For today, a simple round up on the some of the issues that have concerned me over recent weeks.
Global economic conditions have continued to weaken. I have been trying to monitor these with a special focus on Asia in order to do an update. So far there has been nothing unexpected.
One thing that I have noticed is an increased focus by commentators on a point I made some time ago, the risk that simple pump priming - the big stimulus packages focused on consumption - might have limited impact while leaving Governments enfeebled because of increased debt. I think that this is worth a further posts. The problem can be simply stated - are measures to maintain consumer spend sensible when the problem you are dealing with is in part caused by over consumption?
From an Australian perspective, the share market has stabilised and is showing signs of strength. This is good. A less positive sign has been the increased strength of the Australian dollar. While I indicated that I thought that the sharp fall in the value of the Ozzie was not warranted on economic grounds, I also hoped that it would stay down to help cushion the Australian dollar against the global downturn.
The post I wrote on Gaza, democracy and the question of world government was one of my rare posts on specific international conflicts. I tend not to write in this area because I find it hard to get my mind into the mind of the combatants. Conflicts have their own internal dynamics, rival mental words, that can be hard to understand. When I do write, my aim is generally to increase my own understanding.
The post drew a comment from Ramana. Just to quote the end of his comment:
Hamas has stated that its sole reason for existence is the destruction of Israel. What has democracy got to with it?
Ramana's comment came from his Indian perspective. You can get a feel of this from three of his recent posts: Kashmir is not populated by fools., Pakistani Militant Confesses., Terrorism. Now none of this should in any way be construed as an attack on Ramana. My point is that we all write from our own perspectives, in my case from my own particular slice of Australian experience.
Ramana forced me to articulate what I saw as a key distinction in principle, the difference between the form of election of a Government and the subsequent responses to it.
Hamas won a democratic election. The West's rhetoric required that this be recognised as valid. How, then, do you accommodate the fact that the political organisation in control of the new Government appeared to want the destruction of Israel?
To my mind, you do this by making a clear distinction between the election of the Government and that Government's subsequent actions.
Hamas won the election, so you treat them as valid until their actions demonstrate that they are not. This was not done. Immediate sanctions were introduced to try to force the new Government to revoke previously stated policies held while in opposition. The Hamas Government fell under the pressure, leading to Hamas seizing control of Gaza through a coup.
The responses to the election of Hamas breached two fundamental stated international principles.
The first was the right of people to select their own leadership through democratic elections. In practice, this has come to mean that free elections are okay so long as we agree with the results.
The second was the use of international dispute processes before taking unilateral action.
These two principles would have suggested the following course of action.
Begin by recognising the new Government as legitimate until it demonstrated otherwise. Then if rockets keep falling on Southern Israel, lodge protests with the Hamas Government and the UN. If this is ineffective, protest again.
At this point you have established a clear and unambiguous position for stepped action to solve the problem. You have the moral and political high ground.
I stand to be corrected on my arguments. I do not have a fixed position. I want to learn for my own sake.
I see that On Line Opinion has started running the best blog posts for 2008, an anthology of posts published on independent Australian blogs over 2008.
Last year, and unexpectedly since I had not heard of the process, one of my posts Why I am not a conservative was selected. This year Legal Eagle, one of the scepticslawyer bloggers, nominated one of my posts, but also asked me to look at my own writing for nominations because sheer volume made external assessment difficult.
I did this, although I found that many of my posts were too bitsy - I often write in slabs including responses to comments - to be suitable without a fair bit of editing. I am not sure that any of my personal nominations will make the cut, the standard is quite high, but for the record they were:
- Sunday Essay - The beliefs of a New England populist - http://belshaw.blogspot.com/2008/05/sunday-essay-beliefs-of-new-england.html
- Mr Rudd and a dreadful sense of deja vu - Managerialism and systemic failure - http://belshaw.blogspot.com/2008/04/mr-rudd-and-dreadful-sense-of-deja-vu_29.html
- John Button - a personal memoir - http://belshaw.blogspot.com/2008/04/john-button-personal-memoir.html
Interestingly, I found the same problem with them as I did with my own writing.
To my mind, both are marvellous writers, yet the way they write means that their posts are not necessarily suitable for reproduction without editing. There is also an issue with Thomas in that some of his best posts - by best I simply mean quite outstanding commentary - were on the US election. These necessarily date now that Mr Obama has been selected.
For the record, in the case of Marcellous I nominated:
- Christmas and Milton - http://marcellous.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/christmas-and-milton/
- E M - http://marcellous.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/e-m/
- An infamous decision - http://marcellous.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/an-infamous-case/
In the case of Thomas I nominated Fixing Australian cricket - http://deuslovult.wordpress.com/2008/12/29/fixing-australian-cricket/
I am not saying that these are their best posts, simply examples I found in browsing.
Despite his own views, I really wanted to nominate some posts from Neil. However, I ran out of time.
Like me, Neil is a prolific writer. Like me, Neil often writes in slabs.
What I really wanted was to find posts from his English, ESL - and more!.
The selection process for the On Line series has been criticised, with some justice, as too narrow. The same old names. Yet we should not criticise the process if we cannot put alternatives forward.
It seems to me that it is up to us as truly independent bloggers to put the full range of Australian blog writing forward. In this context and accepting that I ran out of time, while Neil's posts on this particular blog address the needs of HSC students, some are significant cultural pieces in their own right.
I spoke of Australian blogs. This leaves open the question of overseas blogs that write exclusively on Australian issues. Here I mounted a case that Will Owens' blog, Aboriginal Art and Culture: an American Eye, should be eligible for consideration as simply the best blog on Aboriginal art in the world.
I cannot begin to say how highly I value this blog. Whether I agree or not on particular posts, it really is a wonderful blog.
I do not know whether or not the blog will be considered, but James Farrell, one of the judges wrote:
I’m not sure of the rules either, Jim, but you’ve sold Mr Owen’s post pretty effectively!
That pleased me greatly. It would be nice to think that we could develop in blogging something equivalent to the Walkley Awards. This requires a broad field.
My post Would you like to hear Gamilaraay spoken? drew a comment from Neil that triggered quite a severe reaction on my part. Neil subsequently extended and qualified his remarks in comments.
Poor Neil. How could he know that during the previous week I had received an enthusiatic reaction from a friend saying that now I was writing for the Armidale Express we might be able to revive the New England self-government cause?
In response, I had to explain that we had lost so much of our history that people did not even know what we were talking about
In terms of current memory, the New England that I grew up in and knew so well has been expunged. It exists as part of the past. It has been abolished as part of present Australian history except in the occasional footnote.
This hurts. It hurts badly.
A Sydney person comes to Melbourne. Most have never heard of Sydney. Those that have think of of it as small place, a former city no longer relevant.
Hard to imagine, isn't it? Yet that is where I now stand. How could I know that the things that I accepted as self-evident would have vanished. expunged.
I do not want to stretch the analogy, but it makes the point. As I said to Jack, many of the things that I write are in fact an attempt to recreate and present an area and past that has been lost. Without this, we have nothing. With it, we have a chance of doing new things.