Hypocrisy, bad diplomacy and nationalist arrogance: Australia as led by Tony Abbott

“The bullying of small countries by big ones, the trampling of justice and decency in the pursuit of national aggrandisement, and reckless indifference to human life should have no place in our world.”

The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the above rhetorically noble statement on Friday 18 July 2014, in response to news of the down-ing (presumably by missile) of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over a region of eastern Ukraine in the midst of civil war. Apparently admonishing Russia, whose government is alleged to be backing the pro-Russian seperatist rebels, this self-righteously antagonistic and undiplomatic comment was made at a time when little evidence of what occurred was available and when cooperation between all sides concerned needed emphasis above point scoring in domestic politics: which is what this was really about, opportunistic drumming of drama and rhetoric to deflect attention away from the parliament’s passing of the abolition of carbon pricing the day before, 17 July 2014. Check out the policies obituary here.

The leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne, and Senator Lisa Singh of the Australian Labor Party both provided inspiring speeches against the repeal, which was subsequently passed:

A vote for the abolition of the clean energy package is a vote for failure because it is a recognition that this parliament does not want to face up to the four to six degrees of warming, which is the trajectory we are on as a planet. They do not want to face up to what is intergenerational theft, because a planet facing the warming that we are now being subjected to, and will be subjected to, is a planet experiencing the sixth extinction crisis. It will be a planet suffering rising sea levels. It will be a planet suffering food security crises and it will be a nation, Australia, failing to play our role in global negotiations. We will be a global pariah as the rest of the world moves to try to secure a treaty in 2015 to give people on this planet a chance of survival in the face of a climate emergency. Australia will be relegated to a pariah and a backwater.

– Senator Christine Milne, 17 July 2014

This is a fundamental moment in Australia’s history. We are about to devastate the future of this country. We are about to take this country backwards in droves through the mindless ideological bent of the coalition. Australia today will be a laughing stock to the rest of the world. We are sending this country backwards—and all for what? For playing politics: playing politics with Australia’s future, playing politics with our environment and playing politics with our children.

– Senator Lisa Singh, 17 July 2014

The irony of Abbott’s admonishment of Russia (which was antagonistic, counterproductive but apparently politically expedient, with a rise in popularity attributed to the bellicose posturing) is that Australia with it’s recent change in carbon emission reduction policy has recently been singled out with less rhetoric but much the same sentiment by Fijian president Frank Bainimarama at the Pacific Islands Development Forum for being selfishly indifferent to the fate of its’ Pacific island neighbours, whose communities’ futures are threatened by climate change associated rises in sea levels.

I’ve written this post to record these side-lined aspects of the past few weeks, and to state that I am looking forward to a future Australian government, comprising inspiring politicians such as Milne, Singh and Penny Wong, which will more actively engage with our Pacific neighbours and show greater leadership in the global community; an Australia which is less of a bully and more of a champion on issues of human rights and climate change.

Music, inspiration and human bodies

Two songs to inspire with striking harmonic similarity, despite their different approaches and pace:

For me these two songs are incredibly emotionally stirring, in very different ways. The first song, ‘The Way Down’ by Wim Mertens, is from the score to the film Fiesta (1995) about the Spanish civil war and the human tragedy of war, in general. Through it’s bolero-esque militarism and increasing discordance as the piece progresses I think it impressively captures the fervour, despair and tragedy of internal conflict between a country’s government and its people; although I’m thankful I have not experienced this myself to know first hand. This live performance was from 2008, and possibly through my association of the music with the film I experience it as evocative of humanitarian injustice and cruelty, the excesses of nationalism and inspiring of a reaction against this.

The second piece, ‘Audio, Video, Disco’ by the French duo Justice (2011) is experienced as more spiritually uplifting, although I find it difficult to articulate how exactly… Justice’s performances play on the crossover of ecstasy and fervour experienced through both religion and electronic dance music: the DJ as secular prophet. (two other links, very tangentially related: ‘Last night a DJ saved my Life‘ by Indeep (1982), and ‘Lost in Music‘ by Sister Sledge/Niles Rogers and Bernard Edwards of Chic). This linkage is clearly not new, and has been written about.

Personally I’m not sure about the dance music / relgion metaphor: whilst there can be formal similarities in terms of gatherings of people, group excitement, even dancing, most religions have a clear ethical dimension. Dance music as experienced at parties, clubs and festivals may be considered as dionysian/bacchanalian; and I’m sure humans have always found occasions to have a release from social responsibility, but Contemporary dance music, through its association with commercialism has a notable tendency to being “apolitical” (except in the more latent sense of being complicit with consumerism/capitalism) and ethically agnostic, seemingly more about sensuality, fun and escapism than any purposeful ‘way of being’.

I think what might make ‘Audio, Video, Disco’, and other dance music, special is its bodiliness: beat pumping like blood, breath and muscles (deep, excited, spiked with adrenaline, as though by sex or ecstatic religious experience) and sensuality (frequencies washing over and into our bodies, exciting our ears; we dance, we sweat); like a sonic manifestation of beingness that makes us more fully aware of how alive we and those around us are.

What these songs also have in common, is that I like them both, a lot.