4 ways 2014 shook our world

Wow, what a year 2014 was! So many changes, good and bad, and so much to celebrate and commiserate. Let’s look back at some of the most memorable parts of the 12 months. Read more of this post

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I didn’t choose the evil bird collector life

Disgruntled Ocean Bird with the Founding Father of the collection, The Evil Water Fowl.

Disgruntled Ocean Bird with the Founding Father of the collection, The Evil Water Fowl.

THE collection started with a simple request: find me something tacky for less than $2 at a Paddington op shop.

It was 2011 and I was so very, very sheltered when it came to the world of avian ornamentals. So when my friend returned back to college with what has since been dubbed “The Evil Water Fowl”, I had no idea of the impact the wooden sculpture would have on my life, or at least on my bedroom surfaces.

Presumably crafted in the finest woodwork shed Satan has yet devised, the bird, with beak open in a presumed frozen shriek, twisted head and large, hate-filled eyes, was not tasteful, nor was it tasteless. It existed on its own plane beyond the taste spectrum, boggling even the smartest of minds and forcing out the utterance, “Why?” Read more of this post

A very Australian response to an unusual crime

YESTERDAY was not the day “we changed forever”; the perpetrator of the hideous crime doesn’t deserve to affect the country in such a major way.

Far from a day of change, yesterday was a day when the best and worst aspects of our national character were on show.

For the most part, compassion, decency, community spirit and mateship flourished during and after the awful events in Martin Place, trumping isolated pockets of xenophobia and hate-breeding fear.

Even as I type, Sydneysiders, tourists and some public figures have silently queued to place flowers at the police line in respect for the innocent man and woman killed.

This solemn act of mourning and solidarity replaced the voyeurism and vanity yesterday, when people were taking smiling selfies with the besieged café in the background. At least the media broadcasting the scenes were informing the public; the selfie vultures just showed the logical extreme of social media look-at-me-ism.

Similarly, tasteless tweets about how much better the city looked without cars filtered through amidst the expressions of concern, grief and sorrow.

Synagogues, mosques and churches alike opened their doors last night to give those with faith a communal space in which to comfort one another and pray for the victims still trapped inside the café.

The evidence that has come out so far about the gunman, who I won’t name, is that he was a delusional person acting alone, despite his aspirations to join militant organisations.

An Islamic State plot this was not, but it may as well have been considering the Daily Telegraph’s appalling treatment of the situation yesterday afternoon.

The whole point of Islamic State, and other Islamist terrorists, is to terrorise, and labelling the actions of this lone madman as part of a “death cult” plot, with no evidence whatsoever, played right into his hands.

Thankfully, most media outlets complied with NSW Police requests to either remove or simply not report on the demands of the gunman, so as not to publicise his reason for committing this terrible crime and give it legitimacy.

The coverage seemed to improve the longer the siege carried on; earlier (often wildly inaccurate) “speculation” gave way to repetition of what was known, while clarifying what wasn’t.

But fear-mongering did not extend to select news outlets: there were also the bigots both in person and online who encouraged violence against innocent Muslims and mass gatherings in Lakemba (a Sydney suburb with a high Muslim population), as well as those who spread hoax Facebook posts about a mysterious Islamic man warning someone not to visit the CBD during holiday celebrations at the end of the year.

These preachers of hatred and fear, marginalising and encouraging abuse of people not because of their actions, but their faith, are doing the work of Islamists for them.

The more marginalised from the mainstream young people feel, the more likely they are to be radicalised to become militant by the murderous fringe dwellers.

From the outset, Australia’s Grand Mufti and countless Muslims condemned this man’s actions and said he was not acting in their name, nor in the true name of their faith. An Islamic educator also offered his services unsolicited to police negotiators.

In response to reports of harassment against Muslims in public, the wider Australian social media community got onboard with the #illridewithyou hashtag, volunteering to stand in multi-faith unison against those who would do harm, either physical or psychological, to innocents.

Australia’s been through tragedy before, and it will go through tragedy again. But yesterday’s story does not belong to the gunman; he doesn’t deserve to be the catalyst for “the day we changed forever”.

This week’s story belongs to the courageous hostages who died to help others, the amazing professionalism of the police, emergency services and political leaders, and to a national community who, thanks to empathy and compassion, united during a dark chapter of our history that could easily have torn us apart.

Is it possible to be a GTA-playing feminist?

THIS article does not answer the headline’s question, because I honestly don’t know. Ever since the announcement Target, and now Kmart, have stopped selling Grand Theft Auto V after an online petition alleged the game promoted sexual violence against women, it’s been a dilemma running through my mind.

I consider myself a feminist, but I’ve also spent countless hours in the streets, waterways and airspace of Los Santos and San Andreas. Now, looking at what appears to be a new theatre in the culture war the gaming community is battling over its treatment of women, I feel the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Read more of this post