I don’t know arseholes but I know what I like…

Dear All,

I have ranted about the Tony Abbott page on facebook and how it constantly appears in my newsfeed telling me that the same five friends liked it “a few seconds ago” and I am pretty sure I indicated that this is misleading and highly suspect.

However, imagine my surprise today when a mate sent a screen capture of my newsfeed with Tony Abbott’s page at the top saying “David Callan likes Tony Abbott”. My friend’s post was tagged “Am I really seeing this?!”.

I thought it was a joke. I thought someone may have Photoshopped it to get a rise out of me, which is a lot of effort to go to really, but some people are dedicated to the art of practical humour.

But lo and behold, it was true: David Callan likes Tony Abbott. When I checked my Likes page it turns out that I did in fact “like” Tony Abbott. Just so you know, I’ve never visited the page and I think from previous scratchings my political leanings are reasonably clear. However, when I went to unlike it, I couldn’t. It just stayed as it was, with me liking someone I have very little respect or time for. I have sent the request to facebook to unlike it and have reported the page as “spam or scam”. Will it make any difference? We shall see but somehow I rather doubt it.

Admittedly, this is a first world problem of minuscule proportions. However it does highlight the sorry state of political discourse in this country and the control not only mainstream but also social media has in the current political debate.

Essentially, my meager on-line presence has been dragooned into supporting, or at least approving of someone I am not in the least bit inclined to. And that pisses me off for the simple reason that my political opinion is MINE: to express, to bombast, to post, blog and tweet and generally aggravate people who just wish I would shut up. It has been formed by influences throughout my life but it is one of the few things I can truly call my own. It is precious. It is a tiny voice but it is mine none-the-less and I am in high dudgeon at its being usurped.

So, for the record:

I am a pragmatic social democrat with a leaning towards Keynesian economics and great skepticism about the Freidman model.

I believe we should pay for Carbon pollution and support green energy. If simply for the reason that fossil fuels are finite.

I think global warming is real and must be addressed by this generation or we will have little or nothing to pass on to those who come after us. I am of the firm opinion that those most opposed to reversing the effects of climate change are those that stand to lose the most financially.

I think the asylum seeker issue will only be, at best, assuaged with regional solutions and can only be solved with global action. Three word slogans won’t make a scrap of difference and anyone who keeps spouting them is an A-grade idiot. These are people who have endured incredible trauma and hardship in their homelands and are desperate to get to a place that promises much in the way of freedom and opportunity. To demonise  them and then attempt to portray Australia as an even worse destination than they one they escaped from is as heartless and cruel as the despotic regime and war-torn hellholes they are fleeing. Hardline is hard-hearted and we stand to lose much of our beloved national identity if we pursue this path.

I’m all for mining as long as it is clean, reasonable, not rapacious, does not cancel the rights of landowners and the profits from the resources that belong to the nation are shared with the nation.

I am for paid parental leave that is equitable for all and doesn’t advantage those already advantaged with privileged lives.

I am for educating all our children as best we can because when I’m old and in my dotage I don’t want the country being run by idiots… well, being run by even bigger idiots than we have now and are faced with in the near future.

I believe in marriage equality. It is a social not a religious  contract and anyone who thinks that two boys or two girls marrying will in some way ruin the “institution of marriage” needs to grow up.

I am for building infrastructure that works and has longevity. I do not believe that cheaper and quicker is better because you generally wind up with something that is so substandard that it is obsolete before it comes on line. Yes, I’m talking about broadband. And yes, I firmly believe that the only reason Rupert Murdoch and News Ltd are so trenchantly opposed to a Labor government is because of the financial hit Fox would take if we had access to internet TV.

I am for engaging the electorate with a clear and considered vision and anyone who thinks truly engaging the electorate is selfies with school kids and trite platitudes and petty catchphrases is a narcissistic twerp. Equally, anyone who says “Trust me” but doesn’t trust us enough to tell us how and what he intends is just the political equivalent of a used car salesman trying to convince me that the rusty Volkswagen Passat in the back corner of the yard is an absolute deal.

