Catechism

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I saw the news today, oh boy

Last night, after an exhausting O-Week and lacklustre Saturday, I listened to News Radio's coverage of the Westralian election.

At about 11:30, Collin Barnett conceded, with a rather curmudgeonly speech (win media) in which he reluctantly took responsibility for the Liberal's failure.

I missed Dr Gallop's victory speech, since I nodded off at about midnight, but I woke up at 1AM to hear the good news.
Western Australian Premier Geoff Gallop has claimed victory in state election, saying education and training will be the main focus of his second term.

The Labor Party is predicted to hold 32 seats in the new Parliament to the Liberals' 18 as voters abandon the party in several key outer metropolitan marginal seats.
I cannot express my relief at the success of the WA Labor Party. After the dismall Federal Election, and polls in WA indicating that Gallop was heading towards being a single-term government, this victory cements the viability of the ALP as party able to lead and govern.

The showing of the Greens, with a primary vote of some 7% or so, also indicates to me that they are still little more than a party of protest-voters, although the Nationals, with a mere 3.5% managed to get 5 seats! The gerrymandering of the WA electorates are no doubt responsible for that.

Westralia is so far away that most of the election campaign barely registered; I caught the occasional Liberal fuck-up (ie, canal & costings) on News Radio and the ABC, but beyond that, my only exposure was on Kick & Scream. I suspect to some extent, I was all electioned out, after the Federal Election, two local council elections that I participated in, and the student union elections. State elections also feel to me like big local council elections: they are often myopic or concerned with "backyard" issues, which I am inevitably bored by.

Congratulations to all my WA Labor comrades. It was a victory you deserved.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Westralia

After my first O-Night Party last night, I recieved a pleasant surprise on the ABC website when I awoke this morning.
Voting has begun in Western Australia in the first test of Labor's hold on power at a state level since last year's federal election.

Newspoll spokesman Sol Lebovic says the survey of 1,600 voters during the middle of the week indicates Labor will receive 54 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, which would give Labor an increased majority.
I was invited to a celebration party tonight, but probably won't be able to go.

In the mean time, congratulations to all of the Labor campaigners and candidates, regardless of the result.

UPDATE:

For those who want to spend their Saturday getting the lowdown on the WA election while it happens, take a gander at Nic White's The West Election 2005.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Oh God... O-Week

Well, it's O-Week. That's why I've been very busy.

Since I'm so busy, I'll just post an extract from a paper my father, a PhD student in the School of Law at Flinders University, on the right to strike. I'd post my article for Activist, the Victorian Young Labor Left Journal, but I left it at work.

Remember to join up with the Melbourne University Bocce Club, a club dedicated to playing boccee and drinking wine. The first Bocce event will be Week 4.

+++

The Right to Politically Strike?
by Chris White, School of Law Flinders University

The right to strike on political issues is a controversial contested industrial relations and labour law issue. Governments and employers use labour law against the political protests of striking unionists. Controlling industrial action by sanctions (almost) extinguishes the right to strike. When political protest includes industrial action, such strikes are declared unlawful. When the issue of ‘political’ is clarified, the argument for the justification of the right to politically protest and the right to strike can be developed. International labour law principles and International Labour Organisation (ILO) jurisprudence on political strikes are adopted.

Are restrictions justified against strikes on political issues or should there be greater freedoms for Australian workers and their unions to assert without risk of penal sanctions the right to politically strike? Forms of the right to political protest with industrial action could be considered for protection. The justifications may inform policy debates.

The ILO has not given support to politically motivated industrial action. ‘The term 'political strike' is the term associated with illegality and disapprobation. The reason is that 'the political strikes' are viewed as disruptive of democratic processes’. ‘Purely political strikes’ are coercive and prohibited.

Strikes protesting against government industrial, social and economic policy are nevertheless legitimate. The economic and social interests of workers encompass a wide range of legitimate issues that are interrelated to government as well as employer policies and usually enmeshed in politics.

There is a range of conduct where a ‘political strike is that which is aimed at deposing the government, reducing its credibility, dictating the policies it should follow, or merely seeking to influence the policy formation process.’

