ABBOTT, ABE & THE WHALE OF AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
I have been analytically watching the criticism many have hurled at the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, for not mentioning the war: Australia’s war on Japanese whaling, that is. He was in the picturesque town of Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum last week.
Christine Milne, Leader of the Greens Party, predictably, blasted Abbott for not bringing up Australia’s position on the Japanese hunting of whales, remarking that the Prime Minister was avoiding tricky subjects. That’s her job: to blast Abbott and stick up for whales. Our PM, on the other hand, stated that Japan knows Australia’s position on Japan’s whaling industry. Yes, they would be aware that the Sea Shepherd is in Antarctica keeping a watchful eye on Japan’s annual whale slaughter. Moreover, with Australia’s ongoing case in The Hague’s International Court of Justice, regarding the illegality of Japanese whaling, there’s a lot about which to be skittish. This is especially so considering Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner. Oh, that and the all the big businesses Abbott represents who want to see the somewhat dodgy TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) deal with Japan hurried up, signed, sealed and settled, of course. Profits need to be made at any cost and all of that.
Trolling the net revealed numerous news sites showed an overwhelming number of self-styled opinionists were very cheesed off with the PM’s dodging the elephant in the room. Nice to see so many supporters of whale rights came out of the woodwork that day. I wonder how many of them actually bother to donate to organizations devoted to saving animals.
Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten (Australian Labour Party), was more concerned about reminding the world how un-PC Abbott’s negative comments were on his party’s term in office, than proffering a view on the Abbott-Abe interaction – or lack of, as the case was. I suppose Shorten should take every advantage while the camera was focused on him.
As many of you would have read my previous article, “The Japanese Whaling Season Begins”, published in The Infinitive, 9th Dec 2013, my blog, gerowynhanson.wordpress.com, Facebook and Twitter, you would know my stance on whaling. Having lived half of my adult life (and almost all of my work/study existence) in Japan, I see things from a more balanced point of view; at least, I would like to think so. They are all correct. And they are all missing the point.
The Japanese do not have a tradition of debate or the Socratic dialectic, or even the Catholic Church’s medieval practice of playing the devil’s advocate like we in the West do. It’s all too confrontational for their sensibilities. Their conversational method for broaching difficult or controversial subjects is a softer approach, sometimes accompanied with a libation to help the medicine go down.
It involves several rounds of polite exchanges, affirming one another’s attributes and basically a lot of bowing and back scratching. That might not be a bad thing, given that some “feedback” is about to follow. When the uncomfortable topic is eventually brought up, it is often couched in indirect terms. Close associates might even predicate the difficult matter with a respectfully phrased, “to speak frankly, if I may…”
Whether Abbott had the time to “speak frankly”, I cannot say. If that is the case, and after all, our Fearless Leader had to spread himself and his words pretty thinly over the Forum, then the sparsity of his exchange might have been unavoidable. A conscientious leader, however, could have obliquely hinted at intending to bring up the topic again at a more conducive time. This at least would have satisfied the naysayers. At the same time, while letting the Japanese know we have not forgotten their indiscretions in the Antarctic, there will be a time and a place when this sticky subject will be raised again.
Perhaps we (read = Abbott & Bishop) could take a page out of the Japanese way of diplomatic negotiations. Charging in like a wounded bull at Prime Minister Abe would have been injudicious and irresponsible. On the other hand, Abbott’s approach to simply skip around the edges smacks of insincerity, lack of integrity and downright untrustworthiness.
No, Mr Abbott, it is not a case of skulking around the elephant at the back of the room. Show some guts, stand up to the “baddies” and learn how to cross the cultural divide by respectfully approaching a difficult subject on your opposition’s terms. In fact, we might all learn a few handy techniques which after all are just good manners.
JAPANESE WHALING SEASON BEGINS
GEROWYN HANSON ©
News that the Japanese whaling factory ships are about to leave port for its annual cull is ramping up preparations for the Sea Shepherd fleet to also set sail.
Last year, the international anti-whaling organization reported their best year so far, by saving more than 900 whales from slaughter. Sea Shepherd spokesperson and former Greens leader, Bob Brown, wants the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, to honour his word by sending an Australian Customs vessel to accompany their fleet to the Antarctic. The Minister remains committed at this point.
While hunting for whales is abhorrent to most westerners, it is not particularly well accepted in Japan, either. As a matter of fact, since the late 1990’s, Japanese eco-tourism charter boats have been taking sightseers whale-watching around its coastline and islands. It is even possible for visitors to swim with the creatures. Progressive-thinking news commentators have also been questioning the need to hunt the species when Japan already has such a wide choice of meat products.