I am for elections that are about political parties presenting their agendas for running the country, including how they intend to do it and how they intend to pay for it. To treat the democratic process as a shell game of empty promises or fair ground for unrelenting character assassination diminishes the process and shows a disturbing lack of respect for the people you are asking to vote for you.

I think Julia Gillard was one of the most visionary leaders this country has had in decades, was the victim of an orchestrated smear campaign from within and without her party, and will be regarded by history as one of the greats.

I don’t like Tony Abbott. He is an empty suit cut from the cloth of political opportunism and unconscionable hypocrisy.

I don’t like Kevin Rudd. He is a bloated school uniform that is dragging his party and the body politic into the mire just to satisfy his own egomaniacal whims.

I loathe party politics. The saddest day in recent Australian politics was the day Tony Windsor left Parliament. He was a man of considerable savvy and great integrity and I believe that anyone interested in entering politics would do well to follow his example.

And I am seriously concerned at the state of political discourse and our right to express it in this country.

There. My political hat is in the ring, for good or for ill.

One week to go, people… one week to go.

“Like” if you hate people who ask you to “Like” …

Dear Facebook friends,

Please stop asking me to “share” or “like” things that you think are important. Don’t get me wrong. I think that whatever cause you have adopted is important. I just don’t think that appealing to my overburdened sense of guilt is the way to get me enthused by it.

Yes, I have a mother, I have a wife, my Father’s discipline while seemingly unfair at the time helped shape the person I am today, I know a nurse, I think my uncle is great, I hope the people I know that are fighting cancer don’t die of it, I think trees are a good idea, I am grateful for the teachers I had and those that teach my children now, I appreciate that there are people less or more fortunate than me and I accept that my life would be immeasurably poorer if I was an only child and that my brothers, while terribly annoying, are pretty good to have around. I even like my sisters-in-law who, while demonstrably loopy, are pretty cool ladies. Christ! They have to be to put up with a tool like me as their sister’s husband!
But sticking a notice on facebook for us to “like” doesn’t solve the problems of world hunger, wage inequity or environmental or societal degradation. It is merely a feel-good gesture to assuage our own guilt at not having gotten off our arses and taken steps to make the world a better place. This is emotional blackmail, not a meaningful undertaking.

Why not try this …

If you were to post:
“If your parents loved you unconditionally and worked their arses off to give a better life, don’t “like” this post. Call them and say thanks and, when you next have the opportunity, take them to dinner”; I would do it. Of course, I could “like” it in the hopes that my parents would see it and know that I am a loving and appreciative son, but my father loathes Facebook and while my mother is my Facebook friend, she assiduously avoids looking at anything I post because she finds it “a little too politcally diatribey” for her taste. Very shrewd woman my Mum. And for those very reasons, I am taking them to dinner when they’re next in Sydney.

If you were to post a meme with a picture of a flower and the words:
“Let’s all agree that nurses have a shit time of it. Put yourself in their shoes: How would you like to come home covered in sick people’s bodily-fluids?
You wouldn’t. So do something about helping them help you by being polite to them. They get it, you’re sick … but EVERYONE they spend their day with is sick so stop being an arsehole about it and remember your manners.
And while your at it ring your local member and ask them what they’re doing about wage disparity in the healthcare industry”, I am quite certain that I would take it into consideration. Would I ring Malcolm Turnbull? Probably not because he is well aware of my existence and as such screens my calls (and Tanya Plibersek would just put on that “What-now?” tone she has perfected). But at least I wouldn’t bitch at the poor, over-worked, underpaid nurse that has to prep me for my colonoscopy. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t complain to that nurse at all because she’s holding all the Aces.

I would also wonder what the fuck the flower means.

If you were to post:
“Your child is an arsehole because of YOU … not his or her teacher so shut the Hell up and help the kid with their homework for a change”; I would most likely read my son’s project on the Storming of the Beaches of Normandy and show him why Wikipedia is so unreliable as a single source … in fact, I did just that and I learned some things I didn’t know … mainly that my nine-year-old is a master manipulator who somehow managed to get me to write his assignment.