But it is different with strikes on ideological grounds, less directly connected to workers’ self interest. Here the right to strike is linked to contemporary understandings of democracy, human rights of political participation as citizens, and the right to politically protest as an exercise of civil liberties. Such argued for political freedoms are increasingly under threat. After the new Senate in July 2005, the Howard government should almost extinguish the right to strike. Should unions have the political right to protest and strike against such workplace laws?

So-called ‘political’ strikes by public sector unions are legally protected when during enterprise bargaining on wages and conditions. Public servants, teachers, university workers, nurses and those not in essential services (narrowly interpreted) striking as a last resort are justified; so long as public health and welfare is not adversely affected.

Trade unions in the past have played a crucial role in the fight for democracy. Should in Australia industrial bans defending democracy be unlawful and unions subject to penalties? Transnational corporations threaten government with moving capital overseas. Should workers have the parallel freedom to strike to influence government policies?

What about more general political strikes against government policies? The ILO concludes that ‘protest strikes’ aimed at influencing government policy do merit legal protection without sanctions. In the Argentina case, the Congress of Argentine Workers organised a strike that included national employment policy, job stability, free education and a public health system. The government declared the strike illegal and said that the strike was ‘clearly of a political nature, since it did not involve the defence of particular or specific interests of workers in a given activity, but was the expression of pure and simple opposition to the social policy of the Government’. The ILO Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) reminded the government that ‘trade union organisations should have the opportunity to call for protest strikes particularly with a view to exercising criticism of the social and economic policy of the governments’. Clearly such a form of political ‘protest strikes’ are not to be declared unlawful on ILO principles. Political ‘protest strikes’ are strikes designed merely to draw attention to the extent or depth of feeling against particular government law or policy while ‘coercive strikes’ are ‘designed to force the government to change that policy.’ ‘Protest strikes’ at least, but not ‘coercive strikes’, should be permissible in a democratic society.

But is there a point to the argument that coercive political strikes against governments should be unlawful? Obviously so. However, the political right wing and corporate leaders support certain political strikes, on occasions. There are protest strikes against governments that are not democratic e.g. strikes in Zimbabwe; that are white racist (South Africa); fascist, communist (Poland and the Solidarity strikes) or that are authoritarian Nigerian or left wing, Venezuela. All over the world at any one time governments implement their reactionary economic and social politics and workers and unions use the political strike in opposition to the policies and the repression of political protests (see www.labourstart.org/).

Democratic participation at the workplace and in political policy making is important justifications, e.g. the October 16th National strike on University and Government decision making.

The scope of the right strike is broader when based on employees having a voice, not only over their own working conditions, but when they are opposed to the way an enterprise is being run or government policy impacting on the enterprise decision making.

It has been demonstrated that the right to politically protest is broadly accepted throughout the liberal democratic world recognised as an important civil and human right. Political protests historically have been evolving as a civil and political right and linked to freedom of speech, freedom of association and the right to free assembly.

In the 1970s, the NSW Builders Labourers Federation embarked upon 'Green bans' industrial action to protect the environment by refusing to take jobs constructing a luxury complex on undeveloped bushland, on the Greenbelt Sydney, respecting community opposition to this project. These bans for environmental and community protection were justified politically by the militant Communist union leadership. This form of industrial action could be seen as a means by which to ‘allow the values of the ‘life world’ to permeate the capitalist system. The Sydney ‘green bans’, were where constitutional democratic procedures have not decided how to develop Sydney before the labourers stepped in; profit making builders had. The green bans may be understood as taking one step further a union goal traditionally applied to setting wages and conditions of employment; substituting a conscious group decision for a market determination.

Political strikes were taken for reasons of conscience. An example of this is the (in)famous Waterside Workers Federation 1938 ban on the shipment of pig-iron to Japan in protest against war preparations, where the Communist waterfront union leader Healy asserted ‘the right of the individual to refuse to participate in any action towards which he (sic) may have conscientious objection.’ Waterfront unionists ‘refusal to participate in the business of munitions manufacturing was similar to their later refusal to assist the Dutch to reassert control in the East Indies. They claimed that they retained their personal rights and prerogatives, one of which was to aid persons in a struggle for freedom.’

