Ireland’s Yes Vote: When Decency is Non-Ideological

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In a world where religion and conservatism are often used to justify prejudice, the idea that a socially conservative Catholic nation could enshrine marriage equality by popular vote was always going to be momentous. Ireland’s 62.07% vote in favour of marriage equality has lifted the veil of ideological objection and bared an important truth: ideological beliefs can exist alongside human decency.

A watershed moment in Ireland’s Yes campaign came when Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland, disclosed that she had a gay son and urged the nation toward a Yes vote. This proved a massive blow to Ireland’s No campaign, which was led primarily by religious groups. Why? Because McAleese is a highly respected and devout Catholic. Though fear and prejudice often masquerade as religious sentiment, a devout McAleese was able to urge a “yes” vote on the basis of empathy, decency, and kindness. These are religious traits, if you ask me.

In Australia, conservatism remains a key obstacle for marriage equality, yet does not represent the popular view. Opinion polls show that as much as 72% of the population supports marriage equality, while Australia’s incumbent right-wing government continues to oppose same-sex marriage on conservative grounds. Such opposition has ever dwindling legitimacy; conservative parliaments in the United Kingdom and New Zealand have already legalised same-sex marriage, and Ireland’s referendum is a resounding blow to the conservative stance.

Why then, does Australia continue to lag on such an important issue? If a similar referendum were possible in Australia, the result might prove decisive. But unlike in Ireland, our Constitution does not make reference to the definition of marriage, meaning that the power to enact change lies entirely in the hands of our elected representatives. These individuals have rejected two bills to amend the Marriage Act in the last 11 years. At what point does it become an obscenity for the government to ignore the resounding view of the Australian people?

On the back of Ireland’s referendum, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has now introduced a third bill attempting to legalise gay marriage, a move that was instantly flagged as political opportunism by our PM. Tony Abbott has long opposed marriage equality on ideological grounds, and is a self-confessed “last bastion” of conservative values even among his own family. Marriage equality becoming the legacy of his government must prove a frightening prospect for him. While the major parties spar, the Greens have lamented the issue becoming political at the detriment of real change. “Another marriage equality bill?” Greens MP Adam Bandt tweeted, “We should be working together, not having duelling legislation.”

Regardless of whether Labor’s stance is political opportunism, Ireland has shown that the issue is vastly larger than this. Our government should look at the sky, not down at its shoes, for setting aside political and religious dogmatism in favour of human decency affects real lives. Studies show that homosexual and bisexual people are twice as likely to experience anxiety and three times as likely to experience depression when compared to heterosexual people. A 2012 report showed that two out of every five victims of homophobic bullying at school attempt or contemplate suicide, while a 2008 study of 390 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Victorians found that nearly one in seven reported living in fear of homophobic violence. Ideological opposition to same-sex marriage feeds discrimination. It reinforces social inequality, excuses prejudice, and worst of all, leaves these individuals with the belief that their love is less valuable than someone else’s. When an issue affects lives on such a basic human level, how can discrimination be excused by religion or ideology?

Regardless of how the Australian debate unfolds, the Irish referendum on marriage equality has proven a valuable lesson for our democracy. Ireland has shown that decency is non-ideological, a simple truth, yet one that governments and interest groups continue to trip over. While marriage equality has become an issue of stance, a playground for a dogmatic ideology, it should be viewed as an issue of decency.

Imagine all of the lives that would change, and be saved, if only this were true.

– Lucy

The pseudonym: A (partial) Obituary

Many moons ago, when Magpie Shon and I were but wee uni students, we were sitting in the dingy kitchenette of our hall of residence and had a wonderful idea.

The idea was to create a blog. This blog would be a beautiful mess of a forum, a playground for the sarcastic and the witty, a meadow in which the creative and ridiculous would frolic. It would reflect our individual interests and flex a mutual need to stare at a screen mulling over synonyms while feverishly consuming tea.

As we penned titles, topic areas and taglines – Guide to Everything? That’s a lot of responsibility – we stumbled on one minor detail.

