Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Gay Marriage - The next step in equality

In 100 years (or 50 years even) future generations will look back on the fight for homosexuals to have the right to marriage and wonder what all the fuss was about. We look back on slavery and limited rights for women and people of colour as shocking by today's standards. Same-sex marriage will be in the same league.

There are many arguments against same-sex marriage. Many say that the definition of marriage is 'between and man and a woman' and that it shouldn't be changed. Before the general acceptance of homosexuals in our society, that may have made sense, however times change as our society matures. These are simply words and these should not be an unbreakable barrier between inequality and equality.

Why not just allow civil unions? Because that is not equality. Separating the unions of hetero and homosexual couples is segregation. By that logic, maybe the gays shouldn't have first rights to seats on the bus either? Besides,"Will you civil union me?" doesn't have the same zing.

Won't someone please think of the children?! Ah yes. The purpose of marriage is to provide a stable upbringing for children and children need a mother and a father, etc, etc. Although I agree that male and female role models are important for children of both genders, exposure to these role models need not lie solely for the parents of the children. Many kids grow up in single parent households and become healthy, well-rounded adults.

But some arguments take it to another disturbing level. Recently, columnist Miranda Devine rather craftily criticised gay Senator Penny Wong and her partner's decision to have a child by indirectly blaming the London riots on the 'fatherless society' of young people leading to struggling, single-parent, misguided youths.
"Marriage is not just a private relationship: it is a social good. Collectively, the erosion of the institution of marriage, and the relegating of fathers to the sidelines, is destructive to society".
As if trying to lift the argument to higher levels of insanity, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said that his four daughters would be affected if same-sex marriage was allowed.
"We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband, and I want that to happen for them. I don't want any legislator to take that right away from me".
Ok Barney. If I was one of your daughters, I would be blushing immensely at that comment. First you think that they need a strong secure husband for protection, and second, you believe that it is your right that your daughters get married. Off with the min mins again I see.

In the end, legalising same-sex marriage shouldn't be an issue for anyone other than homosexual couples. No one owns the concept of marriage. And in no way will it diminish the rights or symbolism that marriage has for other couples. If people believe it will lessen the specialness of marriage for themselves and their partner, then they need to take a hard look at what is most important in their lives. The exclusivity of marriage or their marriage itself.

It makes you wonder, that in a first-world country like Australia, which appears to be socially-progressive, multicultural and tolerant of others, has such trouble in this step towards greater equality. We are all human and are just trying to live our lives as happily as we can. If it doesn't harm anyone else, what's the problem? Just because it is, doesn't mean that it should be.

Live and let live.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sydney Icons

Sometimes I forget and take for granted the stunning icons we have in Australia.  The simple things that make you feel like you're home. The smell of eucalyptus, warm westerly winds and cold meats and salads at Christmas. Or for me recently, enjoying the newly warm weather on Sydney Harbour and having lunch at a pub overlooking Manly beach.

When I go to Sydney I don't really take much notice of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Opera House, but this time when viewing it from the Manly Ferry, it took on a new perspective. From Circular Quay we changed ferries to the Darling Harbour service. Here are some photos of the icons we passed on the way:

Sydney Opera House

Luna Park

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House from Darling Harbour

Here is a video of The Ship Song Project, which highlights the Sydney Opera House as a musical, art and cultural hub for Australia. Apologies to the non-Australians who may not recognise the iconic artists in this video. Still, it's beautiful to listen to:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Gift-giving dilemmas

When did something that is meant to feel good and charitable become a mind-bending nightmare? Who? How much? When? And what is appropriate? It's such a first world problem, but one we face throughout most of the year. Some thoughts on the perils of modern gift-giving:

The abundance of gift-giving events - Seriously. We have created so many celebratory events that seem to have gifts tied to them. I blame Hallmark. All they have to do is create a new card range recognising some non-event which then ties the possibility of adding a gift for good measure. Or maybe it's our desire for attention that creates these new events in our lives? Standard gift-giving events include birthdays, cultural holidays, weddings and babies. Branching out of these are new 'events' that some believe involve the need for gifts:
      • engagements
      • bridal showers
      • bridal kitchen tea (what on earth is this?)
      • hen's parties
      • house warmings
      • anniversaries
      • graduation
      • new job
      • retirement
      • Valentine's day
      • Mother's/Father's day

Cash please - I realise that these days a lot of people have lived with each for a long time before engagements and marriage and will often request money instead of gifts for these occasions. This annoys me. Probably because I'm the type of person that puts a lot of thought into gifts and giving cash just lowers me to the level of people that don't bother thinking at all. Cash in a card makes me think that it's a cash-prize for being clever enough to throw yourself a party. It's impersonal and people will judge your friendship and generosity on the amount you contribute.

How far does gift-giving extend? - A few years ago when I moved out of my parents home and Christmas came along, I grappled with the dilemma of who would be included on my gift-giving list. Immediate family was a given, but what about aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents, work colleagues and friends? In the end I added a couple of friends and grandparents into the mix. Any further and the occasion would have been unbelievably expensive.

Not opening gifts in the presence of the giver - I show up at a party. Fair enough, there's a lot of people there to talk to, but guests (like myself) that spend time thinking about the perfect gift don't appreciate it when there is a gift table and nothing gets looked at while guests are there. In buying the gift, I think about the surprised and happy look on your face as the gift is opened. This is doubly annoying when there's no recognition down the road like "Oh, thanks for that book. You know I looked everywhere for that title". You would think that I would get the same response (ie: none) if I brought nothing, but I doubt it. It would be noticed and I'd be labelled as a non-gift giver.

Anyone else have their own gift-giving peeves to share?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Save Us From Ourselves

This is a great example of when common sense is replaced by moronic politics and bureaucracy. For those unaware of this situation, look at the photo above and try and guess what has prompted the need for this 'safety' fence. Uneven ground? A car accident? A bomb threat? No! It's the trees lining the street.

Over the last couple of years (yes, years) there has been ongoing debate in Newcastle, New South Wales, about the removal of these fig trees due to their apparent unsafe nature (trees drop leaves, you know). Council's public insurance won't cover potential injuries or deaths resulting in tree failure and, therefore, they have decided that the trees need to go.

The local people want them to stay. They provide natural scenery, shade and a beautiful green archway along a significantly cultural street in Newcastle. And according to historic photos (see below), the figs have grown with the development of the area. They are essentially part of the heritage of the precinct.

Laman Street figs circa 1930s

Laman Street figs circa 1950s

Laman Street figs circa 1970s

Laman Street figs today

The figs have been identified as potentially dangerous in high winds (like any large tree, I suppose) and I understand the need to warn people of these dangers. Why not put signs up? "Dangerous in high winds. Enter at your own risk". There! Now it's up to the people to decide. 

Council - don't patronise the public by fencing off the area like we're toddlers. Stop saving us from ourselves. 

These figs are some of the last remaining stands of mature greenery in the Newcastle CBD. Figs have extensive root systems which allow them to stand for hundreds of years, even in urban spaces. Despite the many storms and high winds over the last few years, the trees have managed to stand without harming anyone. However, by council's logic, maybe they should go around and tear down every old tree within a dripline of a suburban building? 

I'm not trying to push some hippy agenda here. By all means, tear down trees that pose a threat, but I don't believe these ones do. We should be hanging onto any natural environment we can in our urban areas. The figs have developed such a beautiful and iconic corridor in the Newcastle CBD. It will be tremendously sad to see them go.

More photos:

Council will meet next week for a final vote on the fate of the figs. Will common sense prevail? Or will financial concerns and politics get in the way? 

I'm not holding my breath . . . .