Is it arguable that Australia’s restrictions on the right to strike on political issues are unfair? Should workers be able to exercise protest power with industrial action in a democracy? The right to politically protest by strike action could be re-evaluated: 1. in a democracy, political strikes do occur and the State’s legal responses should not be to suppress; 2 overcomes unfairness between the interests of labour and capital, rebalanced to meet international obligations; and 3 engages in a reform debate for the protection of the right to politically protest and the right to strike of benefit to industrial relations and the community.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Soft-core Geek Porn

In my spare time, I illustrate articles for Hermes Portal, a magazine for Ars Magica.

I was recently engaged by Erik Dahl, the author of the Broken Covenant of Calebais for the "Calendar Project". Several other illustrators and amateur-historians are also involved, to illustrate the pages and determine the accurate dates for the year 1222CE.

Erik described it as:
"The kind of stuff young Hermetic magi might look at during apprenticeship and hide under their lab texts when their masters come by. :)"
The brief was to create a calendar with suggestive pictures of famous sorceresses of history, in a weird kind of spoof of both Ars and of geeks.

Result:



As you can see (barely), the cover of the calendar is a "homage" to the Ars Magica cover:



Only, my cover is a lot less ornate (since I don't have the vine-scrolls or the fonts).

Overall, I am happy with how it turned out. While I'm entirely sure that illustrating soft-core geek porn is my NOT my cup of tea, I do get a cut of the profit, and it was a definite lesson for me in using Photoshop.

So, while I put together the NYLL Journal, the VYLL Journal, the ALS Journal and the Bullsheet, I have also been doing covers for dubious calendar projects.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bolt Watch

Mr. Lefty (who still hasn't put me on his blogroll) has started a new blog. It remains to be seen how long it will remain updated, and I would suggest that he find some co-contributors since Bolt is so spectacularly rage-inducing that to watch him really is a team effort.

Anyway, Boltwatch: check it out.

(Via miss piss.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Glasses

I have officially joined the ranks of all you blindies.

That's right. The local opthometrist advises that not only should I not be driving (since I don't have a liscence, he's probably right) but that unless I wear glasses when at the computer, they will quickly start to bleed, turn cancerous and scare little children.

A picture of the cheap $30 reading glasses I picked up at the chemist yesterday will be posted shortly, while I wait to hear from the private health insurance and see if the extras include a decent pair of glasses (Armani or Versaci would do me fine).

UPDATE:

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On webcomics

While not studying, working, reading blogs, checking my email, drawing or writing, I regularly check a number of online comics.

Over the years, I think I have found a fairly good batch, although I have stopped reading some through attrition, them not being updated enough, or the writing and/or art ceasing to impress.

The ones I read currently are (in no particular order):

Errant Story

KOTD

Ozy and Millie

I Drew This

Penny Arcade

Ctrl+Alt+Del

Zebra Girl

PvP

Real Life

Sheldon

Sinfest

something positive

Welcome to Ubersoft

You Damn Kid

Overcompensating

WIGU

Questionable Content

Little Dee

goats

The Order of the Stick

Alien Loves Predator

Nodwick


Full Frontal Nerdity

Monday, February 14, 2005

Fuck you Bolt

Who's the anti-American luddite now?
Last year was the fourth-warmest since systematic global temperature measurements began in the 19th century, NASA scientists said this past week.
On 11 Feb, Bolt had this to say:
Why is this bad news for green groups? Because it reminds us the weather today is no wilder than it was half a century ago, before global warming was said to have sent the climate haywire. Back then, a cold snap was seen as just another freak of nature, or even a sign of the next ice age.
Meanwhile, NASA, one of the most prestigious scientific bodies in the world has laid out that the world's weather is changing, and changing significantly.
GREENHOUSE gases and to a lesser extent the El Nino current in the Pacific Ocean contributed to making 2004 the fourth warmest year on Earth since temperature measurements began worldwide at the end of the 19th century, NASA scientists said.

"There has been a strong warming trend over the past 30 years, a trend that has been shown to be due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said James Hansen, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, outside Washington.

The warmest years on record were, in descending order, 1998, 2002 and 2003, the National Aeronautics and Space administration said on its website.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Get a headache

Click here.

