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Wednesday, 3 August 2005
New travel blog
Now Playing: The Waifs "Shelter Me"
Hey people

My current blog (late July until Feb 2006) is here: A.

Thursday, 21 July 2005
Howard's & Libs language
I have noticed a distinct change in the language of Liberal party politicians over the last few months, to using more 'feeling' words, and affirming people.

PM in London

PM in london 2

These two similar examples show Howard sympathising with the people, and downplaying ANY technical/ political questions, sticking to the domestic.

BTW, I scored 21 415 on tetris.

Posted by anneenna at 6:19 PM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 21 July 2005 6:24 PM NZT
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still in Sydney
Now Playing: Mosh (Eminem)
So i'm still around- having had passport problems at the airport when I tried to leave on Tuesday...which was totally demoralising- having customs confiscate a passport that I thought was valid (the passports office had said they reactivated it). But all that is sorted now- except I have to get another US visa- A TOTAL HASSLE usually- but they've been nice and fast-tracked my appointment for tomorrow. I actually CANNOT believe how confusing all this bureaucracy is. I am a highly educated person, and yet I don't get it at all- e.g. the US Visa waiver program-It's almost as if they (esp the US consulate) deliberately confuse people to get a power trip or something. Even on their FAQ's pages, the US consulate do not make it totally clear that you need a US visa if staying in NORTH AMERICA for more than 90 days. (it would be good to do a study on bureaucracies and their interactions with less- educated people).

It's weird having no obligations and waiting around until I leave on Tuesday 26th. I have been playing tetris on the internet- I was deprived of playing this as a child- so now I am addicted. My top score last night was 7609. The score totally varies according to how alert I am. (I just went and played again for a few hours and more than doubled my score to 15,722). I guess I am just imagining being on the plane and paying such games- and hence wasting my time here. Anyway will post more later.

Posted by anneenna at 5:36 PM NZT
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Wednesday, 6 July 2005
In Melbourne
Mood:  spacey
I'm in a Melbourne internet cafe. A little Korean place with Korean TV and bubble tea. For some reason the woman at the desk allocated me the computer at the far corner- the total opposite end of the cafe to the few other people there...

[ps just sorted out visa dramas] anyway...

Just wrote an email to Vanessa that I will reproduce some of it here:


anyway... sorry I wrote a lot here... I think you should say 'deregulating' rather than 'opening up' markets... Question: > 1. you once said to me you don't like us using >the term 'open up' when talking about markets etc. >because that is the term corporations use - what >is a better way of putting it? (i actually kind of >think it has negative connotations so i don't mind >it, but you probably have a good explanation which >i would agree with... i'm just too lazy to think >of it myself) On 'opening up' markets...I would prob need to chat to you about it - because it depends on the situation and I am also not 100% clear on it. This is partly because of the wishy washyness of the concept (I just don't think you can categorise many different economic policies under the banner of 'freeing/opening up markets'. I don't see a definite common thread. Hence I believe 'free trade' as a concept when disconnected from the historical context of Adam Smith, Ricardo etc. is problematic.(I am open to peoples' disagreement with me here) Hey I'll take this answering process as a way of clarifying it for myself- sorry if I make it too simple I'm just trying to tease out the different aspects. I think the word 'free trade is similar to 'development' because it is a normative word assuming a universal beneficiary when more often than not it is a euphemism for 'corporate dominance'. However at the same time it is seen as a 'principle' that different geopolitical players share as a 'common value' (and hence the consensus process of the WTO- consensus often works from a starting pt of common values). I think it is a common belief in the worth of export-oriented development. 'Free trade' is always constructed as a clear ideal that exists in a binary opposition to 'protectionism'. However I don't find this binary useful to explain reality or to recommend proposals. There are too many unanswered questions. I think it is fine when applied in a particular domain of economics where the 'players' are equal, and where there will not be inefficiency created through unnecessary exports. However I don't find it so ideal in other situations. I think 'free trade' viewed as a 'principle' can only be a justifying discourse for simplistic (and hence destructive) policies. For example, viewing environmental regulations as 'barriers to free trade' when in reality environmental protection is necessary for the future of any economic activity, since human production is dependent on natural production. Re: 'Opening up': In practice, many 'free trade' policies of the WTO strategically favour particular corporations who write their 'wish lists', and their home countries often lobby for their requests- (eg US pharmaceutical giants lobbied for Aust's PBS to be dismantled). So that does not seem like changes to 'open up ' a level playing field but rather a coercive form of corporate protectionism, that will benefit pre-determined players. Such policies clearly advantage companies with massive offshore supply chains that source goods at rock-bottom prices/ wages. When trade policies are too simplistic, they only reward companies for sourcing goods cheaply and maximising profit. This is supposedly 'economic efficiency' (based on a narrow view of what is economic). However, there are other ideas of efficiency (eg an engineers view, in minimising resources used. Doug Henwood wrote about this in the book"After the New Economy"). Also there are many other reasons why a company/ coop should be rewarded in our economy, eg by being environmentally sustainable. How could such operations be rewarded in a money-based economy other than through some kinds of government intervention (eg penalties for polluting companies or subsidies for new solar businesses)?.

