Saturday, 21 April 2018

Donald Trump’s Ascendancy in 2016

In an unattractive way, Donald Trump is brilliant. He may not have been an accomplished politician on his journey to Presidency, however broadly speaking, when he entered the Presidential contest he was already a consummately accomplished individual though not, as a career politician. Yet despite this and, a privileged personal history, he quite remarkably identified and zeroed in upon the discontent in middle America and, I would suggest quite by accident, how to get around the 240-electoral vote “Blue wall” that ran from Wisconsin to North Carolina. Metaphorically speaking, a barrier that has successfully encased a Democrat vote for the past six elections.

Consider, we had well over a dozen talented and more experienced candidates within the Republican camp and yet slowly, Trump lay them all to waste, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and more. This was no indolent process it was more dynamic. Over a year-long primary race they, and his Democrat rival in Hillary Clinton, could not match Trump’s better instincts about what troubled so many an American voter, the forgotten middle - the exception was Democrat Bernie Sanders but the Hillary camp took care of him before Trump could. It matters little that Trump’s modus operandi was ugly and most certainly cynical, it soon harboured its own momentum and, as the November 2016 election drew closer, it seeped into Trump and his camp, as if by osmosis, that they were gaining the upper hand. Incidentally, this was entirely missed by mainstream media from their lofty LA, New York and Washington pads. Thus, a very rich Manhattan resident felt the public angst more comprehensively than vanilla media, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, not to mention a talented pool of Republican wannabe’s, and in populist fashion, he courted them, made them feel good, he won them over, he became President.

In terms of extent, at the time of this writing Russia's influence on the election result remains is an unknown factor and, though still under investigation, I suspect it was noteworthy, but I am willing to bet that Trump would have achieved the feat anyway.

Quite nearly all politicians have a streak of anti-elitist tendencies, Donald Trump was by far the superior populist in 2016. I viewed his campaign as crude different yet effective because he chose to focus on three significant ideological issues of our epoch, illegal immigration, employment and trade and political correctness. He also pressed a hot button by questioning the extent of America's overseas interventions - foreign policy.

Looking at foreign policy, Trump’s simple message went something like this. Why invest resources in parts of the world where Americans are hated, while at home we’re stuck in low paid jobs and struggle to find work. “America First” resonated with a substantial portion of the populace who faced income disparity and rising inequality. He proposed several initiates including a re-negotiation of U.S. alliance terms with Japan, South Korea and NATO – he had not specifically named my homeland Australia, but was on the record saying that the U.S. had no interest in being in Asia militarily. Such pitches tapped into an emerging desire among Americans that their nation cannot and should not attempt to solve the world’s problems. Trump rejected the notion that the U.S. should act as global police, indeed Obama had a similar viewpoint, but Trump went much further by suggesting that the U.S. does not even need to be involved in enforcing international law & order in its present definition - incidentally, something he's forgotten since becoming President, think Syrian intervention following the gas attacks on its population. Trump also questioned nuclear non-proliferation, mutual self-defence treaties and overseas military bases.

Obama had demonstrated a degree of foreign policy separation but with alarming results. His lukewarm responses to regional issues left a security vacuum, and when that happens the “bad guys” are always there to fill the void. While America stuttered, Putin attacked the Ukraine and has since launched a reckless campaign in Syria, attacked Georgia and annexed Crimea. In this light, I was no fan of Trumps America first rhetoric but many an American obviously was.

With immigration Trump was also clever. He would often criticize elites knowing full well that he was one himself and it’s the elites who are least affected by illegal immigration's consequences on U.S. communities. First, he highlighted the pitfalls without holding back. Illegal immigration meant more “hit and run accidents, “crowded emergency hospital rooms", "social security offices”, “more drugs”, "more gang violence”, increased load on an already stretched education system etc. And with such loud pronouncements he opened a plethora of populist overtures that would transcend political affiliations and loyalties and, doing so, he tapped into the Democrat working class vote. Who would have thought so.

Moreover, Trump knew that's it’s not the well to do and elites who suffered most in competition for limited subsidies and entitlements due to illegal arrivals, rather it’s the lower middle classes and poor minorities who had to compete.