(Via Krankiboy.)

"Progressive" Nationalism?

Comrade Liam over at the Comentariat posted his NYLL Journal article a week or so ago on Progressive Nationalism. In it, he proposes that the symbols, rhetoric and language of nationalism should (re)appropriated by the left in Australia and used for progressive purposes.
In the past decade we have let them be used against us, and they have become tools of the radical Right of politics. I argue that national symbols are too important to be left to those politicians.
I broadly agree. There is in the left (at least, a lot of the left I have dealings with) a phobia of nationalism and patriotism. Slogans such as "internationalism" and the fears of being thought Stalinist are rife.

Moving beyond Liam's look at a progressive nationalism, which concentrates largely on the ALP (as, perhaps, it should, since it is for a Young Labor forum), I'd like to comment on the the left's use of language and thought normally thought to be irredemably right-wing.

A lot of this gets back to what I have already written on hegemony-- that conservative forces maintain their dominance by limiting and defining the language, and thus thought, of those classes they subordinate. Because the motive force of history is humanity's conscious relations with its material circumstances, the human consciousness and its limits is crucial to the unfolding of historical events.

Conservative forces within political society (that is, the State) is able to infiltrate civil society (that is, the private sphere) through its use of symbols, language and rhetoric, expressed from birth through education, mass-media, the workplace, sport, religion, etc. Capital is therefore able to rely on direct State dominance (police, military, legislation, etc) and also through determining the way in which citizens are able to conceive of their position, role and situation within society. This is particularly the case in advanced Western nations; in states such as Iran or Nepal, there is little civil society, and so the State relies on direct rule rather than developing a consensus.

Nationalism

Capitalism is a global force; corporations and big business are increasingly less locked within specific borders, labour forces are mobile, and goods travel increasingly freely around the world. Despite this, conservative forces are still predominantly based upon the nation-state as the basic organ of political organisation. States are still the most influential and powerful international bodies. National interests therefore, today are one of the key means by which the subaltern classes in Australia (and elsewhere) think. Essentially, a "progressive nationalism" is the rational starting point for any discussion of, or move towards, internationalism.

While our ultimate goal should be the uniting of all people in common interest, regarldess of nationality, race or gender, it is pure mechanistic Marxism to expect the subaltern classes to throw off generations of indoctrination by government and big business and disregard all or any of those things. Nationality, race and gender are crucial components to the divisions necessarily created and exploited by capitalism; it starts at birth.

(This is why I believe feminism to be important and why I support it: because it identifies, challenges and struggles against a tool by which conservative forces maintain their hegemony.)

Liam points out that:
The current manifestations of Australian nationalism are not pretty. One of the more subtle but far-reaching consequences of the Howard years has been the adoption of national iconography—the flag especially, but other myths such as egalitarianism and the difficult concept of the ‘fair go’ as well—as specifically conservative iconography.
Left-wing control of institutional authority is required for Liam's progressive nationalism, through two mediums: the media and education.

All too often people don't care what is said, only who says it. This is why the media is so important. Institutions like the ABC and broadsheets are considered (correctly or otherwise) to be authoritative, truthful, impartial and accurate by most Australians. Liam, of course, deals with media:
Broadcasting, which is at its best a national medium, is a good model to follow for campaigning toward this end. A good broadcaster both taps into commonly held assumptions and myths, and challenges them; both of these actions must come from a basic position of understanding, empathising with, and conveying a deep sense of commonality with, the audience.
Education, the other biggie, is covered by various right-wing commentators, following Prof. Sawyer, president of the NSW English Teachers Association expressing his disappointment at the re-election of Howard:

"This is about the idea that students have to be able to analyse language and be critical of language and that's an important thing for citizens in a democracy to be able to do," Professor Sawyer said.

"And I was throwing down the gauntlet to the idea that if we are going to create critically literate citizens in a democracy then the last two elections, in particular, have been run around the use of language."

He said the Howard Government had used language effectively, coining emotive phrases such as queue-jumpers for asylum seekers. He said political material from both major parties could be analysed in classrooms when teaching critical literature to students.

