without having justified my actions to deliver pride. 

However nowadays, the word is thrown around so superfluously. I am not a parent so correct me here, but new parents are the worst offenders when using the word ‘proud’. I’m at that age where my friends are starting to get all hot and bothered and nine months later, a Player 3 joins the match. It didn’t use to bother me, but it really has now. 

Here are the offending posts:

“So proud of my little Matthieu! He lost his first tooth!”

 

“My little James has grown 5cms in a month, I’m so proud of my little boy!”

 

“Ben got spaghetti all down his top this morning but ate it all himself. So proud of Ben Ben!!”

That’s what I understand. Losing a tooth and growing 5 centimetres is hardly something to be proud of – it’s something every human supposedly does. Getting spaghetti down your top and eating it? I’m sure the kid is a barbarian at best. 

The thing is… I’m not sure what there is to be proud of there. I’m sure there’s a sense of happiness when looking at one’s child, and seeing the silly things they do, but to say one is proud of these things… it seems like they have simply dismissed all value of the word. 

But it seems not to just be the parents. Psychologically, pride is valuable in the ability to positively regard the potential for achievement. In self-reflection, pride is the positive reinforcement of one’s ability, and subsequently, has been shown to enhance the performance of an individual. This is why schools have merit awards for the most average reasons. I remember when I was at school, you could get a bronze, silver or gold award at each week’s assembly. Two students from each class would get a silly little award with a name and some mediocre reason on it like ‘being polite in class’. The way that it used to be done was so that by the end of the year, all students would receive at least one award – no-one was left out. The manufacturing of a reason was so obvious because most of the time, an award shouldn’t be given; their performance was expected. 

I refer to a text conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. He texted me telling me, I did a good deed today. I gave up my seat on the train for an old lady. So proud of myself.

Proud, I said, That’s not a good deed. That’s an expectation. 

He retaliated, I didn’t have to but I did. It’s a good deed. I’m proud because I did. 

Don’t kid yourself. It’s not. It’s polite to give up your seat. It’s also an expectation to give it up when you see an elderly person too. There is no ‘good deed’ in giving up your seat. If you didn’t, you’re inconsiderate and self-centred. If you do, you’re polite and not selfish. I wouldn’t say selfless, because that’s another word that’s been bastardised. Perhaps it’s because I do this all the time, but I find giving up my seat on public transport nothing to be proud about. 

My point is, pride no longer stands for the lion of a word it once was. It languishes in mediocrity and has been forced to wallow in everyday acts. There is no achievement in pride, and there is no duty in it either.

I pity the fools who mistake pride for mediocrity. 

 

I recently ended a pretty lengthy relationship on some rather interesting grounds. My relationships before then have made me somewhat phobic of the idea of relationships being a good thing but whilst, I could say that all men are douchebags, I don’t. The reason is that I have an older brother. 

While my brother and I live a whole 50 minutes away from each other, we mainly communicate via Whatsapp. While he’s taken my mother’s lack of height and her fiesty temper and buzzing personality, and I’ve taken my dad’s height and hatred for going out and almost autistic methods of connecting with animals, we find ourselves in this really weird equilibrium with one another that only siblinghood can really explain. Though two spawns of the same parents couldn’t be more different, we have always grown to respect and love each other in the way siblings are supposed to. I acknowledge, I was the trouble child – growing up, and emotionally – but we always managed to have fun with each other. Whilst he used to make me get his clothes when he wanted to watch Pokemon in the morning by counting to ten (and I got his clothes because I irrationally feared something would happen when he reached the number ten!), he never used to pull my hair or pull the heads off my Barbies. Though he and his best friend in school apparently dislocated my shoulder playing tug-of-war (which I don’t remember), he has never once hurt me, except for retaliation slaps when I used to slap him first. 

My brother’s always been a pillar in my life. When I remember him always thrashing me in Super Smash Brothers or Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64, I also remember when he used to suddenly suck, just so that I could win. In addition, I sucked so badly at mathematics that I was being forced to quit it in for my HSC, it was him that took the pressure of giving it up more than harshly than my parents. 

