Saturday, December 24, 2005

christmas cheer

Just wanted to point out some good writing in today's Age.

Shuan Carney (Apathy: I'll drink to that) does a hatchet job on Australian apathy (political and social) and its connection to alcohol (and alcoholism). He makes a damning link to examples such as 'schoolies' and recent events at Cronulla in Syndey.

Anybody who has been to an Australian barbecue knows that for many of the people who come along, the grog is at least as much an attraction as the singed meat. When the PM talks of something being a barbecue stopper, he means, presumably, that people stop actually, you know, getting shickered and talk about an issue for a few minutes.

That is a big deal because the practice of getting together with the intention of getting off your nut is established early in life. Consider the new coming-of-age ritual known as schoolies. There is no need to be delicate about schoolies; it is designed as an exercise in bacchanalia. Importantly, it is sanctioned, and generally financed, by parents, whose message to their school-leaver offspring is, in effect, "you are an adult now, and one of the first ways of marking this is to let off steam by getting together with your peers and drinking a hell of a lot".

However, it is the widespread consumption of booze at schoolies, which seems to be a central element to what is essentially an old-style pagan festival, that is most noteworthy.
He continues:
To be fair, we do allow ourselves some public ventilation of difficult issues. In 1996, after Pauline Hanson warned about the Asianisation of Australia, John Howard boasted that he had lifted a veil of political correctness and had enabled Australians to talk about things Bob Hawke and Paul Keating had not let them talk about.

Last week, in the wake of the Cronulla riots, he urged Australian not to wallow in generalised self-criticism. His message was: do not talk about this too much, do not read too much into it, do not adopt a critical approach to Australian society, I would prefer that a veil be placed over this.

There were a lot of us who were OK with that. There were parties to go to and drinks to be drunk.

The Age editorial Christmas gifts and the price we pay for them is also of particular note:

In the original Christmas story, the political and spiritual messages are deeply intertwined. After the birth of Jesus, the Holy Family became refugees because their baby was perceived to be a threat to King Herod's authority. The joyful tidings of peace to all, which Christmas celebrates, has always been attended by a shadow message: that if peace is not embraced, what we shall see instead is violence and divisiveness, the slaughter of the innocents. Christmas is a time to celebrate with family as well as a celebration of three homeless people who were fleeing from the authorities. It is a reminder that we would do well to remember the poor and the stateless on Christmas Day.

Above all, Christmas is a holiday for children; a time when we give our children gifts and, in the process, are reminded that our children are the most precious gift of all. If all goes well, our greatest gift to them is the values we teach (which are the values we live by), the example we set. These values are demonstrated to them in the home, in our treatment of each other, but also in the way we treat people who are different to ourselves, whose backgrounds and values are not the same. Peace is not an accident. It comes when we set aside our prejudices and open our hearts to neighbours and strangers, rich and poor, not just on Christmas Day but every day.

There are a number of other good piece. Peter Craven's comment on the storm brewing over The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, Values come roaring from the closet is also well worth a read.

Anyway, have a good Christmas. Thanks for reading and thinking. This blog will be undergoing an overhaul in the new year as I'm not satisfied with what it has become. If anyone cares to suggest changes or comment on what might be done to liven up the place, please do.


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