While the media and its cache of progressive disciples including Hillary Clinton and many Republicans shouted xenophobia and the like, Trump turned the discourse into a question of fairness and lawful equality. “Why” he would shout at his rallies, should select foreign nationals not be subject to federal laws while “you” (American citizens) are not permitted to pick and choose which laws to follow?

He also focused on employment by reminding would be voters that economic growth was weak and that labour non- participation was still very high and competition for jobs, intense. Thus, why was the U.S. allowing foreign nationals to compete in the workforce under illegal auspices whereas those who sought legal entry were not rendered the same rights and privileges?

It was generally thought that going hard on immigration would be political suicide ... 

And here is another pitfall made by Trump's detractors and the media. The broad consensus suggested that DT would fail due to any tough immigration stance because Latino’s, - those of Latin American origin who comprised a great many illegal immigrants in the first place, - were an emerging voting force to contend with. It was generally thought that going hard on immigration would be political suicide. But Latino communities were not totally uniform hence established Hispanics, Latinos whatever, were targeted by Trump and made to understand that it was they who suffered most due to the consequences of illegal immigration, and it worked for they agreed and many voted for him.

The full post coming soon ... 

© 2018 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Personality: Mine actually ...

Is it possible to choose a shape and have ones personality revealed according to the one chosen? I recently had a go at one online by being presented with nine shapes and choosing the one that most appealed to me. Each of the nine shapes supposedly represented a personality type. It's creators stand by their research and after having a go myself I have to admit to being impressed. The personality description that applied to the shape I chose was well, me all over....

Independent Unconventional Unfettered
You demand a free and unattached life for yourself that allows you to determine your own course. You have an artistic bent in your work or leisure activities. Your urge for freedom sometimes causes you to do exactly the opposite of what expected of you.
Your lifestyle is highly individualistic. You would never blindly imitate what is "in"; on the contrary, you seek to live according to your own ideas and convictions, even if this means swimming against the tide.
Your lifestyle is highly individualistic. You would never blindly imitate what is "in"; on the contrary, you have your own different style so you seek to live as per to your own ideas, beliefs, desires and convictions, even if this means  ... swimming against the flow. 
That's me alright and just about and everyone I showed completely agreed .... Independent, unconventional and unfettered, by mine, it's all contestable. 

It's known as the Ulla Zang personality quiz and provides a brief insight into ones mind though I must stress, it's shallow when matched up against an Advanced Jung test. Still, on the surface (cause there is much more to me) my result was astoundingly accurate ....

Sunday, 23 April 2017

When Human Resources is anything but …

It is sobering when one happens to come across an internal job advertisement for a desired position and, upon applying receives a more than positive reception from his immediate management team but, for reasons too long winded and tedious to run through here, he is overlooked when, on the surface, he was unquestionably qualified.  

Selection criteria addressed near perfectly, they told him so. Resume content that almost perfectly met experience sought and nothing, not even a look in. No interview, omitted in the first round for seemingly no logical reason.

Feedback is sought through the correct channels and it comes back giving little solace in the face of humiliation and poor treatment. The thrust of the argument for which he was unsuccessful? “we were looking for someone with management experience”, the words struck hard. In fact, this was all that was said; it were as if they were talking about someone else.

Was there not sufficient management experience presented on the CV? Everyone thought so.

After some thought, he deliberates on whether to address the apparent decider/s, but then, in a fleeting instant he asked himself some pertinent questions.

Why? To what end? Answers were not easy to come by and that, in and of itself suddenly meant, let it go. After all, it was insignificant compared with what transpired in 2011, another even more concerning event ...

Below is the email he quite nearly sent to HR or, as it's labeled in his organisation, People and Performance ...
Dear Xxxxx…

In relation to the recently advertised position Xxxx for which I was an unsuccessful applicant. 

I have had ample time to reflect upon comments you made to me over the phone after requesting feedback from your office. 