While our relationship has changed, we still go out of the way to do things for each other. Though it would be cheaper, and less burdensome for me to just send him to the local train station from what he calls, ‘our countryside estate’ (it’s not, it’s a house in the suburbs… next to the bush), I enjoy our long chats and bickering in my car back to his city apartment. Though he lives with his girlfriend (who I absolutely love!), he asks me when the next time I want to crash is. Concerned that I dislike going out or don’t have many friends, he invites me to outings with his mates, who are absolutely hilarious good fun. 

The only thing we really fight over is ice cream. I do it to piss him off. He does it because he’s territorial about his ice cream, because nobody touches his ice cream. Not even his girlfriend. 

While this world is filled with penis-headed twats, I’m reminded that not all men are horrible. His fierce protection and loyalty to me is exactly how he is to his girlfriend, and though there may be elements of tough love, it’s his way of showing that he cares. Whilst he thinks that I have a fake boyfriend as the two had never met and that I don’t have him on my Facebook (I think it sours a relationship), I know it’s because he wants to meet the boyfriend to make his judgement and make his stamp of approval. 

Though I do call him lame and I get cranky at his incessant nagging, he is a brilliant son and an incredible brother. When he comes home, he still mows our lawn and takes my Mum and Dad out to eat their favourites. For me, he’s always checking in to see how I am and whether I’m well, and how I’m dealing with life. He looms like a bad smell, but it’s because he cares. He still holds the belief that his little sister shouldn’t be drinking alcohol (we were brought up believing alcohol is bad), though he has an impressive wine collection himself. He still finds it mildly embarrassing that I bought my first car at 19 and he still needs to borrow Dad’s car, but I admire how his apartment is the most stunning home for two that I’ve ever seen. 

In his eyes, I’m still his little sister, to be guarded and protected and taught to be prepared for life in the way that he believes a young woman should be. He gives me a lot of hope for males, and a lot of the time, I wish people could be more like him. 

When the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign came out, I remember it being shared left, right, and centre over Facebook. All of my girlfriends believed that the campaign was incredible, and that it inspired women to develop positive relationships with their appearance and with beauty. I remember my stance on it; I hated it.

We live in an age where more so than every, companies and corporations are passively influencing the way we feel about everything from an incredibly young age. No one gender is more afflicted than the other in how we are supposed to look and feel. It is just as difficult to be Ken as it is Barbie, and not as many people realise that this is our reality. Just as much as young girls, boys are still purposed with fitting into the mould of ‘be[ing] a man’. Whilst it is more acceptable for a girl to be a ‘tomboy’, it is totally unacceptable for a boy to be a ‘sissy’ (there is no comparative gender-appropriate word for ‘tomboy’ for males). As we grow, we conform to the masses, use what brands we are supposed to use, see the world as we are supposed to see.

My awareness is stipulated by the fact that Dove is a subsidiary brand of Unilever, which owns a multitude of other brands, including Lynx/Axe and Slim Fast, two brands with advertisement campaigns which contradict Dove’s campaigns twenty thousand times over.

For those of you who are not familiar, Dove has poured millions into it’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaigns which utilises ‘real women’ to take a journey of self-discovery and acceptance for their appearance, cellulite and all. Being a size AU12 with pimples that occasionally lose their way to my face, I find myself trivial of such women. For starters, I’m at least happy they didn’t call it the ‘Real Women’ campaign, as models – yes, size 0 models – are real women. Secondly, ladies who are size 0 are sometimes naturally that size. Not often, but they exist. I know a few friends who are absolutely tiny though they eat three times as much as I do with no exercise to compliment. The irony of the campaign for Dove however, is to continue to use their products; their anti-aging cellulite moisturiser, their shampoo and conditioner, their deodorant. If a woman were to truly love and accept themselves with full confidence, all these products would be rendered absolutely unnecessary. Image

But I dare you, look at how incredible all these women look. Smooth, airbrushed skin, absence of pimples – many professionals have added their two cents in backing up the claim that it had to be lightly airbrushed to make the campaign. Very unlike the Dermablend Camo Confessions campaign, Dove does not admit that it is a product that aids women in feeling better about themselves; it simply uses their ‘Real Beauty’ Campaigns to mask the reality of its purpose – to sell things that’d make them be even ‘more beautiful’ about themselves due to getting rid of their flaws and insecurities (typically cellulite or oily skin etc).