(Side-thought: what about private secular schools which teach an entirely left-wing curriculum to its students, available from reception through to year twelve? Viable? It would need to be subsidised somehow, possibly through union or similar donations... An answer to religious private schools?)

I mentioned in "What is to be done?" that a counter-hegemony is needed to combat the rule of conservatism. Counter-hegemony is the challenge of conservative language, rhetoric and ideology, and the organic formation of progressive, left-wing ideas and language that allow the subaltern classes to form an emancipatory consciousness.

Ending divisions within society must start at home-- the old aphorism, "act locally, think globally" holds as true to advancing democratic socialism as to anything else.

By using language and symbols traditionally thought to be the province of conservative forces to express progressive, radical and left-wing ideas, the strength of the conservative symbol to express a conservative idea is undermined, while at the same time, its authority uplifts the truths of the progressive idea.

Educating a new generation to challenge and disregard the means through which conservatives dominate our society, to express a counter-hegemony is the only way to successfully overthrow the rule of capital. This comes through the whole-sale rejection of the previous social "norms" (ie, conservative norms whose purpose was to perpetuate the class rule of big business and its captains), developed organically from the subaltern classes themselves.

In bucket

Amidst the vanity searches by UMSU Office Bearers and the myriad of Ben Cass/Darren Ray/John Gunn corruption references, is "personal add will piss in bucket melbourne". Sadly, Yobbo comes first in that search.

UPDATE:

They keep getting weirder: "times columnist university of victoria g-string".

UPDATE II:

"spanking in the comics". I should put in more key words like that. Woot!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

"A good spanking"



While searching for "The Phantom" comics, I came across quite a few classics. The above is straight from Lee Falk's 1950s "spanking" phase. A more disturbing fan image can be found here.

I plan on making up some t-shirts at some point in semester 2 along these lines



I am trying to find a picture of "Phantom: Rough on Roughnecks", where he beating up some thugs, then replacing the faces with those of Jo-Ho and some other Libs.

Possibly a picture like this:



How cool would that be?

As we all know, the Phantom was the first costumed super-hero in the world. He predates Superman and Batman by several years, and although characters such as The Sandman and other WWI characters do precede him, they don't wear a costume.

The Phantom is one of those comic heroes that always struck a deep chord with me due to the incredible nature of what he stood for: "...to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed and cruelty." He helped Bengalla, the made-up African nation where his Skull Cave resided, make a transition from colonial-imperial rule from England, to democracy under its first African president Lamanda Luaga, after a brief stint under the dicator General Bababu.

In 1977, he married the first feminist I came across in pop culture, Diana Palmer, a gold-medal olympian, a committed humanitarian, WWII war-hero and human rights monitor for the United Nations. When he proposed, she asked if he expected her to move into the Skull Cave and give up her job. He answered (somewhat naively) that since every other "Phantom wife" had done so, it stood to reason that she would too. She basically said that "it's 1977" and there was no way she was going to leave her job to live in a cave and produce children. Fantastic!

I also loved how in the comics around that time (ie, when Diana became a human right's monitor), she used to get kidnapped by dictators who would try to "force themselves upon her", and the Phantom would burst in just in time to find her beating the shit out of the dictator (since she was a hard-core martial artist). A woman in comics who could look after herself and gave a shit about human rights... it was a breath of fresh air compared to most of the dross in other comics, where women were either meat-headed superheroes or helpless victims for the male heroes to rescue.

The Phantom also went through a very interesting environmentalist phase. A series of comics emphasised the destruction of corporate greed to the natural beauty of Bengalla. A particular comic demonstrated human greed not caring that one of the rarest and most beautiful animals in the world would be wiped out to make a quick buck. Phantom of course defied the government (President Luaga was unfortunately implicated, but absolved himself by the end of the comic) and the corporation and helped save the animal (although many were killed in an explosion).

Additionally, the Phantom went on an anti-drug kick, which was a long-lasting theme, fighting drug barons in South American island nations, drug runners in Mawitaan (the capital of Bengalla) or drug runners in Sydney! (Note: that was the famous comic where the Phantom meets Bob Hawke. I should try to track it down. It's great!)