Unlike the ancient practices of whale hunting amongst indigenous populations in the circum-polar regions, such as the Inuit people, whaling was never a traditional custom with the Japanese. The practice was actually introduced in the post-war era when the near starving population needed a large and readily available source of protein. It was in fact, under orders from General Douglas A. MacArthur during the Allied occupation, that whaling was seen as a solution to an urgent problem.
Not only is it a relatively recent activity but the majority of Japanese people do not even like or eat whale meat. In reality, there are a number of Japanese anti-whaling activists who regularly protest against the whaling companies by pressuring them to abandon the hunt. In 2008, activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the “Tokyo Two”, were arrested. The campaigners were unlawfully imprisoned for two years after uncovering government corruption whereby tax-payers’ money had been used to finance the whaling industry. Due to the overwhelming support for their cause, they were finally released on suspended sentences in September, 2010.
In June this year at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Australia challenged Japan’s true purpose of whaling for scientific research. The Japanese defended their case by stating that while some of their research included live whales, a complete investigation could not be carried out scientifically unless it could examine dead specimens as well. They accused Australia of offending its national dignity when allegations were made that the Japanese had lied to The Court. Australia argued that Japan’s use of the term “scientific research” is actually a scheme to conceal the killing of whales for commercial gain which is prohibited.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned the commercial slaughter of whales by non-indigenous populations in 1982 to allow stocks to recover. Member nations such as Japan can however, obtain “scientific permits” to kill whales for research. Presentation of evidence for the case is likely to take up to two years before a decision can be reached.
Earlier this year, the Japanese factory ship, Nisshin Maru and a Japanese Customs vessel, the Shonan Maru were ordered out of Australian territory when they crossed the line in Antarctic waters following interaction with Sea Shepherd craft. The anti-whaling organization believes there will be more confrontations with the Japanese fleet again this year.
While the Australian Government wishes to show integrity by both its legal and humane stance on whaling, there is the risk of offending an important trading partner. In view of the Abbott Government’s record in international relations to date, it will be interesting to observe how this situation will be handled as well.
MORE DISCRIMINATION TOWARDS INVISIBLE DISABILITIES
GEROWYN HANSON ©
Recently, a friend of mine with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), told me about the aspersions many people were casting upon her character due to her being on a Disability Support Pension (DSP).
A number of different individuals who had come into contact with her had suggested, either directly or obliquely, that since her condition was not apparent (hence the description invisible disability), she should be looking for paid employment.
I was incensed!
This young woman has a number of neurological and neuro-psychological impairments as a result of complications from a stroke some years ago.
Let me make this very clear to those of you who are unfamiliar with Centrelink’s (social security) process of assessment: one is not granted a DSP on flimsy, unsubstantiated medical grounds. Even a person with a documented long-term illness cannot necessarily receive a disability pension. The impairment needs to meet a large number of criteria which impact on the capacity to find work and hold a job. The disability is usually permanent with little or no chance of recovery, therefore preventing the person from being employed.
In my previous article on the subject (gerowynhanson.wordpress.com, 30-07-13), I pointed out that the psychological and/or physical conditions of certain disabilities can deem a person an “unreliable” employee, and I was at pains to explain that “unreliable” is NOT synonymous with “irresponsible”.
Of course, many of us know of someone with a disability who does have employment, so this example only exacerbates the plight of those with invisible disabilities. Herein lies part of the sick mind-set of our society.
Large “L” Liberal philosophy (as opposed to small “l” liberalism) was born out of the murkiness of the Industrial Age when the rising class of the bourgeoisie industrialists stripped the autonomy from the family-run cottage industries of yore. Part of the large “L” philosophy espoused the rights of the individual to succeed in business without hindrance from others, including governments. The sociopathology of Liberalism promulgated that such an individual could rise to the great heights of monetary success by harnessing the usefulness of others, i.e. the working masses. People were assessed from the point of view of: how can I make use of this person? By the same token, the barons of industry claimed to be providing their workers with a sense of worth by making them useful citizens. The lack of humanity in this attitude reduced the individual to a commodity. It stripped the employee of his or her individuality as they ended up as nothing more than a cog in the machinery propping up the wealthy industrialists.
This philosophy still survives today by brain-washing citizens into thinking that unless they are gainfully employed, they have no worth and no usefulness in our society. It is this twisted extension of Liberal thought which causes people to make sweeping judgements on those with invisible disabilities.
The finger pointing levelled at my friend is not really about her, but rather about the ignorance of her accusers. A more humanitarian philosophy which emerged during the Great Depression of 1930’s led to the provision of social welfare for the sick, elderly and unemployed where there was a genuine need. My friend does not need to hang her head in shame. She can, rather, be thankful that in spite of the sociopathic Liberal underpinnings of her brain-washed accusers, there are enough citizens out there who want to have the safety net of social security in place for people like her who fall through the cracks of societal expectations.