The Dove ‘Real Beauty’ is intrinsically about what a woman is (ie. beautiful with cellulite and all) whilst Dermablend’s is fundamentally about who a woman is – her personality, her character, her strengths, her passion. Dermablend doesn’t lie; Dermablend is a cosmetics line which makes you look better. What these ladies use Dermablend for is fundamentally for other people; it is society that cannot accept what their appearance is, so they use the product to correct these flaws so that others can see who they truly are for their person, not their appearance.

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I’m not advocating for Dermablend, but they are true to their purpose and their brand. Their ‘Look Good Feel Better’ campaign advocates very much for the negative impact one’s appearance can have upon one’s self-esteem, and it aims to use cosmetics to enhance a person’s natural appearance when they’re going through appearance-based side-effects of cancer (ie. depression due to loss of hair).

So what about Lynx?

 

I remember in high school, all the boys at the neighbouring boys’ school (I went to an all-girls school) would use Lynx/Axe. My brother did too. When I smell it now, I feel like I need to puke as it used to be used over-excessively by pubescent boys in replacement for a shower. Contradicting the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign is the Lynx campaign, which emphasizes that should you smell good for the ladies, ladies will do the frick-frack with you. These ladies, more often than not, are hypersexualised…

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Believe it or not, this is an advertisement from the same company.

Don’t get me wrong, if I ever wanted to look great for my man, there’s nothing better than a matching set of lingerie to help me feel sexier to put the evening roast into the oven. I completely advocate for a woman to look, feel and wear, so long as they are happy and accepting of themselves. The Lynx Campaigns, which portray women as being nothing but sexualised objects with the only purpose as being to satisfy the needs of men. When you look at the women of the Lynx Campaigns, you don’t see a single of the sort of woman from the Dove Campaign anywhere; no voluptuous, natural-looking women. All you see is hot models with bangin’ bodies and eyes of desire.

I would have no issues with the perennial maneater of the Lynx Campaign if Lynx were to stand alone from Dove. The problem is that Lynx and Dove are clear products of very contradictory marketing campaigns which have both existed for the past ten years. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaigns have been award-winning for the sentimental-tear-in-the-eye factor but what most awarders don’t realise is that giving Dove the award without consideration to Unliever’s super-sexualised Lynx is as contradictory as awarding Osama bin Laden a peace-prize for Sunni Muslim empowerment without considering his atrocities towards others.

Nowadays I find myself using neither brands. I have found that placed together, it’s an off-putting combination of having my insecurities shoved down my throat and used against me in a mock-psychoanalysis. I’m sick of being told what I should and shouldn’t look like through use of my own insecurities. I know what they are and I know why they exist. Nobody falls for these things any more. We know that companies like Unilever exploit our insecurities for profit.

Unilever really needs to decide which message to send people…

In being a liberal, one of my goals in life is to be open-minded and non-judgemental to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, we are all judgemental about everything and everyone we come across. I would call you a liar if you claimed you did not judge as to have a perception is to have made a judgement.

I had a short stint with University of Sydney during my school years, studying a Foundations program. My ex-boyfriend, whom is also one of my best friends even after the break up, now attends Harvard University, having transferred from MIT. I now am a proud Macquarie University student, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except for our student newspaper.

I’ve recently been having great angst about Macquarie University’s student newspaper, Grapeshot. Their mission (thanks Grapeshot on Facebook) is ‘Grapeshot is a reflection of the thoughts, ideas, opinions and creative spirit of the larger university population‘.

Sure! Definitely! ‘Larger’ is definitely the way to describe the whole student body!

Whilst I know that the writers and opinionated supporters of Grapeshot may dislike what I have to say, I couldn’t give a damn because we don’t have any other alternative. However, having read newspapers like Honi Soit and the Harvard Crimson, I find myself having a bitter taste when it comes to the Grapeshot. In comparison to Honi Soit and the Harvard Crimson, it’s tabloid bullshit. It’s the Daily Mail. It has the bare minimum standards for balanced reporting and it single-handedly isolates a large crop of student with their political agenda.

