Thursday, January 26, 2012

Invasion Day 2012

I nearly left this up with out saying anything. I will let the song speak for itself. But let me list some reasons why I can not celebrate Australia Day.

1) Aboriginal languages and cultures are still dying, while we still insist that they speak English and conform to our European way of life.
2) Aboriginal peoples are denied the right to self determination.
3) As European Australians we do not admit that our own cultures are as much guests in Australia as the ones that come after us.
4) Refugees are being turned away, while both sides of politics do not want to freely allow boat people in. They can get away with this because the majority of Australians feel the same way.
5) While we may have said sorry for the stolen generations, our actions do not say sorry.
6) While we may have said sorry for the stolen generations, we have never said sorry for the many generations of genocide that went on before.
7) Because even my mates will scoff at Aunty Joy when she gives a welcome to country at an AFL match (the indigenous match between Richmond and Essendon), saying things like "it's our land now, we kicked them off it" or "can't they find someone more eloquent to speak for them".

I could sit here longer and rant longer, but it will just get me worked up. I want to see a day when Australian Aboriginal peoples are truly respected and valued for what they can teach us. When we have that attitude I think we will find that they are happy to welcome us to their traditional lands- mutual respect will be fostered. Until that day happens there will never be a true Australia Day.

A little post script edit for the end of Invasion Day 2012- let Yothu Yindi have the last word.

Treaty now, treaty yeah!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Invasion Day

As my way of protesting the continual systematic attack on Aboriginal Cultures in Northern Territory, I will not be celebrating Australia Day this year. I will instead be observing Invasion Day.

Happy Invasion Day 2010 from FOABP x FCAC on Vimeo.

Australian Aboriginal cultures under attack by Northern Territory government

It saddens me to know that there is still very little being done in Australia to protect indigenous languages. I consider it to be a culturally dominant and patronising position that English be pushed as the first language in education. It should be pointed out that Australia does not have an official language at all and that legally all people are free to receive education in any language.
The Northern Territory are most guilty in their dismantling of bi-lingual programs in schools.
Evidence for this is cited here:
Australian Indigenous language funding

I have been prompted again to think of this issue after seeing this interview with a lady from the Iwaidja people in Arnhem Land of Northern Territory. A little funding from the federal government does not cover up the fact that Australian Indigenous cultures are still being systematically wiped out. It seems we have actually not learnt a thing in Australia. The apology to the stolen generations now seems rather hollow.

View the video here:

Iwaidja Ngabi Inyman from Bruce Birch on Vimeo.

Here is the letter that I have sent to Peter Garrett's office requesting an official conversation on the matter.

I will write more on this matter as the issues unfold.

To the office of Peter Garrett, M.P

I am an Australian citizen currently living and working in Russia. I am a linguist with a B.A from Monash University (2000). My other qualifications are a Graduate Diploma of Language Description and Development (2009) and an Associate Diploma of Intercultural Studies (1998). I currently work as a linguist in the field of language revitalisation and maintenance among endangered languages of Siberian indigenous peoples in Russia.

I have some real and deep concerns for the state of endangered languages in Australia. My concerns are multi faceted and are connected with language, identity, cultural and mental well being, at both individual and community levels. Among my many concerns the one that falls directly in Peter Garrett's sphere of influence is the education of children in their indigenous languages. This issue is connected to English taking a precedence over indigenous languages.

I, along with many Australians was filled with tears, joy, hope and a very small measure of pride when an official apology was made by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of the Australian Parliament to the members of the stolen generations, in February of 2008. My colleagues here in Siberia also took some hope that a national government would take the time to pay attention to indigenous issues. Many Aboriginal peoples were very appreciative of the apology and warmly welcomed it. At the same time many Aboriginal peoples reminded European Australians that their languages do not have tangible words for "sorry" (they are oral, tangible based i.e non abstract languages), and that our actions would show them sorry more than words.

I am concerned that the true spirit of sorry has not been grasped by the Australian Parliament (all parties), nor the Australian public. Our continual neglect of indigenous languages and insistence that English take a priority ahead of them is essentially the same mistake that was made with the stolen generations- that Aboriginal peoples be made to fit in and assimilate with the broader Australian population.

I have been aware of this issue for a long time, but a recent video brought it to my attention again. Please take the time to view it.   It is an interview with a woman named Joy Williams Malwagag from the Iwaidja people of Arnhem Land.

I would like to formally request a telephone conversation with Peter Garrett to discuss these issues. I do not anticipate being in Australia until 2013.

I am a concerned citizen who hopes my concerns are taken seriously. I once wrote to the former Primer Minister John Howard on issues relating to refugees. My letter never received a response from his office let alone the PM himself. I am hoping that your office takes the opportunity to excel the former Prime Minister in his lack of concern and a responsible attitude. 