Of course, with all the Phantom's good politics, as the first comic above shows, Lee Falk was not always the pro-feminist he became in the 60s. As I recall, that frame is from a story where he was kidnapped by a spoiled princess from a small nation in Africa. It was a very moralistic story involving unrequited love, the kidnap of Diana and a chase scene through the mountains. And at the end, a good spanking!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

"Hack" is a four letter word

This particular pejorative, "hack" is something that has been on my mind recently.

Just what is a hack? What are people's reactions to hacks? When does someone become a hack? Why is "hack" used as an insult? Are hacks really people and do they have valid views?

Some time ago (regularly readers may remember this), I had this to say about student reps.

The fact that a few postgrads are involved in factions does not make their views less valid than someone who is not factional. It makes it as valid. To suggest otherwise is not only terribly elitist, but does those people a great disservice.
This was in response to a comment by Matt Belleghem, during the great debate over representative primacy between UMSU and UMPA. Although the point is specific, the theory is general.

A lot of people in student politics (and in particular, certain sectors of the left, on campus and in general) have decided that the views of "hacks" are less valid because of their status as "hacks" than someone who is not a "hack".

Having thus identified an instance where a hack's views are delegitimised, lets pose a few questions.

Just what is a hack?

A hack tends to be a student who is identified (typically self-identification comes into this) as deeply, intimately or routinely involved in student politics. Student politics is the various activities of student union departments, collectives, committees and/or faction or club. Hacks are students who believe themselves to be "informed" or "connected", to be a "face", to be one of the "usual suspects" or that their involvement in an activity constitutes "making up the numbers" or an "obligation".

A hack is often, but not always, an activist of some kind, mostly off-campus. The political activism of a hack off-campus is usually what got the hack involved in student politics. In other cases, a student's first encounter with politics is through a campus club or collective.

Significantly, hacks are not considered to be activists. Hacks have long since lost any intellectual or ideological integrity through their involvement. An activist on the other hand still retains that "purity". Hacks in self-denial will often call themselves activists.

Hacks are contrasted with "normal" students; that is, students who do not regularly involve themselves in student political activities.

When does someone become a hack?

A student hack is a student who has expressed an opinion at a meeting attended by other hacks, or a student involved in a political club or student faction, or both. The former tends to be more important than the latter.

Someone who is in a student faction, attends the odd meeting but does not have much to say, is not a hack. If the listeners believe what is being said to be a "party line", or to be "pushing an agenda", then the speaker is a "hack". Being a "familiar face" comes into this, in particular a "familiar face" associated with known hacks.

An activist who spends a lot of time at meetings can also become a hack; this occurs as above: the moment that they give an opinion at a meeting attended by other hacks.

Ultimately, hackdom is recognition by other self-identifying hacks that you are "one of them". Note that above, in the title of my blog, I self-identify as a "student hack".

What are people's reactions to hacks?

Student hacks are each others worst enemy. Hacks typically associate primarily with other hacks (most hacks also have a cadre of "non-hack" friends, typically left-overs from highschool) but as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. Because many hacks are either opinionated or ambitious or both, they will tend to come into conflict. This nearly inevitably leads to hacks facing off in stouches, to a greater or lesser extent, mostly cross-factionally. Hack's reactions to each other is complex, but is often coloured with this conflict.

"Normal" students on the other hand rarely come into (knowing) contact with hacks, and when they do, it is either during some kind of political activity, such as a rally or a student union election. This contact is often adversarial or polarised. Such contact is often met with varying degrees of suspicion, scepticism or bemusement.

Some student hacks deny they are hacks, but instead call themselves activists. These hacks are the most dismissive of other hacks, because they believe their views to have more creedence or validity than the views of a mere hack. These "activists" exhibit all the behaviour of hacks, but are often not party political or factional. They still spend a lot of time at meetings, associate with other hacks, talk "hack talk", etc.

Why is "hack" used as an insult?

A hack is often used by the hack as a tongue-in-cheek descriptor for themselves.

More often however, being a student hack is an unspoken insult or pejorative, whereby hacks indulge in a form of complex self-loathing in which they characterise their own and others' political involvement as unnatural, abnormal or illegitimate.

"Hack" is used as a juxtaposition to the mythical "normal" student-- the legendary creature that hacks every election try to connect with, try to understand and get to vote.