I recently wrote a manifesto in reply to a friend’s complaint about the state of Australian politics, where he invoked the following:

It is time for a #revolution. We are not “tax payers” or “drivers” or “commuters”. We are people. We are the ones that pay the politicians. Surely, before any pay rise is given to them, we should undertake our own performance reviews on them. After all, we’re paying for their houses, their marble floors and high ceilings, and their lifelong, perpetual salary.
#takeastand

I get a little be cranky at these sorts of things, where people invoke the need for a ‘revolution’ though they make no suggestions as to how they would make the world a better place. As of late, mobbing has become a great Australian past-time. In addition, ‘Fuck Tony Abbott‘ shirts have become a new fashion statement for my Socialist Alternative friends. I have tolerated the antics of leftist friends and enemies, who have screamed ‘Shame on you, scum!’ or ‘You’re what’s fucking wrong with the world,’ when I’ve refused to sign their petitions to ‘free the refugees’ and I have refused to retaliate any further to their claims as it’s unreasonable, and also pointless, to do so.

So whilst I am expressing my annoyance, here is the post that instigated this post:

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Whilst I enjoy the difference in political persuasion and thoroughly researched banter and philosophical debate, I do not enjoy a publication which is supposedly ‘representative’ of the student body displaying what I see as an uneducated Internet-meme-like post. Whilst most university student publications have an element of political commentary, it usually comes with an educated and reasonable debate, rather than something like above.

I agree with the fact that not everybody likes to talk politics. I get tired of it too. But at the same time, if I have an opinion, I can back it up. I would doubt that the above post has found itself a commentary in the latest publication.

Let’s take, Honi Soit for example. Operating with the true sentiments of a professional publication, the Honi Soit Facebook page operates by calling for discussion rather than a statement of support to any side. If any of you remember Honi Soit and what I call the Vulva-Revolution, it was a statement which demanded people to (GOD FORBID!) think! Here is what the Vulva Revolution was suggesting. 53% of the Australian population is female, and we can assume, have vaginas. All people are subjected to bombardments of what we should look like, not what we are. 18 hairy, dark vaginas graced the covers of Honi Soit of 18 real women. None of this rosy-white-and-soft-Sasha-Gray vagina. In art, it is perfectly fine to show all parts of the body. We cannot deny that it is there (despite what my 5-year-old self believed that I was the weird one and everyone else had Ken-and-Barbie parts i.e.. non-existent genitals), and yet mainstream depictions (thanks porn) has redefined what we know as normal as being abnormal.

Perhaps I am being facetious at trivialising my university’s student newspaper. Perhaps I am just being my typical over-opinionated self. Either way, I have only once or twice picked up a Grapeshot, but I have always promptly slightly-raised an eyebrow before forgetting about it for more productive reading. It would be facetious of me to trivialise the lack of professionalism upon their Facebook page, as we are students and young at heart whilst slowly selling our souls to industry and corporation, perhaps even a professional balance could be met. When businesses use memes, most of us roll our eyes because they usually use it wrongly anyway.

For most media outlets, Facebook is a means of promoting selected content, linking to particular articles and generating interest for the whole through the part. Facebook also serves as a means of redirecting traffic to the official website or the host so that activity can be generated. Looking through Grapeshot’s Facebook activity, I can hardly find a single article selected to be showcased. It’s disappointing, because, while I’m being Negative Nelly, in having bipolar, I should probably also invoke my Happy Harry side – I love Grapeshot’s creative spirit. Photography, poetry, write ups and design can all do with a little more publicity to help its contributors find a wider audience. Facebook can make things viral, and posting of content can not only allow for organic views, but also for viral views through linking and sharing. Unfortunately, it is not something that Grapeshot does, and I have seen some of the art of Macquarie University students and I thoroughly believe that it is the obligation of any student publication to make an effort to generate further publicity.

I believe Grapeshot could be a powerful engine for thought and discussion. It could be a marketplace for artists and composers alike. It could be what every student aspires to be published in. I have my hopes that one day it does become these things, but I doubt it’ll be before I leave university :(

 

Hugely overstating what Australia is currently like right now though right?

I appreciate protests; peaceful protests that is.