I was happy to have my name displayed on the interwebs, common as it is. Lucy is the 208th most popular girls name out of 4276 names – thanks Wikipedia! – and by all accounts unexciting. Shon, on the other hand, was not.

Historically, literary women have often opted for the use of a pseudonym to protect their identities. Charlotte Bronte famously pubished Jane Eyre under the gender neutral Currer Bell; her sister Emily published the wildly beautiful Wuthering Heights under Ellis Bell. Nelle Harper Lee, the author of the infamous To Kill a Mockingbird, opted for the more androgynous Harper Lee. But Shon’s desire for a pseudonym was not for fear of gender barriers or the perils of being a creative women entombed in patriarchy, her reasons were more modern.

The internet – wonderful as it is in so many ways – remains a large and anarchistic pot of wild cards, a place of epic good and even worse evil, to the point where it really is quite mind blowing. Privacy? Pshhh. What privacy.

And so it was that we spent the remainder of the evening brainstorming pseudonyms.

Peachy had a simple birth. When I was younger, I used to use the adjective ‘peachy’ a lot, much to the annoyance of, well, everyone:

“How are you today?

I’m peachy thanks, how are you?

No.

What?

Just no. “

Etc.

This word had somehow become my internet tag for several things, why not WordPress too?

Magpie, on the other hand, had a much more hilarious birth…a story you can read about here.

For now, join me in raising our tea cups and toasting to the (partial) death of the GTN pseudonym*, and the birth of a new blogging era.

Fare thee well Peachy and Magpie, hello Lucy and Shon.

x

*we’ve dropped down to first names, we hardcore.

Televised incestuous rape? OVER MY DEAD BODY: Sexual violence in HBO’s Game of Thrones

GTN, my darling. I have missed you.

As uttered to Magpie on numerous occasions –  in cars, cafes, Skype dates and tea slurpings – GTN is the child we put up for adoption. To use an appropriate analogy, it is the infant the White Walkers carted off to ice-henge.

But we are back. We have returned. WITH TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY. TRY NOT TO HAVE A STROKE.

As a mirror to Magpie’s post on Tess of the D’urbervilles, a nineteenth century novel that addresses the social repercussions of sexual violence, I thought this piece of mine was appropriate. Enjoy.

*Spoilers for the most recent series of HBO’s Game of Thrones in this article. Ye be warned*

Jaime

For a show that exposes within its 56 minute segments a medieval concoction of incest, prostitution, murder, torture, beheadings, zombies, slavery, and sacrifice, people sure do love it, and people sure do get worked over a bit of rape.

And I sure find it very hard to write “bit” in jest. Because there is nothing at all light about sexual violence, and for it to be displayed in one of the most popular and widely pirated television series’ of all time has done more than ruffle a few ravens. The episode in question, “Breaker of Chains” aired recently as part of the newest season of HBO’s medieval drama currently showing on Foxtel in Australia, and received a good deal of backlash for its depiction of a previously deplorable – and now fan favourited – character, Jaime Lannister, raping his twin sister in very close proximity to their dead son. Yes, this show is that insane.

Up until now it has garnered nothing but praise. Recently being renewed for a fifth and sixth season, GoT has received widespread critical acclaim and popular support, boasting one of the largest casts and budgets in television. Set in the fictional medieval land of Westeros, it chronicles the violent dynastic struggles of seven noble families as they fight for control of the Iron Throne, all the while shadowed by looming supernatural supernatural threats in the icy north and fiery east.

Game of Thrones has become well known for its merciless displays of violence, sexual intrigue, and the innumerable dark facets of human nature, evoking a realism and moral ambiguity that sets it apart from fantasy stereotypes. In short, there seems to be no line in this gritty series. But recently, viewers recently stood up and marked one, ripping their ‘Jaime Lannister’ banners through gold-flecked tears.