Furthermore, as above, hacks are placed in opposition to activists-- they could be seen as "fallen" activists, or the opponents of activists. This view is most often held by hacks who call themselves activists.

Do hacks have valid views?

No.

As soon as a student becomes a hack, in the eyes of other hacks their opinions cease having any relevence or legitimacy. A student hack cannot express an opinion that is anything other than partisan, biased or an expression of a party line. Student hacks push agendas or espouse factional propaganda. Their views are utterly divorced from what "normal" students believe or think. Student hacks are disconnected from the broader student body, because they live in ivory towers surounded by "yes-men" and political cronies.

Or at least, that is what some student hacks on the hustings, often so-called "activists", would have you believe.

A ("hack") friend of mine last year expressed disatisfaction at being ignored and dismissed by other student hacks at a meeting not so long ago. He or she noted that many at the meeting thought that he or she was merely pushing a factional agenda (despite, as I understand it, that particular faction either not binding at all, or not binding for that particular meeting). My friend stated that he or she was very unhappy at his or her treatment, as, despite his or her regular involvement in various issues and his or her activism outside of university.

I said to my friend that this was because he or she was percieved as a "hack". In the eyes of other hacks therefore, his or her views and opinions had ceased to have any worth. I noted that this delegitimisation was, in my view, due to other hacks taking the view that anyone involved in politics was no longer a "normal" student and therefore was incapable of independent thought.

I further observed that this viewpoint was, in my view, fundamentally flawed. A "hack" often has access to information not available (rightly or wrongly) to "normal" students. My own non-"hack" friends are often intrigued at the political going-ons at Melbourne Uni, but do not have the inclination to deeply involve themselves; they are quite willing to ask me what is happening and then draw their own conclusions (since they are friends, I don't need to push any "agenda" either).

Information

I note that there is a lot of uninformed opinions about what happened in 2002-04 in MUSU for example; the opinions from "non-hack" students that I've run across, who have only heard whispers or rumours or half-truths are wildly inaccurate, incorrect or fantisiful.

One of the key problems with the activities of hacks is information. Information collects in a few hands; access to the information is not easy, so only those with a peculiar interest actually hunt it down. Most students can't be bothered or don't know where to start.

Access to information being identified as a problem, I would make the observation that opinions are as valid as each other, with the caveat that an informed viewpoint is more legitimate than an uninformed viewpoint.

Trying to ensure that as many people as possible are informed should be a key responsibility of activists and hacks.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Turning Lead into Gold

In 2003, Chechnya was forced at gun-point by Moscow to hold a referrendum for a new Kremlin-written constitution. The American media decried this as a "sham" referrendum, due to the immense presence of the Russian military and their aura of intimidation.

In January 2005, Iraq was forced at gun-point by Washington DC to hold an election for an interim national government. The American media lauded this as a "legitimate" election, despite the immense presence of the US military, the fact that only candidates that cooperated with American interests were allowed to stand, and a boycott of the election by the Sunii minority.

(Via Axis of Logic.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Mentoring

The Australian had reporters at the supreme court hearing; Louise Perry's version of events can be found here.

The angle here is the level of influence that former MUSU President Ben Cass had over Darren Ray, and then the level of influence Darren had over Scotty "Two Times" Crawford. Previous articles have dealt with the influence that Andrew Landeryou had over Ben Cass.

Andrew Landeryou is (was?) an influential member of Labor Unity and is widely believed to be behind large amounts of branch-stacking and a recent attempt to take over the left-wing Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous-worker's Union. Landeryou is being pursued by police after failing to appear in court.

Perry also highlights the lack of proper process in corruptly awarding leasing contracts, largely committed by Ray and Crawford.

I have two comments to make.

Firstly, to those who would continue to use MUSU and its troubles as a reason to justify the so-called Voluntary Student Unionism legislation, I challenge you to find two other instances of gross corruption in student organisations in the last ten years. Furthermore, if a single financial collapse or liquidation is enough for proponents of VSU to condemn and dismantle all student unions, then the hundreds (even thousands) of instances of corporate corruption, financial failure, theft, misappropriation, bad conduct, cartel behaviour, environmental destruction, price-fixing and systematic discrimination is surely an argument for the condemnation and dismantling of capitalism. QED.