The reason why I don't like the phrase 'open up' to describe free trade is because it is a visual image that fits into the bigger metaphor of 'freedom' associated with neoliberal policies. (I discussed this issue of 'freedom' in a comment on that I will reproduce below.)[Also if you want to read more about influential political metaphors, Lakoff's 'Don't Think of an elephant' is a good start]

It's true that 'opening up' can have neg connotations [eg 'opening up' a can of worms or a pandoras box] but the kind of 'opening' that the phrase usually refers to is an opening of restrictions that have previously restrained 'innovation', 'economic growth', 'market dynamism', etc. It also implies greater transparency and democracy (as in the metaphor 'opening up' windows). [even this is misleading since democracy as you know does not 'naturally' arise out of the market- it actually requires eternal vigilance]

Note that all these words suggest neutrality- and an abstract force without any beneficiaries or agents behind it. The implication is that EVERYONE is freed from these 'restrictions'. This is extremely misleading. We need to ask 'freedom for whom? to do what? 'Innovation of what? economic growth of GDP or local production? transparency for whom? (shareholders or employees?)

Every abstract word must be placed in a context. Without doing that it is meaningless and potentially manipulative. Metaphors (such as the level playing field) too are potentially manipulative, because they substitute a fairy tale (which may be partially accurate) for evidence. They construct the way we think about reality. Every time we use a conventional metaphor we are playing into a socially established framework that usually reflects certain unquestioned ideologies.

(I have got this from philosophy- in phenomenology they say that you cannot just 'have consciousness' full stop. That wouldn't make sense. It has to be consciousness OF something- of an object, - if you didnt want to specify I guess you could say consciousness in general......In the same way I was thinking about this the other night when I was having a beer with Matt S and some others and he commented that I am "self-motivated". However what does that mean? I thought afterwards "self motivated about what?" that this does not make sense- I am only self-motivated in relation to a certain domain of activities. I am only motivated to do those activities that i see as important. I am not very motivated to go and get boring jobs although I have needed to. I am not motivated to go swimming every day with my sister).

Anyway thats enough for now... speak to you later



Comment on Vibewire (maybe I shouldn't have bothered cos this guy is really one of the economic rationalist faithful)

Hi Sukrit,

I'm wondering what you mean when you call yourself a libertarian-

because I am also a libertarian yet I am clearly of the left rather than the right.

I think the political compass is useful in this respect:

historically, the word 'libertarian' was associated with the Left- with those who favoured liberty (as well as equality and fraternity). I see freedom as the capacity to fulfil ones' potential, so I also believe that the 'sink or swim' mentality of many of the free market policies imposed on African countries (eg through World Bank structural adjustment programs etc) are antithetical to freedom for most people for whom the 'invisible hand' of the market becomes a coercive force in their lives.

Also, in response to your definition of a worker, yes that is a similar definition that most socialists/left libertarians have of the working class. The "ruling" class is only in reality very small- those people whose livelihoods do not depend on their own labour but on the performance of their assets. But even then, some of their actions do 'add value' to a company/ product. It is very hard to not do any creative labour at all.

I like to see class in terms of how much autonomy people have at their workplace. Employers have power-over to the extent that their employees are afraid of losing their jobs. So if you don't really care if you are fired, you probably have some other income stream or you have enough social capital/ education/ skills to make you employable. Those who are at the bottom end of the sloped bargaining table are those people who are in some way incapacitated in their ability to assert their rights. These are the people who are affected most dramatically by individual contracts. (such as those being imposed on universities as a condition of their extra funding by governments).

