The Ruminator

Come on up and grab yourself a beer.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

A Whiter Shade of Black

I was reading an interesting opinion piece in The Australian today about anti-war protestors giving support to Saddam and ignoring the suffering of the Iraqi people.

This sort of thing has been said before, including by the Prime Minister, with varying degrees of vitriol. In this case the article was by a former Iraqi refugee.

I don’t feel the need to go into an Iraq debate here as other people have already done so admirably. However I found the article interesting as an example of the way in which issues of significance are always portrayed as a set of simple binary opposites. EITHER you are a rabid warmonger who wants to bomb the hell out of Iraq and doesn’t care about dead Iraqi babies, OR you are a naïve pacifist who supports Saddam and doesn’t care about the ongoing suffering of the Iraqi people.

Doug has already talked about his own “no unilateral war by America” protest being interpreted as “no war at any cost”. Everything is portrayed as a case of polar opposites, rather than a complex set of issues. Is there adequate justification for war? Would such action have legitimacy under international law? Are measures in place to minimise the effect of war on the civilian population? Will the West support post-war reconstruction? Is the short-term civilian suffering in war outweighed by the chance for long-term change in Iraq? Will a war succeed in ousting Saddam? If so will it lead to freedom for the Iraqi people or will he simply be replaced by a new dictator? What effect would a war have on regional stability? This all seems to get swept aside for a simple Bomb: Yes/No mentality.

The same phenomenon is notable in public debate about indigenous issues in Australia, which are inevitably portrayed as Black Australia vs. White Australia. This totally ignores the wide diversity of views held by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Not to mention perpetrating this strange myth that black and white are the only options. Like, what about Asian Australians? Or African Australians? Well, you’re black. And you’re Australian. But you’re not black Australia. Goddamn, this shit drives me crazy. I wrote my thesis on this sort of thing – still not adequate catharsis.

The media largely seems to cater for the delivery of information in thirty-second bite-sized pieces – the Fun Size pack of current affairs. I’ve seen more in-depth analysis of reality television programs than some of the media coverage of the Iraq issue.

So, by that measure, the real news affecting Australian society today? One of J-Lo’s ex-husbands, choreographer and dancer Chris Judd, just won the American version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here by not getting voted off during two weeks filming in the Australian rainforest. Or, as the article put it, he was voted ‘King of the Australian jungle’. I know they were just reproducing an AAP article, but you would think that News Ltd would have realised that we don’t actually have ‘jungle’ in Australia. Apparently not. Upon winning, Judd thanked the American audience for liking him. Maybe they just refrained from voting him off because it meant he was the one who had to live the longest with “heavy rain conditions, spiders, snakes and mosquitoes.”

I’m not a celebrity, get me out of here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Xtreme Employment - The New Reality TV

Potentially frightening article in the Sydney Morning Herald about interviewers in today’s competitive job market resorting to “extreme” selection methods.

Great, like job interviews aren’t already traumatic enough.

Maybe I watch too much television, but the idea of extreme (or should that be Xtreme) selection methods brought to mind something like ‘Survivor’. Short-listed candidates are dumped in the wilderness and must provide for themselves, pass a series of grueling tests, and form strategic alliances. Makes sense - you could test leadership, teamwork, initiative, creative thinking, working under pressure, negotiation skills, and whether or not people would look good at the office pool party.

Actually what the article was really referring to was the use of a new breed of "KQs" or "killer questions" designed to disorientate applicants. These also address the fact that it is usually not that hard to figure out what interviewers want to hear. Asking KQs makes people think on their feet, and tests how they react under pressure. According to a survey quoted in the article, 90 percent of employers pose a killer question in interviews.

The article also helpfully provided five killer questions asked at interviews:
1. Would you ever lie to get a job?
Absolutely not. On the other hand I could be lying about that to get this job.
2. What were you hoping we wouldn't ask you?
Well, that question for a start. And anything concerning the chronological gap on my resume, which refers to the time I spent in jail in a small South American country.
3. Name five members of the cabinet.
Well, there’s Posh, Baby, Sporty, Scary, and that other one. No, wait . . .
4. Tell me a joke.
A naked woman walks into a bar with a poodle under one arm and a 12 foot salami under the other . . .
5. If you were the prime minister, which issues would you tackle?
Prime Minister? That’s Supreme Leader to you! Bwa ha ha ha! Wait, did I just say that out loud?

Traumatic job interview stories welcome.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

If I could talk to the animals . . .

Stumbled across an article today about a woman in Ohio who claims that she can talk to animals. For US$50 an hour you can be the recipient of such revelations as ‘No, your horse doesn’t hate you. It’s just really bored.’ (At an alleged 3,000 consultations per year, the woman apparently makes about US$150,000 talking to animals). The article even helpfully provided Ms Doolittle’s contact number (no, I mean the ‘talking to animals’ Doolittle, not the ‘wouldn’t it be luverly’, flower selling one).

All this got me thinking about my childhood, in which the ability to talk to animals was number two on my list of wished-for superpowers. Number one was the ability to fly. I spent a lot of time dreaming about this one. Still do. In this case I think I was concerned less with its world-saving aspects than the thought that being able to fly would be really, really fun. After all, unless it is teamed with other superpowers, for example incredible strength, being able to fly isn’t all that useful. You could probably see a lot more crime happening, but you wouldn’t really be able to do much about it.

The ‘talk to the animals’ wish linked nicely with my Narnia-inspired daydreams about riding around on big lions. I really had this thing about big cats, and birds of prey. Probably a combination of my liking for watching adventure-themed television and wildlife documentaries, and reading anything I could get my hands on.

I don’t remember any particular running storyline concerning my superhero status – just your basic world-saving stuff. I do remember giving some thought to the fact that riding around on lions in the rain would be really uncomfortable. I came up with a sort of weatherproof force-field that would be generated by a small device worn by the incredibly cooperative lion. In retrospect I am disturbed by the fact that I was sufficiently girly (or possibly anal) that I seem to have been more concerned with the force-field’s ability to repel water than, say, bullets.

Of course, the other problem with this whole scenario is that, to truly be useful, the ability to talk to animals needs to be combined with the ability to get animals to do what you want. Otherwise the natural response to ‘Hey Mr. Lion, savanna getting you down? Want to spend your days as a beast of burden, helping me fight crime?’ is likely to be ‘Oh good, lunch’.

On that note:

Also just found this story about a 7 year old New Zealand boy who punctured a lung trying to fly ‘like Harry Potter’ with the aid of a trampoline and an umbrella. Probably lucky he was only falling from the height of a trampoline, rather than trying to jump off a roof with the aid of a broomstick. The perils of childhood . . .

What was your favourite superpower?