Yours in a spirit of genuine reconciliation for all Aboriginal peoples,


Thursday, January 19, 2012

#SOPA Free speech under threat.

I'm going to exercise my right to free speech while I still can. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but the western world has definitely taken a turn for the worse. There was some kind of move taken to either (a) allow terrorists through the gate in September 2001 or at the very least (b) exploit the event to bring fear and severely curb civil liberties after the fact.
I'm kind of sick of the whole Republican vs Democrat debate. Both Bush and Obama have done as much to reduce civil liberties as the other. Fear is killing America and the virus is infecting us all. One of the founding fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin, said "any society that gives up a little liberty for a little security, deserves neither and will lose both." Every move made over the last ten years has served to chain Americans.
2011 was a monumental year for protests around the world. It was called the year of the protester by Time magazine. (Yet even Time magazine was caught not showing pictures of Arab protests on their cover in America, when they did everywhere else in the world.) No one doubts the pivotal role the internet had in helping protesters succeed. Yet when the Occupy Wall Street movement started in the US, they have been censored far more than any of the Arab protesters were. Why?
How is it possible that such censorship can happen in America, the "land of the free"? Many of the media companies are run by older people who are conservative and do not understand how the internet works. But there is perhaps something more sinister going on. At a very base level fear is controlling political decisions, but perhaps at a more sinister level there is a conspiracy for absolute totalitarian power going on. The record companies and film companies are also run by old conservatives who do not understand what the internet is even about.
The US Congress is now debating a bill called Stop Online Piracy Act. The stated aim is to protect copyright for the entertainment industry, but it will effectively cripple free speech in so many domains, rendering the internet impotent.

This You Tube video explains it well (unless it gets censored some time soon):

There are two possibilities here:

1) The entertainment industry is tired and outdated, yet the media moguls (Rupert Murdoch especially) have too much sway with congress, and so their petty whinge is killing free speech.


2) The bill is actually a more sinister attempt to kill free speech, with copyright being used as a facade and a smoke screen.

As far as the entertainment industry is concerned, the tired people who run it should get with the times. Apple has done a great job of providing iTunes, an accessible way to buy music, movies and tv. TV and Movies are still way too expensive most of the time. Essentially the entertainment industry needs a new model.

What the entertainment industry has disregarded is the population boom in the world. The sheer population of the younger generation means that people's interests are far more diverse than they were 30 years ago. Personally I think that we should all create our own music and art and give it away for free. That is perhaps the direction things are taking anyway.

The internet has brought a revolution to the world. There are always counter revolutionaries or "luddites". It remains to be seen whether their attempt to censor the internet will be successful.

If I was American I would be doing all I could to protest this. As it is, I am an ineffectual Aussie, tucked away in Siberia. I hope my blog is powerful enough to make some people think.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Multiverse theory (parallel universes)

According to quantum physics, if time travel is possible then parallel universes are possible. Quantum physicist have come up with a "multi worlds" hypothesis.

It goes something like this:

1) Today I make a choice that affects who I am for the rest of my life. Say perhaps I choose to accept a job offer. As a result I meet certain people, develop certain relationships, maybe even marry a certain person.  My life takes a certain path based upon one decision. This could be thought of as a fork in the road. Whether I eat lasagna for dinner tonight is not really such a big decision.

2) Perhaps I go back in time ten years from now, or perhaps my son goes back in time and convinces me not to take the job. From that point onwards in my life a different path is taken. When my son returns to his time, nothing will have changed there though, I would still have chosen the same job, and he would still have been born.  BUT- a new parallel universe is created where I take a different job, meet different people, maybe even marry a different person, or perhaps still end up marrying the same person.

Some argue that there are an infinite number of parallel universes. I don't quite agree with this. In quantum physics there are an infinite number of possibilities until an observation is made, with all of those possibilities collapsing back into one resulting reality.

I argue that a parallel universe can only exist IF and when time travel has occurred and IF and when a different decision is made at an important forking point. In such a scenario, if time travel has occurred multiple times, there are multiple parallel universes (based upon different dichotomous decisions), but still not an infinite number.

In the same way that an electron can be in more than one place at the same time (yet not being two electrons and not being two halves of one electron; --> see the "double slit experiment"), a person in two or more different parallel universes is the same person not different people. This means that even if there are multiple versions of the same person, ultimately they are still one person. In my opinion this person would be the one person before God.

In fact if one such version of a person tried to jump across from one parallel universe to the next the very act of observation would collapse the other parallel universe that person left behind, making the new parallel universe the reality.

This image goes some way to explaining the various paths a person can take. Many different choices can be made, but the more that are made the thicker the bunch of lines together will be, until there is just one thicker bunch of lines, one over all uniting identity and reality for a person.

