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28 April 2008

A message for the future

A friend of mine sent this to me today.

I have grown a little older and more cynical - and never was it clearer than while I watched this video. I assumed, as it started, that it was going to be a joke of some kind... most of the videos I get sent these days are, after all.

Then, as I watched and realised it wasn't a joke, I wanted nothing more than to be able to laugh at it. Whatever it was that was coming, I wanted it to be silly, saccharine... an inadvertent joke, with itself as the punch line.

But finally, as I got further, I realised just how important this video was...

No matter how jaded you are... no matter how many times you've made the argument "but it's more complicated than that"... this video, this message, is the point we should all start from.

We pass off sentiments such as this as "simple", "too broad". We ignore such advice by saying such things as:
  • we need to think about the bigger picture
  • the economy is important too
  • it's just not that simple
All of these statements are true. But, it is no less true or more broad sweeping to say:
  • we create enough food for everyone in the world
  • we aren't trying hard enough
  • "we shouldn't break what we can't fix"
This message, in the video below, is where it all starts - the big picture, the simple dream, from a clear thinking child's perspective.

This is a message from 1992... I thought it was filmed today when I first saw it... and the really sad message there is, a child could tell us all of this 16 years ago and we're still not listening.

16 April 2008

I love Nelson as a leader... for the Coalition

Actually, I'm starting to suspect Dr Nelson never really changed his politics after all. Maybe he's still actually working for the Labor Party.

The Challenge

I wish to offer you, dear reader, a challenge.

1. Make sure you have nothing around you to entertain distract you
2. Watch the video below. Pay close attention and focus only on the video.
3. Try to make it past the 2:00 mark without feeling the desperate desire to watch something else or turn it off entirely.

Please respond with your own personal reactions below.

What Brendan Nelson has learned

So apparently, Brendan Nelson has discovered that there are people in this country who can only afford $30 a week for petrol, and people who can only put $5 worth of petrol in their car at a time.

Wow. It's obviously been a big week for the man. I wonder if his coalition buddies will believe him.

"No" they will say, "that just can't be! How can people live like that. You must be mistaken. Obviously this is all the fault of the Labor Party and their mismanagement of the economy. This kind of thing never happened under Howard. No one will put up with those kind of living standards for long."

Well I guess if he learns only this one small thing then he has at least listened to someone and learned something.

It's a start, anyway.

But honestly, if that's a revelation to Brendan Nelson - no wonder he doesn't get what 2020 is all about. If he honestly needed to talk first hand to poorer Australians in order to work out they exist - or in order to work out that not everyone can afford to fill their tank with petrol whenever they want to... why should we ever expect him to understand an issue like Global Warming, or the importance of education to social equality.

What Brendan Nelson just doesn't get

And in further news - Brendan Nelson wants us to feel sorry for the banks.

Brendan Nelson: life hard for banks
Nelson wants you to encourage banks to make a profit
Banks are people too: Nelson

Yes that's right. Dr Nelson wants us to realise that "Banks are people too"...

Um... no, actually...

They're not...

They're banks... you know - Companies...

They may be, by strict legal definition, for tax purposes, "entities" much like a person. But the day we start taking our definition of "people" from the tax department, I think we've really lost the battle against pseudoscience in our education system.

But wait, hold on, isn't he saying we should feel sorry for the individuals who have to foreclose on people's mortgages - I hear you say.

Well, in this day an age, I'm sure that an individual employee's experience of foreclosing on customers, compared to times in the past, is about as close as fighting a field battle is to launching an international missile strike. Someone sits in a room somewhere and hits a button that causes the printing of a thousand letters. They get folded and packed by machine and posted to a thousand customers. Some of them contain offers of more credit, new loans and investment opportunities. Some of them contain foreclosure notices.

Along with his lack of understanding about how many Australians live their lives with respect to money, Brendan Nelson also seems to have very little idea about how large offices work in the modern society.

Banks, these days, run by rules and regulations. Certain levels of risk imply certain behavior and certain levels of underpayment require foreclosure. No individual favours or punishments. No human interactions. No guilt. Just transactions, payments and foreclosures. The way it should be.

Dr Nelson said people should stop criticising banks and they should be encouraged to make profits. Isn't he just encouraging us to support banks making a profit?, you respond.

Well, yes he is. And in general, we can all support banks making a profit. It's good for the economy. Any company making a profit, in general, is good for the economy. No argument here.

But to encourage the pursuit of profit, blindly, with no other considerations would lead to many horrible outcomes. Imagine a world in which car manufacturers chased profits with no fear of the repercussions of bad safety standards and no adherence to pollution level guidelines. Imagine if we were encouraged to support housing developers profits in the face of buildings that fell down within a few years of being built.

The Solution?

Maybe the people who can no longer afford to pay their mortgages should never have been loaned money in the first place (they might be better off now if they hadn't). And maybe, just maybe, the banks should have to take some responsibility for the (bad) decision to lend them money when they did. Perhaps we could find a way of minimally fining, or otherwise disadvantaging banks for foreclosing on loans. Maybe then we wouldn't have as many foreclosures as less risky loans were avoided.

Maybe then we wouldn't have so many sad banks to be sympathetic for.

Maybe then less people would only be able to put petrol in their car in $5 increments.

Hey - maybe Brendan Nelson's got a point after all.

Then again... maybe not.

04 April 2008

Albinos protected from witch doctors in Tanzania

Excuse the long break - I'll be getting back to the political commentary and ways to save the world soon - but...

In stranger, more disturbing news just out - Tanzania's 150,000 albinos are now under the protection of the President... protection from Witch Doctors.

Witchdoctors were involved in 19 murders over the past year, says President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. Police have been ordered to hunt them down. Apparently the witchdoctors have been murdering the albinos to use their body parts in magic potions - potions designed to bring people good luck.