Finally, I am wondering how African nations can develop through free trade alone, if many African nations have specialised in commodities as their 'comparative advantages'. Commodity prices have gone into freefall over the last 30 years, esp the last 5 years (the commodity price of coffee has halved over 5 years). Export oriented agriculture has displaced local economies, leading to bizarre situations where countries are in famine whilst exporting mangoes to Europe (one year, The Ivory Coast producers dumped their mangoes in the sea, because the commodity price was too low, whilst their local people starved).

Surely all this calls for some way of ensuring fair wages for the people who produce such products, so that their lives aren't controlled by such uncertainty. This is what 'Fair trade' is about.

Anyway I could write much more but that's enough for now...

Posted by anneenna at 10:55 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2005 11:21 PM NZT
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Sunday, 12 June 2005
Oh no I'm procrastinating...

Just came back from a great housewarming in Leura (now is that where my weekend went?)

just wrote a response to a melbourne indymedia post about ecology: (probably pointless, but wanted an opp to explain ecology) see here

Also, there was just a lovely letter by a painter on Sydney Indymedia: see here.

Posted by anneenna at 10:30 PM NZT
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Thursday, 9 June 2005
Mood:  not sure
Now Playing: silence
[I was browsing on the web this arvo about peak oil, and came across an article on complexity. This analysed complexity in relation to energy and ecological economics- in a way that I had never seen before (although it was quite determinist).I am not so sure of its rigour (and hence legitimacy as an academic article)- but it got me thinking about complexity, which is a common theme in my thoughts today.]

Today, I had a real feeling of being overwhelmed by my obligations such as essays- its nearing the end of semester. I also was trying to work out how to convert high memory .wav sound files into manageable bits that I can email- for an urgent group assignment. I wasted HOURS on this and still didn't find an answer. By the end, I was really stressed out and upset, wishing these essays would disappear.

Then later in the day, we had our last Kant tutorial, talking about how Kant stayed in his town of birth all his life. We discussed how the insular lifestyle of academic contemplation for Kant may have helped with clarity- since he did not have much stimulus from the outside world, hence could focus on the relationship between the mind and the world. (perhaps with all the variables constant)

Our lives today, if anything, are overstimulated, without the space or the conceptual tools to process the stimulus into insight.

The further we understand things, the more there is a need for nuance- But nuance is more data if it is learnt in a data-oriented way. How do we accomodate nuance if our brains keep wanting to see patterns?

Well maybe nuance can become an ordinary part of perception if it is integrated into a VALUE SYSTEM. So instead of remembering patterns such as "Politicians behave according to a certain ideology EXCEPT when...",

We take on a value of believing in the basic human good intentions of people, and imagine the barriers to that becoming realised in real life.

Hence statements that say "Except when..." actually need further rethinking and further theorising; an adjustment of expectations, that is not necessarily academic, but possibly a decision to judge in a different way.

After my philosophy class, I was thinking a lot about the philosophy of teaching. I talked as we walked with my lecturer Jane, and my classmates Matt and Johnathan, talking about Rhetoric and Clarity.

There are two definitions of Rhetoric that are absolutely opposed in terms of their outcome:

1. Sophistry: e.g. Bertrand Russell's Rhetoric in delegitimising Kant was very successful in turning generations of Analytic Philosophers away from Kant. I believe that sophistry (skillful persuasive discourse, that isn't necessarily of any merit in terms of truth value) is EVERYWHERE in our society. How does one WADE through all this CRAP? Sophistry does not contribute anything to either the understanding OR the moral worth of a society.

2. Clarified communication: e.g. Habermas (actually perhaps it was Paul Ricoeur) believes that Rhetoric should be the discipline of clarification, in order that people are on the same wavelength, and hence genuine dialogue and understanding can become possible. [here] is one article I found on google on this. I think a good ref is Habermas, "Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action", p. 195. Habermas attempts "to reformulate Kant’s ethics by grounding moral norms in communication"[1]

Posted by anneenna at 11:35 PM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 12 June 2005 10:32 PM NZT
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Wednesday, 8 June 2005
political essentialism
Mood:  cool
I think it is really bad when in political conversations, people regard historical categories- such as 'right and left' and 'DLP Catholic Right' as set in stone, and innate as structures of objective existence (as colours are, or basic biological taxonomies).

This amounts to essentialism, ignoring the dynamic capacity of people- to constantly change and evaluate - to shift their allegiances in individual issues, according to their personal deliberations. It also positions the ideology as the primary agent, rather than the person (who uses the ideologies as tools to help to understand the world)

Whenever I hear a person at the SRC denigrate a person by saying "Her politics are all over the place", I prick up my ears and wonder who this amazing person could be: Either they are new to politics- in a 'state of nature' you could say- or extremely resilient to the conformist tendencies within politically conscious circles.