Let’s just recap for a second on how far this show has gone in the past. In season one, we witnessed incest, the attempted murder of a child, nudity, and beheading. In season two, sadism, the sacrifice of infants. In season three, castration, torture, mass slaughter and the sowing of a wolf’s head on to a human body. And yet for some reason, none of these portrayals have triggered a peep of outrage when compared to the uproar that followed one recent scene.

There is a surprisingly simple reason for this. In our society, we are fortunate enough that beheadings, incest, torture, and slavery are virtually unheard of. They strike a chord with very few viewers, providing only bloody colour for a world of entirely foreign substance,a world that doesn’t even exist. They blend in to the fantasy. They become, in this context, forgivable.

Rape does not. And that is because it remains for us – more so than ever due to its exposure – a social concern that has ongoing implications. Sexual violence is as prevalent now as it has ever been, and the psychological scars it inflicts on victims run deep and everlasting. That is why the blasé handling of rape on the show has sparked so much uproar, and with good reason. Personally this widespread reaction, unique thus far to the series, has triggered in me very conflicting concerns.

The first is is that Game of Thrones now has an extremely far-reaching influence, and that this arguably affords it a degree of responsibility. It is unable to continue to stretch the line when it is a cultural phenomenon that can at any point be seen to be championing or over-exposing issues that are of huge social sensitivity. It cannot be careless with its portrayal of crimes that are still abhorrently prevalent in our society.

My second contrasting concern, is that viewers are being selective about the deplorable facets of the human condition they condemn. As mentioned repeatedly, Game of Thrones far from holds back in depicting shocking events. Let’s come away from Westeros for a second. As a politics student, I have  Thomas Hobbes’ famous “life is nasty, brutish, and short” tattooed on my eyelids. Humans do evil things. The reality of ‘medieval’ times was that these things often went un-policed, and Game of Thrones is famed for addressing this with ruthless accuracy.

It is perhaps irrational to expect that in a fictional universe where incest, murder, torture etc is a daily reality, sexual crimes are not. “I know rape happens, but they shouldn’t show it.” But can you really expect a show famed for its realism to suddenly omit its portrayal of one aspect of human evil? This would arguably cripple the power of its storytelling.

I will never defend sexual violence. It cannot be excused. But I do believe that fantasy is fantasy, and that storytelling should cause discomfort. Art exists to turn a mirror on us all, exposing human darkness.

Regardless, viewers have drawn a line. In reality, when a show’s influence pushes ever expanding edges, walls must be raised to keep out sensitive subject matter – the ‘White Walkers’ of our world. Though shiny and rogue in the early days of a far smaller viewership, with fame comes accountability.

And for a cultural phenomenon with such tremendous influence, viewers clearly demand it.

 

 

Touching the Sky(whale)

Where has the year gone, amiright? Almost five months ago, co-blogger Shon wrote this article about The Skywhale, a monstrous multi-mammaried beast in the form of a hot air balloon. As the article explained, the balloon was designed by Patricia Piccinini and commissioned by the ACT government to celebrate Canberra’s 100th Birthday.

Without this becoming a rehash of Shon’s article, which I will link you to once again because it was awesome, behold the beast:

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“I have zero desire to kill you in your sleep”

Long story short, late last week, Shon and I MET THE SKYWHALE. IN REAL LIFE.

It was dark, because we were attending Floriade’s Nightfest (a spring festival in Canberra). But Skywhale made an appearance, and we were most irrationally excited. Here are a few eerie dark pics that we managed to snap. Image Image Image Image

While art criticism is more Shon’s area of expertise, I’m gonna throw my two cents in and declare that the Skywhale is damn awesome. It is gloriously conflicting, teetering on the borders of hideous and majestic.  Disgusting and adorable. It’s like a horror movie you can’t look away from. Polarising and brilliant, the Skywhale has become somewhat of a celebrity around these parts.

Lucy: It’s like my dreams and my nightmares are colliding.