Truth be written, your very brief remarks, which summed up your main argument, that the company was looking for, “someone with management experience” though entirely understandable, left me perplexed and logically raised several pertinent questions.
  1. That my resume was not read for there was more than ample management experience and/or
  2. The company had very specific selection criteria for the position that, intentionally or inadvertently or otherwise expediently, went unmentioned in the job advertisement and/or
  3. That the company, be it your area or, my business unit or perhaps both business units colluding, regarded me a fool of sorts and/or 
  4. That Human Resources locally termed, “People and Performance” is incompetent in terms of, the talent acquisition function. 
If by chance, it is neither of the four points, then the real reason has not been brought to light, which raises even more concern. There is something else worthy of mention, that perhaps my CV was indeed read, but because of your vocal reasoning that, “we were looking for someone with management experience” suggests that the company has inadvertently referred to me out as a liar, hence my resume content was deemed untruthful. 
Please note, all points raised in this communiqué have nothing to do with the position itself for I have no further interest, it is history. 

My concern rests entirely with the way I feel I have been treated and with your feedback, a response that incidentally, I requested in person, not over the phone. I was doing the job for which I am employed when I took your call, which is contrary to operational policy, accordingly, I was somewhat hamstrung in terms of an effective response.

Now, with hindsight at my disposal I view your reasoning for my failure to secure an interview as, poor at best. A reasoning that has since elicited more than the usual number of discussions among work colleagues and more so, my external business networks and, in all instances raised more questions than it answers.
I can still hear it, “looking for someone with management experience”? Honestly, I find this remark astonishing given the written content of the advertisement, my cover letter and the accompanying resume.

Needless to add, my belief in your office, the HR function, P&P whatever, together with “human elements” of the business unit for which I am employed, have been dealt a blow. 

I seek no redress for this communication, my goal merely being to communicate my thoughts on the matter in the hope that you may come to understand that I am no jester.

It was poor form, it did not go unnoticed. 

Yours Sincerely,

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The inescapable truth about dying

Is it one’s age, a recently read book, perhaps the passing of someone close, or a health scare. Since we are all on our own unique journey in life, it’s remains idiosyncratic how suddenly, something triggers thoughts associated with humanity and death hence, mortality. For some, such thoughts strike as if an epiphany of sorts as they get past the age of fifty or later, which is, I believe infantile, given that death, in one form or another, has always been around us, not just in the news but in family.

Personally, the thought of dying, while not uppermost in my mind, does present more often of late, this seems natural and probably due to my age. I felt silly when recently, upon thinking about the possibility of living to a ripe old age of 85 it occurred to me that, being nearly 56, I have completed almost 66% of my stint on this mortal plane. How egocentric on my part to even expect that I reach a minimum chosen age, any age past my present one for that matter. Who am I to dictate how old I must or, even hope to be upon dying, save for having an accident.

Mishaps aside, it occurs to me that there are two broad stages to dying or end of life process. The first stage begins the moment we are born, human life is finite even in the absence of disease, 80, 90, 100 years? It’s pure conjecture and depends on a host of lifestyle factors. The second stage represents society’s accepted characterization whereby a person is diagnosed with an illness and, following a period of unsuccessful treatments the term ‘terminal’ suddenly and chillingly enters the vocabulary. This stage may represent days, months or years.

Call me juvenile but it’s both these stages that from time to time, mess with my mind. My late father was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer at age 64 and died around 22 months later. That was in 2005 or 11 years ago, I was 45, fast forward to my current age and it suddenly occurs to me that if I only live to my father’s age I have around 10 years left. In sum, ill health when coupled with the finite nature of life, combine to give rise to my ruminations about impermanence in the context of being around those I love and in turn, love me.

The inevitable truth about dying is that it’s happening right now to you and me in some form or another, it is indolent but nonetheless occurring, and quantifiably so. The latter needs no scientific apparatus to validate, I only need look at old photographs for visual verification, or take note of the more frequent aches and pains that present.

Socrates suggested that death is really “a change or a migration of the soul from one place to another”, Mother Teresa would add, “but going home to God’, both of which are comforting. As the inevitable draws closer, it is becoming wholly apparent that living fully and embracing it all, the highs and lows, the exultations and the blows, is of fundamental importance to a life well lived regardless of time limitations. This may give us more than a clue to what Mark Twain meant when he said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life … A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”.

As an emotive being, I must confess that it is the aforesaid term, “finite” that every so often unsettles me. We’re all limited, we have a predictable and determinate lifespan in linear years that, in the grand scheme of things, represents no more than a miniscule fraction of time past, present and future. And there lies another juvenile conundrum, who am I to question what is unalterable, what has been set by a power greater than the sum of all of us. I have reservations about my finite existence, really, I moot in silent reflection, how laughable in view of its antonym, which just so happens to be, infinite. If my existence is not finite then it must be infinite, God must be laughing too.

