Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Midweek, sitting in my pyjamas, watching (the rather execrable) Big Brother on television and waiting for inspiration to strike. The inmates are dressed in Hawaiian shirts having one of their theme dinners and someone is calling out questions from a sheet; "What song could you listen to over and over and over again". Camera pans to various inmates who sincerely name their faves "Here comes the sun"... "The Prayer. Reminds me of me mum"... and so on.

The reason I'm actually paying attention is that I've lost interest in Twitter tonight, which is twitching with outrage at the suggestion by the recently departed Cory Bernardi that the gay marriage issue will open the floodgates to other minority groups wanting equal marriage; namely polyamourists and bestialists. (Is that how you spell it? I'm reluctant to consult the Great God Google for obvious reasons...).  (Ok ok - it's zoophilia. I'm such a pedant I just couldn't proceed until I knew. So I searched and now we know).

Normally I'd just have a bit of a chuckle about this but I'm feeling a bit perplexed. Normally I'd think that people with liberal values are more evolved than conservatives but tonight I wonder. Twitter was aglow with indignation at Bernardi's comments, cheering at his resignation and rubbing it in his face. If I didn't know the context, I'd think they were nutjobs.

Bernardi is saying that it's just a matter of time before the polyamourists start clamouring for the same rights. I have no trouble agreeing with this. Of course they will. Why wouldn't they? Parts of the world have accepted polygamy for millenia. It's not as if it's a new lifestyle choice, apart from the recent development that women can love as freely as men. If enough polyamourists want to take this step they will try to get it legalised. Just like pot smokers, people who want to walk dogs on beaches and anyone else who wants to have a crack at doing what they enjoy.

The zoophilia thing is likely to be tried sooner or later as well. This wouldn't be *because* of the gay marriage debate, it would just be a group of opportunists trying to push their barrow, just like always.  In my lifetime I've seen so much shift that I have no trouble believing that this group may even succeed, especially in this era where "experts" on just about anything abound and critical reasoning or informed public debate is almost non-existent.

So I wouldn't "blame" gay marriage for this; if anything I would blame the Internet. After all, if there's anything that desensitises us to things that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, it's the Internet. Youtube alone is full of content that I can't even bear to think about let alone watch, including material that once upon a time would have been called snuff and was most definitely illegal.

My personal thoughts on gay marriage are that it's really none of my business however if it comes down to voting on it I'd happily vote "yes".

But it's not gay marriage I'm interested in tonight. (I can't believe anyone is interested in gay marriage other than gay people who want to marry, frankly). I'm more concerned about the lack of discourse in public life; the overreaction/outrage when someone expresses an opinion that's in contrast to one's own; the failure to engage with those opinions and explore the issues at a more deep level.

The housemates on Big Brother are moronic. They have all day, all week, more than a month now to get to know each other, get past the personas, think of things to talk about yet they need scripted parlour games at dinner time in order to have something to talk about. Watching them converse is like being in the waiting room at the end of the world. Not one interesting idea, not one thought that is worth pursuing, no apparent big questions or small intimacies (other than the inevitable clumsy stumblings in the dark while the infrared cameras roll). It's like watching monkeys at the zoo only not nearly as interesting.

I'd rather spend time with people who I utterly disagree with, who can explain their ideas and engage in debate, than any person who has similar views to mine but cannot defend or challenge them. It really bothers me that even "liberal minded" people seem willing to force others to censor their opinions at the same time they expect others to accommodate theirs. Both groups are disinclined to engage or enter a genuine dialogue and we're all the poorer for it.

The final thought I'll add is that there's a "teachable moment" here that has been missed; always gets missed. Unlike the older, more experienced and more cynical politicians who are running loose in public life in Australia at the moment, Bernardi is sincerely confused. Sincerely doesn't think straight. Speaks from a position of emotion and reactivity and, in fact, represents the views of lots of people who are confused and concerned at the complexity of the world around them. Wouldn't it be much more constructive for us all to engage in some genuine discussions and debates around this stuff? Explore the issues? Help people work their way through a process where they can find and defend their opinions?

Nope. Thought not.

Images:  Nuria Fatych

(Just heard the announcement that the proposal to legalise gay marriage in Australia has been defeated in Parliament. For now.)

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