My Dad used to tell me stories from when he was a University, that the Engineering Department constantly had their funds cropped for the Law and Commerce Department. This was a yearly event, which incurred the wrath of angry engineers every September. What does the wrath of angry engineers look like? Flour and water-bombs. In a way, it was almost like an absent war; their battle was not direct, man-to-man, but in the utilisation of complex weaponry flung across campus, allowing for the belief that Christmas had come early from the soft and fluffy flour painting the University white with snow.

Things have changed since then, and I am lucky to be watching from afar when it comes to the 2014 University Protests. If you’re not up to date with the whole thing, the Centre for Independent Studies has published a magnificent Budget 2014-15 Analysis on their website. I will quote a summary of the whole issue here:

To make the HECS – HELP loan scheme more affordable to the government, future loans will attract a real rate of interest. Specifically, loans will be indexed in line with the 10-year government bond rate, to a maximum of 6%. Because the government will decrease its contribution to teaching costs by an average of 20%, university fees will have to rise by at least that amount just to stay even. Thus, it will cost more for students to attend university.

As I last documented, Australia under a Liberal Government is moving away from the Age of Entitlement. The philosophy of the Liberal Government is to make Australia economically sustainable, which in layman’s speak, is ‘get off your ass and go work’. Now, I have no problem with this, as I have been bred into a hard-working family where the idea of entitlement had been admonished before the concept even arose within the household.

I will keep my views nappy:

  1. I believe that education is the key to sustainable practice;
  2. I disagree with the deregulation of university while the nation is in debt;
  3. I do not believe in violent protests.

Okie doke. So.


 

I believe that education is the key to sustainable practice.

Preaching about the importance of education is a relatively new practice within the Western world. In Asia, there’s a common saying that ‘knowledge is the key to all doors’. Generally speaking, though times have changed, Asia’s display of prestige is very much through one’s education. In decades past, being able to speak English was a display of the highest tier of education as it meant you could escape Asia’s static economy towards something much more prosperous, such as the US or the UK. It continues today in which the globe is putting emphasis of education in the deliverance of foreign aid, as with knowledge comes understanding of ‘good’ practice (ie. ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for the day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.’)

The same applies to the Western world. We have and never will see the perfect Elysium, where there is no poverty, no war, no hungry, no sickness. Unless you are religious, human reality suggests that this will never occur. What we can do, however, is give everyone the capability to make the best of their opportunities through teaching them the basics in life that will lead them wherever they want to go.

Some people may debate, however, ‘Doing art doesn’t need any mathematics’. True. It may not. However, artists still need to know how to do their taxes and ensure they are not being cheated of their money. They also need to be able to write contracts and communicate about their art. They also need to know about their rights as a person. Without education, they would not be able to function to the best of their first-world advantage. With education, they can teach our children how to be savvy and make the best of their situation.

I disagree with the deregulation of university while the nation is in debt.

Whilst we aren’t in a financial crisis, we have not fully recovered to be a prosperous economy as we were under the Howard years. Though others may agree, and Howard himself has stated, the middle-class was still left to hang-out to dry when it came to the nation’s finances. Whilst they aren’t in poverty, they also are not wealthy, and cannot receive the benefits or must forego of the lower-income levels, but also need to pay taxes of the higher-income earners. For middle-income earners, it’s an ‘either-or’ world.

Whilst our generation does not benefit from Whitlam’s abolition of University fees, there are many positives which came out of the period of time. For example, tertiary education became more accessible to the working class and middle-class, and we saw a surge of ‘white collar’ professionals. As the CIS has highlighted, though it promoted attendance and accessibility, it did not guarantee quality in education. I have been told many a time that lawyers produced during this period of the time were often not adept to the cut-throat field, and were merely admitted ‘because they applied’.

Since 1989, Australia has undertaken the HECS-HELP fee structure. Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) which was developed by economist and lecturer at the Australian National UniversityBruce Chapman and championed by Education Minister John Dawkins (see Dawkins Revolution) and introduced during the Hawke Labor Government. After the Whitlam Government could no longer sustain the cost of free education, the HECS was designed to allow students to attend university, but also for the Government to sustain costs of seemingly ‘free’ education. 