As I considered my closing lines to this piece, I find myself intuitively taking solace in the knowledge that many of us do not deliberate on such foreboding thoughts until it they must, until something happens, until dying is thrust upon them, death and all its connotations not merely strikes close to, but nearly always pierces the heart, but then it’s oh so late.

I must live fully now, in all my present moments, it’s my raison d'etre and perhaps yours, Sapientia et Doctrina.

© 2017 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Food and more in the 1950's

In the 1950's did you know?

In the grand scheme of things it was not that long ago and yet...

Pasta was not eaten in Australia.
Curry was a surname.
A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.
All potato crisps were plain; the only choice we had was whether to put the salt on or not.
Rice was only eaten cooked in milk, as a pudding.
Calamari was called squid and we used it as fish bait.
A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.
Brown bread was something only poor people ate.
Oil was for lubricating, fat was for cooking.
Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves. These were never green.
Sugar enjoyed good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold. Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.
Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.
Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
People who didn’t peel potatoes were regarded as lazy.
Indian restaurants were only found in India.
Cooking outside was called camping.
Seaweed was not a recognised food.
“Kebab” was not even a word, never mind a food.
Prunes were medicinal.
Muesli was readily available; back then it was called cattle feed.
Water came out of the tap. If someone had suggested bottling it and charging more than petrol for it, they would have become a laughing stock!
But the two things that people never, ever had on their kitchen table in the fifties were? Elbows or phones....

Monday, 17 October 2016

Donald Trump and Foreign Policy

I could vote for Donald Trump and I shall consider a future post to validate my reason for this, but whenever I consider the role America plays in the world, I am predisposed to view it through the prism of foreign affairs; such is the importance I place on world and international order. Those familiar with my past though still active blog, American Interests, will recall its central premise:
“ … for all intents and purposes, present “World Order” is stable and predictable in part due to the economic, technological, military and diplomatic superpower that is, The United States. Amongst the masses, it seems largely unacknowledged that it is in the world's greatest interests that the U.S. continues to exact its present worldly economic, political, cultural and military influence, one that extends to leadership in scientific and technological research and the production of innovative technological products. Our democratic way of life, our economies and our national security, are irrevocably tied to a secure world order - an order to which present-day United States, even with its notable imperfections, is at the heart, as the pre-eminent driver of internationalism … America must remain strong.” 
From the same source see also: Like it or not, we still need America

Accordingly, I have concerns about Donald Trump but not for the common rationale associated with misogynist antics – not that I condone the latter.

Trump has made it known that he would re-negotiate the U.S. alliance with Japan, South Korea and NATO – he has not specifically named my homeland Australia, but is on the record that the U.S. has no interest in being in Asia militarily. A Trump victory would see existing U.S. allies have to plan for a withdrawal of security guarantees that have stood the test of modern time and even markets would react adversely at the prospect on protectionism policies. Many Americans, and this group includes Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, would welcome an isolationist America with significantly reduced military and economic engagement but they do not grasp the consequences of their desire.

Going back to Donald Trump, he describes “Opposition to America’s alliance arrangements, opposition to free trade, and support for authoritarianism, particularly in Russia as his, “three core beliefs’.

We know America cannot solve all the problems of the globe, but Trump completely rejects that his country should be the world’s police officer, indeed Obama has a similar viewpoint but the former goes much further by suggesting that the U.S. does not even need to be involved in enforcing international law and order in its present definition. Trump has also questioned nuclear non-proliferation, mutual self-defence treaties and overseas military bases. Trump’s view cannot be further from Clinton’s who remains committed to the current system who recently said:
“are we going to lead the world with strength and in accordance with our values … I intend to be a leader … both here and around the world, to make decisions that will further peace … stand up to bullies” (Russia), “whether they’re abroad or at home”. 
As for Clinton, those hoping for a continuation of the existing Obama order will be disappointed.

Obama has demonstrated a degree of Trump like isolationism, through lukewarm responses to regional issues which have left a security vacuum, and when that happens the “bad guys” are always there to fill the void. While America stuttered, Putin attacked the Ukraine and has since launched a reckless campaign in Syria, attacked Georgia and annexed Crimea - some 18 months before the outbreak of WW2, Germany on March 12, 1938, annexed Austria and so it went.