What I am trying to say in my indisputably long-winded way is that getting me to “like” or “share” your cause does very little if nothing to advance it. Sure, you get to count the likes and shares which makes you feel good, but does it solve the problem? Hardly!

“Like” is the mouse-click equivalent of “I know … but what can I do?”

Facebook has shown itself to be a powerful tool for uniting and motivating groups of people but “liking” and “sharing” just doesn’t cut it. During the Arab Spring, if protesters had posted:
“Like if you think Hosni Mubarrak is an unconscionable bastard”; the unconscionable bastard would still be in power. Instead they posted: “5am. Tahrir Square. That fat SOB won’t know what hit him! ROFLMAO ;)” and completely changed their country.

So the next time you want to effect change, I mean real change, don’t ask me to “like” or “share”, tell me to get off my lazy arse and make a difference.

It is attitudes and not platitudes that bring about change.

Do not like or share if you agree. Instead call your favourite charity and pledge ten bucks.

David Callan

13th May 2013

A letter to the Daily Telegraph

A letter to the Daily Telegraph

Dear Daily Telegraph,

Well, thanks for that. If my voting preference depended on how well the leader of a political party got on with his own children, this would be solid information I could take to the polling booth in September, safe in the knowledge that the Leader of the Opposition is liked and loved by his offspring.

Unfortunately, I like a little more information about potential leaders. I know I’m being fickle but I tend to like to know what they intend doing while in office. It’s called “policy” in case you haven’t heard of it and from your coverage of the Leader of the Opposition I can only assume you haven’t or you don’t find it all that important. Yes, what they intend to do with the country when they get control of it says a lot about who the candidate is and what their plans are.

Unless of course you get a glowing endorsement from a candidate’s family. Who cares about all that boring and stuffy economic policy twaddle? Obviously not you guys at the Tele because you don’t seem to interested in uncovering what the Opposition Leader’s policies are. Your disinterest can only be matched by that of the Member for Warringah who seems to be a complete cypher on the subject.

Then again, he’s hardly been given the chance to tell us what his policy is. He can’t seem to land an interview with anyone and when he does the interviewer focusses on his personal life and not his political one. Like his appearance on 60 Minutes with Liz Hayes: I’m sure he was completely frustrated that he wasn’t given the chance to defend himself from the rumours that he was instrumental, along with Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and Mal Brough in the pursuit of Peter Slipper in what the court has since described as a nuisance sexual harassment case. But the subject wasn’t raised by Liz who was only interested in the far more important issue: Does your family like you?
Of course, Mr Abbot was fully aware of Mr Slipper’s multiple malfeasance, considering he had covered them up until Mr Slipper had up and turned traitor but this is by-and-large irrelevant because Mr Abbot’s daughters like his new haircut.

And this is the important thing in this election cycle: Tony Abbott has women in his corner; women who think he’s a bit of a dag and not at all a misogynist. I’m sure that if the Leader of the Opposition’s daughters can overlook statements like:
“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons …”
he’s got to be a good bloke.
So imagine my relief at knowing that a failed Catholic priest-turned political bovver boy has a family that loves him … because, in the end, that’s what’s important … well, important to you.

For the rest of us, those people that are concerned that the Houses of Parliament are about to be handed over to a political opportunist with little or no regard to facts when it comes to political point-scoring, we’ll be looking at more than what shade of blue the Opposition Leader’s tie is. His daughters and you may think that this is important for him to focus on if he wants to be Prime Minister but some of us are after something more substantial …
In an alternative Prime Minister and in journalism.

David Callan
2 April 2013

A letter to Tony, October 2012

Dear Tony,

Really? REALLY?!

Admit it. Either you have a serious impulse control problem or your speechwriter and political strategists are certified idiots!

A smart politician would have gone for Peter Slipper and left it at that. Your God knows there was enough material there to work with. You could have let your righteous indignation off the chain and no-one could have blamed you. We ALL know what a complete dropkick Slipper is (Pun not intended). And we all know how long you guys covered his arse before Labor took him off your hands. Given the single vote that saw the motion dismissed, you might have had a different result. As it turns out, Slipper jumped ship anyway. And good riddance to bad rubbish, I say!