Secondly, I would note that the only people who have been involved at MUSU in any misbehaviour or illegal conduct are members of Labor Unity, the right-wing faction of the ALP. To my knowledge, no member of the ALP left, or the left in general has committed any crime or been involved in any of the illegal activities at MUSU in 2002-03. I would also note that an alliance of Unity and members of the Liberal Students Federation in 2003-04 oversaw (and colluded in) not only many of the worst excesses of Crawford's year but also the complete disgrace that was 2004, where, in so far as it has been communicated to me, Liberal Students office bearers breeched their duties as office bearers and broke election promises, intimidated staff, misused union funds, harrassed students during elections and generally acted poorly.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hypnotoad

My eyes are starting to feel a bit like this.

Bosses and Captains

Leigh Hubbard, the Secretary of Victorian Trades Hall Council announced his retirement last Friday after a decade in the role.

The link above is the official announcement from the VTHC website.

As a family friend of Leigh, I thought I might reflect on the media treatment of his resignation, and thus the media's portrayal of unionism.

The Hun's coverage is particularly telling, with the headline reading "Union boss at end of rocky road". The designation of Leigh as a union "boss" in my view emphasises the dichotomy between unions and business. Business executives are "leaders" or "captains of industry". Union leaders however are "bosses". The media loves portraying senior unionists as "bosses", giving connotations of "stand-over" tactics, organised crime and thuggery. If we were to look at which kind of organisation used stand over tactics, had links to organised crime and purposely or knowingly harmed the public or its employees, I think that the historical record indicates business would vastly outnumber unions as fitting those particular stereotypes.

The Hun also plays up the "tension" between the VTHC and the Bracks government. To some extent, this is manufactured. The Bracks Government however is fairly conservative in the industrial arena, in particular with the energy unions, education unions and the nurses. As far as portrayal of the Labor Party, it does indicate that the Vic ALP doesn't "roll over" for unions, but it does label unions as adversarial and critical. (The people's opposition to the government perhaps?)

There is also a Hun article from the day before Leigh resigned, which takes an axe to the VTHC and harps on about the various wheelings and dealings of the Victorian union movement.

Meanwhile, NineMSN follows Leigh's media release more closely. Channel Nine emphasises his positive contribution, and also highlights a smooth transition of power, as he "hands over the reigns". A quote from Leigh referring to the recent FPLP leadership challenge is included:
"I hope that the Trades Hall ... election of a new secretary doesn't go through the machinations that we've seen publicly from the ALP."
Leigh's role in lobbying Howard to send peace-keepers to East Timor, as well as restoring a worker's common law rights to sue their employer and reforms to WorkCover are also mentioned. The entire story is positive, and there is no mention of any tension between Leigh and Bracks.

Our Aunty has a "stub" entry, merely noting the event. Cut and paste from the press release.

The Age (subscription) also has a positive spin, but also highlighting the struggles, against Kennet, the MUA Waterfront dispute and the campaign to give award rights to over three hundred and fifty thousand Victorian workers. The shadow of the VTHCs run-ins with the Bracks Government appears at the end of the article, but it ends up beat:
"He's been a campaigner for a whole range of issues on behalf of ordinary people," Mr Bracks said.
However, the headline of the article does not really bode well: "Two in line for Hubbard's union job". While not as bad as the Hun, it does seem to indicate friction over Leigh's replacement. The first part of the article deals with who will be replacing Leigh, pointing out the two contenders, Brian Boyd and Martin Foley (I think a woman as Secretary could be a good move). Although in my view, contested ballots are a sign of a health democracy, there is a perception in the media at the moment that they are symptoms of a faction-ridden organisation or deep internal divisions.

The small media coverage of Leigh Hubbard's resignation overall does not paint unionism in a hugely positive light, although there is at least tacit mention of the positive things the VTHC has done under his tenure. Unions in this issue are portrayed negatively, disunified, marginalised and "once-powerful", to a greater (Hun) or lesser (Age) extent, with the Bracks quote above being perhaps the most positive thing said.