So all in all, I think the Skywhale has been a pretty good mascot for the centenary, k(r)illing (haha) any stereotype that paints Canberra as a boring city. A waste of money? Absolutely. Irrelevant to Canberra and its history (though not necessarily its history of terrible public art)? Oh yes. Yet having gazed at her boob-like appendages with our own somewhat widened eyes, we can attest that this enormous, flying monstrosity is anything but dull. Lucy x

My Favourite Place…

In the four wonderful months since Guide to Nothing burst from the womb of intellectual friendship*, I don’t think i’ve done a nice informal blog. I had originally planned this one for a calm Friday night, but alas life has been busy, work has been constant, and my poor prose has been somewhat neglected.

So today, as I sat feeling like a cat-in-a-bath with the amount of things I had to do that I didn’t want to do, I thought “no. I will procrastinate with some good old fashioned blogging.” And I thought “let’s pretend i’m somewhere else, somewhere far away from responsibility and a mammoth stack of inevitable tasks.”

“When is the best time to write a blog post?
When you have a million other things you really ought to be doing.” – GTN

A lot of people have a favourite place. Whether it’s a corner of a cafe or your very own bed, a beach in the Bahamas or a house from your childhood. In general I think there’s a difference between liking somewhere, appreciating its beauty and its significance, and feeling a sort of raw ownership of a place that is ‘yours’. Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting thing to think about because as a migrant, I often feel a conflict between favourite places. Recently I visited the village I grew up in. A lot of places are beautiful. A lot make you feel safe and happy. But there is a raw affinity I feel with two corners of this very big world.

Photographs are the property of guidetonothing.wordpress.com and were taken by my very talented sister.

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The first is a river that my sister and I used to play in as kids. The stone of the bridge is covered in lichen and moss, and the hills surrounding are an old rich green. It has a close familiarity. It’s as beautiful in the winter as it is in summer. It reminds me of being young and entirely bare to the sensations of living, the vivid contrast of summer warmth and the gasping relief of sharp, icy water.

The second is an anonymous stream in the elbow of two hills. It’s sheltered by alder trees and if you follow it all the way up, it leads to a small waterfall and then a derelict hut. This place is something out of a fantasy book, but has a modesty that could only belong to its very real surrounds. We once followed it for hours and stumbled upon a farmer with a gun, the very last time we went that far! Nevertheless, it’s one of those places of nostalgia where you feel an exhale of the soul.

I would love it if people would share with me their own favourite places. As i’ve said, it can as modest as your own bed on a rainy night. We share this beautiful world, but some places just feel like your own.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett

Peachy x

*womb of mutual weirdness etc

How to be Unpopular On An Airplane

As the magnificent Magpie explained, I was unable to fulfill my Monday blog commitments this week because I was “in the air (inside of a plane)”. I have since survived – pause for Peachy Is Back celebration dance – and used part of the not-at-all soul destroying 28 hour journey to conjure a mini rant.

If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ve flown or will fly at some point in your life. On average, i’ve flown twice a year since I was 14 months old. Why? My parents like to travel. Some kids had the latest gadgets, gizmos and trends, we had budget family holidays that came with priceless memories. But as i’ve grown older, i’ve not only inherited their love of travel but come to hate the shit out of flying. As an antisocial, uncoordinated, and graceless kind of creature, any prolonged period of time spent in a confined space with smelly strangers is pure torture.

Yet i’d like to think that i’m a pretty respectful, efficient and practical passenger, so am constantly baffled by the people who take it upon themselves to poo on everyone elses day. Is it me or do they give the impression of having done research? Is there a list titled “How to Be Unpopular On An Airplane” that a close network of underground life ruiners swear by on the third moon of the harvest before taking to the skies?

I’ve decided to reinvent that list, based on my unfortunate experiences with fellow passengers, with some comedic imaginings thrown in. This could backfire and I will have created a whole flock of people to plague my plane journeys. (Masochist. Was masochist in my list of attributes, too?) But nevertheless, here is a list of fifteen things to do if you want to be extremely hated on your next flight. Who wouldn’t want that? :

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