In all honesty, I’m with you on the Slipper issue. His elevation to the Speaker’s Chair has to be one of the most insanely ill-advised pieces of political chicanery in the history of Federation. To take a liability from the Opposition with all his baggage – baggage that that same Opposition is well aware of – is the political equivalent of crossing a minefield on a pogo stick: you look ridiculous and everyone knows it’s going to end badly. I’m sure you must have needed to change your underwear when you heard he was defecting.

Today it should have been a lay-down Misere: state your case and let the humiliation of his texts do the rest. You had this in the bag!

But you couldn’t help yourself, could you?

You just couldn’t resist sinking in the slipper while trying to sink the Slipper. (Awkward pun most definitely intended.)

Alan Jones’ shameful remark outraged the Nation – even you admitted that it was “completely out of line” – and yet you insisted in bringing it onto the floor of Parliament. I getting the sense that you were one of those kids that always had bloody knees, because you couldn’t resist picking at scabs.

Did you really think that the Prime Minister would sit there with her head bowed in contrition?

A bitter, mean-spirited media blowhard publicly and viciously smeared the memory of the Prime Minister’s recently deceased father, made a lip-service apology with no real regret except for his own embarrassment at all and then cried foul at HIS treatment at the hands the very person he had so heinously insulted because she had the good sense to not take his call. I think the PM should be applauded for not speaking to him on the phone because it was a lose-lose situation for her. Jones almost certainly would have recorded the call and had the PM accepted the apology with grace he could’ve slapped himself on the back and shown his listeners what a true gentleman he purports himself to be. Had the PM ripped into him he could have shown his listeners that he was right and PM is indeed “a bitch”. Julia Gillard had the nouse to leave Alan Jones with no oxygen by not engaging thus denying him an easy out. She must have been tempted, just to speak her mind but there would be no way she could win that battle. She wouldn’t have been on home turf.

And then you … brawling, blustering, bullying you gave her the chance. You laid it all out in front of her on the Despatch Box and sat down with that self-satisfied smirk.

To paraphrase the writer David Mamet: Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight.

I am gob smacked that you didn’t expect her reaction. Maybe you did. Maybe you thought she would simply lose her nerve and crumble. Maybe you were hoping that she would lose control and abuse you and Alan and embarrass herself. If that is true … Wow! For a guy who lives with four women, you really don’t know women. You most certainly underestimated this one.

She was ready for you. You waved your pathetic little penknife of Shame in her face and she took it off you and shoved a sawn-off shotgun loaded with all the slights and bile that you have directed at her right down your throat. Seriously, I winced more than once and kudos to you for not wetting yourself. That Mace could do a lot of damage. Still, you always could have relied on your Deputy to step in.

Funnily enough, I have about as much respect for the PM’s speechwriter as I have for yours. Both of you make speeches that are fecund with tired rhetoric and bland clichés, the public speaking equivalent of beige.

However, I’m a big fan of the PM at Question time. She is a force to be reckoned with on the floor of the House. She’s smart, she’s sharp and she takes no prisoners and you in your smarmy, condescending, rugger-bugger way forgot that.

Here is something you should know about women, Tony:

You go after a woman’s family at your peril.

Today you revealed yourself to be the politician you truly are: a brutish hack that is all about political point scoring. You may have graduated from university, but you never really graduated from university politics. You’re obviously a smart man, but that doesn’t make you a wise man and that truly is your tragic flaw.

But you are right. Someone should feel shame. You. You should hang your head in shame at plumbing a new low.

And we should feel shame too: Shame at the very real prospect that you, in all likelihood, will be our next leader.

You’re not a leader of a nation, Tony Abbot. You’re a leader of a gang.

There’s more to leading than dishing out and taking blows.

There is knowing the best way to win some fights is not to get into them.

My advice is: Arnica for the bruises.

And try not to pick at the scabs.


David Callan

Tuesday 9th October 2012