To analyse this statement, we would see that it uses the spatial metaphor of 'right and left'. It also uses the word 'politics' as an object that she owns- that perhaps is intrinsic to her character. Yet our politics are only related to our character to the extent that they are authentic translations of our values, backed up by our beliefs about the world. And how many people share the exact same values and beliefs about the world?

I am always concerned that political formations expect conformity- either informally or formally. Yet we cannot enforce conformity without making our own views a hegemony- enforced through either party discipline or peer-group pressure. I worry sometimes about 'party loyalty' that is so highly regarded within the ALP- because parties as a whole have NO CONSCIENCE hence no feedback mechanism to learn from.
I was surprised to hear Linda Burney (ALP indig woman MP) saying how important the value of party loyalty was to her- in a way that raised the hackles on my back- because I see party loyalty as such a defeat of agency, creativity and potential.

If we are to have a truly democratic culture, we wouldn't judge people on where they are on the political spectrum- if indeed they do fit anywhere.
And we wouldn't make assumptions about people according to outdated categories. Enforced conformity is always a defeat for the human potential, since communities are like ecosystems, and hence require diversity.

Posted by anneenna at 11:16 PM NZT
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Friday, 20 May 2005
dialogue day
Mood:  a-ok
A dialogue- where more was revealed about privilege indirectly than directly.

Today, I (and my "consultation" class group) held a dialogue at uni between students from different parts of Sydney. It was meant to be one based on divisions of class (projected spatially), however, the people who turned up were overwhelmingly middle class and generally not from the Western Suburbs. This pattern of attendance was very much a result of class barriers:

1.most people at Sydney Uni have class privilege.
2.those people who can spare time at uni (rather than having to go to work) are privileged in money.
3.those people who have the confidence to respond to such an invitation are privileged.
4.those people who are in my and other friends' social networks (from which we recruited most of the people) generally have educational privilege.

Most of the (more obviously working class people) from the Western Suburbs who I invited last week did NOT turn up. One Vietnamese-Australian guy from Cabramatta emailed me to say he had to work. His friend did not come either. All three of the homie guys I invited did not come. They were reluctant to come to Manning- they did not like the people there. Perhaps this was also because they were recruited randomly- they were not my friends hence felt no sense of obligation. The only Western-suburbs person who came was Danielle, who was quiet for most of the discussion.

So what happened today? I was quite frustrated by the poor quality of analysis and discussion that took place, and the general uniformity of the people who turned up. I guess generally dialogues attract articulate people. Also, the way that stereotypes were uncritically raised and laughed about, yet with no direct interrogation of the validity of those stereotypes. So... I need to work out what to do for next dialogue. I am thinking of doing a short film of interviews to show people as stimulus....

Anyway- driving and picking up my sister, I started thinking more about privilege. I would love to study privilege in a philosophical/ language/ economic way. What does it mean to 'have' privilege? What are some taxonomies of privilege that we can use? What about oppression? In what way is privilege 'good fortune' and in what way is it class, handed down the generations...?

Anyway- then Liz got me to come with her to Bikram Yoga, which was in a hot room (hatha). That is why I feel great whereas yesterday and the day before I was falling asleep all the time.


Posted by anneenna at 11:21 PM NZT
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Friday, 6 May 2005

So so much has passed since my last entry-

but I don't need to catalogue that- I'll just talk about the present moment.

My brother John is downstairs, on the computer- in a dark room, staring up at the bright screen. I come up behind him and ask him what he's doing- he tells me, "I'm loading iron ore into a furnace to make iron bars".

Among the many functions of a computer in absorbing the technical tasks of production, i never guessed that this stage of production would be one of them. (Though my bro is only in year 6 at school)

Posted by anneenna at 10:53 PM NZT
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Monday, 11 April 2005

we got 3 chickens yesterday (Sunday)... and one of them layed an egg today. It was nice and small and brown.

Rosie - my brother Thomas's dog -went crazy running after them, and so we barracaded her out of the backyard.

I took some photos. Here they are:

The chickens stayed in the undergrowth looking for grubs.

And here some are:

And heres a kookaburra- not facing me-

Posted by anneenna at 11:27 PM NZT
Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005 11:54 PM NZT
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