In 2005/2006, the Commonwealth government deregulated university fees, permitting universities to increase fees by a maximum of 25% and allowed for discount for voluntary repayments of existing HECS debt in reducing it from 15% to 10% at the start of 1 January 2005. We were privileged in 2005-2006 and were capable of doing so because Australia was prospering. We were at our height.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, university enrolments slipped between 1-3% following the GFC in 2007. At this point in time, though HECS existed, the pressure of necessity in working to help the family unit was exacerbated and education took the back seat.

Though some may dispute and say, ‘WHAT DEBT?’, Australia is at risk of a failing credit rating. We can turn to our Mediterranean friend (ie. Greece) or our superpowers (ie. USA) and believe we have no debt but we must confess that we are not as wealthy as we have been. Where in 2005, a price hike for HECS was reasonable, today it is not so much.

We must prioritise our spending. We are not at war, nor should we need to prepare for war. The threat of war is not so apparent today as was in 2001 when 9/11 occurred and yet we have decided to pour money into Defence and further deregulate university fees so that students must pay more. Forgive me if I don’t understand the rationality, but there seems to be little of it.

I do not believe in violent protests.

In comparison to nations like Egypt, Australia has it remarkably snazzy. We still bear social liberties and can be openly in expression of many of them. Someone I went to school with (she’s not a friend, nor is she an acquaintance. She was merely another individual who attended the same institution as me.) outlined that a friend of hers had been physically abused by the police. As a law student and a non-femanist (as I support self-empowerment more than empowerment based upon a label ie. gender), I have become skeptical of any accusations by both parties until the facts are fully explored.

I will admit, my initial bias is always in siding with the authorities as my experience with protesters at Macquarie University have been unnecessarily hostile and even ‘savage’ towards me for not supporting their cause (ie. refusing to sign their ‘Petition to Get Rid of Tony Abbott’ (in which they display their lack of understanding of democracy), or refusing to go to a Socialist Alternative rally in support of illegal immigration (I am careful not to say illegal refugees as I maintain that there are no ‘illegal’ refugees, but ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘refugees) outside UTS). Some have gone so far as to call me ‘scum’ or ‘shit monger’. Judging merely from their actions here, it would not be so virulent of me to assume that they may have been physically abused in retaliation of an attack they initiated.

However, the law student in me doubts this. Though not as frequent as the US, Australia does have a history of police brutality. In the heat of a protest (I cite mob mentality and the heightened potential for violence), when emotions are high and passions are abound, police are at their highest point of awareness. In a split second, they could be shanked, overpowered or stampeded. There are less of them and more of the other. A single spark could cause an explosion; a family could end up with a knock on their door and two sombre officers standing before them. Discretion causes the police to leap and to what some believe is striking first.

Whatever the case, I believe that the right to protest should be reserved if only for a few conditions emplaced upon it. My limited time as a resident of Paris and Thailand have seen me view different protests both of violence and of peace. For a most part, the peace has prevailed, policies changed and agreements reached. In other instances, for nations like Egypt or Syria, opposition to peaceful protests results in violent oppression and the only alternative is to react similarly with militants and rebellions.

For a nation like Australia, there is no need to protest violently. Nor is there the need to physically abuse or intimidate. Though I maintain that some people need to grow a thicker skin (ie. people who believe the accidental touching of a woman by a man constitutes as ‘sexual assault’), there is no need to intimidate, confront or harm another individual in Australia to get your point across.

I maintain that protests, should they occur, should be peaceful and not obstruct the daily operation of the majority unless prior warning is delivered so that citizens can be adequately informed to prepare . If a protest should occur, they should be scheduled, and not cause chaos to the city. In addition, not just protests, but a proposition of an alternative should be given in an organised manner.


 

I’ll be honest, if I were a young radical, I would protest too, but somehow, nobody remembers that HECS was already raised 25% in 2005. Nobody seems to remember that we are on the verge of losing our triple-A credit rating. Nobody seems to remember that the Liberal Party’s commitment to the Budget is not just for OUR generation, but for the future generation.

I’m no supporter of cutting funds to Universities, especially when we are already subjected to classes of 40 with teachers who can barely speak English who can’t string together a sentence to save our degrees. I appreciate the arts, and being a dancer myself, I appreciate that the Australian Ballet got funding, but I don’t believe that the Ballet is the key to ensuring the continuity of higher education in our nation.

Either way, we will all need to tighten our belts a little, even if it’s just for a while.

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