I had previously thought I did not believe in parallel universes. My logic went something like this:

1) Apparently there are an infinite number of parallel universes.
2) If that is the case then there would have to be one where Jesus chose not to go to the cross.
3) This possibility could not be so, Jesus would not have done such a thing.
4) Therefore there can not be parallel universes.

Now I think differently:

1) There can be parallel universes, but each of them exist as a result of time travel.
2) There are not an infinite number, but only as many as have been spawned my time traveling choices.
3) Each of these parallel universes still collapse into the one, just as the electron collapses into one upon observation in the double slit experiment.

If you are interested in the double split experiment watch here:

Monday, January 09, 2012

Rain should not stop Twenty 20 cricket

Two of the Big Bash League cricket games over the weekend gave me cause again to reflect on conservatism and how it is halting the growth of cricket. The games in Melbourne and Sydney were both cut short by rain.
On Saturday night in Melbourne the Renegades were chasing a score of 167 made by the Stars. After 8 overs the Renegades had made 3/58 and needed a further 110 to win at roughly 9 an over, which is still quite achievable in T20. The game was rained out. Using the Duckworth Lewis method, the Stars won by 11 runs. It would have been nice to know how the game would have played out. The crowd of 40,000 were robbed of the game they deserved to see.
Then on Sunday night a similar thing happened in Sydney. The Sixers made 117 off their twenty overs, which is not a competitive score in T20. After 5 and a half overs the Thunder were 4/29 in their reply. Four wickets would probably have slowed them down, but they only need 88 off 87 balls when the rain came.
Both of these games were meant to be the show case games in the BBL, where the two Sydney teams played each other and the two Melbourne teams played each other. Both were ruined not so much by the rain as they were by conservatism.

Test cricket is a complex game and over its history it has rightly been decided to stop play when ever rain would affect the wicket. When a bowling wicket gets two wet it can greatly affect the way the ball handles, giving the bowling side an unfair advantage over the batting side. In a game that lasts five days, and where very wicket is held at high value, it is important to make the game as fair as possible.

Twenty 20 cricket however is a very different game. It almost does not matter what the wicket is like, whether it supports spin or bounce, both teams play on the same surface. Wickets are taken at Twenty 20 level when batsmen make mistakes, such as hitting the ball high in the air to be caught, or when bowlers bowl tightly at the stumps and again the batsmen mistime the ball getting bowled. The game moves so quickly that these same mistakes can be made on any surface. Rain would affect these variables very little.

An important point of comparison is with football matches. Football matches of all codes are never cancelled due to rain. The strength of a league based sport is that the fans can count on a game being played week in week out no matter the weather. Twenty 20 is supposed to be a tough and exciting new game, it should not be subject to the same conditions as test cricket. It is a mistake to compare the two games so closely.

Cricket is an older sport than all codes of football. The question must be asked as to why cricket did not spread across Europe the same way that Soccer did. The answer can be found to this question by asking why Rugby did not spread at the same rate that Soccer did. Rugby is actually an older game than Soccer. In fact it was spreading around the world quite well in the 1860s and 70s. It was being played in many European countries before Soccer ever was. Rugby though was a sport marred by conservatism. Games were played at representative level and remained amateur.
Representative games were played for one's country or club, but only ever organised on a friendly one off basis. Rugby did not develop a league of their own. Soccer on the other hand developed a league in 1870. In 1888 the league was professionalised. Soccer professionalised before any other sport. This gave people the incentive to play soccer over rugby. Accordingly, games were played week in week out, meaning that a fan base built up. This did not happen in Rugby.
The simple reasons of soccer being centred around leagues and allowing the players to be paid saw soccer spread quickly across Europe, pushing rugby aside as the number one sport.

The same conservatism that held rugby back is also holding cricket back now. Cricket has been a representative sport until the advent of the IPL a few years ago. Most cricket purists have cringed at the IPL and now at the BBL. But it is league sport that offers the best chance for cricket to spread around the world. The representative model has already proven to move very slowly over the course of one hundred years.

The league model offers the opportunity for players from anywhere in the world to play at the highest level, without having to hope that their country will one day be good enough to play test cricket. The league model offers the opportunity to market the game in new markets such as America. Many an American has told me that they think the game of Twenty 20 is more exciting than baseball.

But the conservatism of the rule makers in cricket who will not allow games to be finished due to a little harmless summer rain harms the chances for the game to spread to markets that do not understand the history of the game. It also harms the viability of a league based game to fans who are not purists of the game in the way that test match followers are.

If football players can play in the rain, so can T20 players. Allow the game to evolve into something new under new conditions. Change the ball if necessary. Heck, even change the paying surface if necessary. If the game does not adapt it will die. Conservatism threatens to be the death of cricket.