While the globe is nowhere near as violent as it was a century ago at the height of WW1, we live in a moment of increasing uncertainty in a time of Obama crafted American self-doubt. Hope for a benign multi polar world is shallow, America can stay in insolation as Trump advocates or rise to the challenge to secure both the international order and security it first created and the world still desperately needs.

As a further adjunct to my argument, we need also consider the foreign policy questions that Trump especially, has failed to address during the campaign.
  • China has been increasingly aggressive over territorial claims in the South China Sea and assuming de facto control of key maritime passageways in the face of international law violation. How are we (America) going to prevent China from dominating the region?
  • What are the priorities for Syria? Ending the civil war, curtailing Russian influence and aggression or fighting Islamic State? Moreover, who are America’s allies in the process – Under Obama this is unknown.
  • The Middle East is a mess; it always was but is getting worse. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, the Syrian humpty dumpty, Israeli Palestinian tensions, how will America address this?
  • On economic matters, America and its population need entitlement programs but how will they tie in with defence and diplomacy? International verses the domestic.
  • Both Clinton but especially Trump has distanced themselves from the Trans Pacific Partnership, which runs contrary to Obama’s hinge to Asia, but what other tools are they advocating?
  • What is the end state of America’s secret war? What secret war you ask? Since 9/11 America has waged an undeclared war mostly via drone strikes and special ops in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and even the Philippines, a war that has killed over 4,000 individuals.
  • How will the U.S. deal with the failed socialist experiment that is Venezuela? No Government money, no food in supermarkets, no medicine in pharmacies…the total collapse of Venezuela is imminent.
  • How will we address the minefield that was Obama’s (even by his own admission) greatest foreign policy failure, Libya? I would add Syria
  • As forces are drawn down in Afghanistan how will the U.S. address the likely return of the Taliban, or the establishment of Al Qaeda or Islamic State safe havens within the nation?
  • Julia Ioffe, a New York Times writer raised a most pertinent question: How do you explain the necessity of American engagement with the world in terms that matter to people who don’t think about foreign policy? We in the bubble of wonkdom take certain things for granted, like why America should care what Vladimir Putin does in Donetsk or Aleppo. But I have yet to hear a compelling, coherent explanation for why anyone in the Rust Belt (or the world at large) should care about the South China Sea. Why is it worth it for Bob and Mary in Des Moines to have some of their tax dollars go into funding Syrian rebels, into funding USAID, or into NATO?
  • Rebuilding internationalism is the central challenge for the next president and it has to be built from the ground up with domestic support from within. In the words of Bruce Jones at Foreign Policy:
“… He or she will have to recover an older argument about America’s role in the world, not an argument based on exceptionalism, but one about global peace the underpinning of an international economy – a role that America need not and should not do alone, but a role that cannot be done without America.”
This and all the above should be but one foreign policy goal and plainly, Trump is not the one to deliver, addressing these issues in silence or not at all will be punishing.

© 2016 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Further Reading and Sources:

(Source: CSIS - Centre for Strategic and International Studies: U.S. Wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen – what are the end states? Working Draft August, 2016 )

(Source: Brookings Institution: Bruce Jones Vice President and Director - Foreign Policy Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy: America’s role in a turbulent World: )

(Source: The Sydney Morning Herald: Peter Hartcher political editor and international editor: United States would be a rogue superpower under Trump: )

(Source: FP: Foreign Policy Magazine: By FP contributers: The .. essential Foreign-Policy Questions Clinton and Trump need to Answer: )

(Source: The Atlantic: Uri Friedman Staff Writer: How Geography explains Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: )

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Pale Blue Dot

Voyager 1, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of astronomer and author Carl Sagan.

The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of the Earth taken from the Voyager Space Craft in 1990 from 6 billion kilometres away. This iconic image was taken at the request of famous astronomer, Carl Sagan, as the engineers took one last look at their home planet, which appeared as a tiny dot against the vastness of space.

Carl Sagan opened our eyes to the meaning of this image and life on earth: On that dot “every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.”

Seen from about 6 billion kilometers, Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space. 

Now follow the link in the tweet below, play the video at the site and then reflect on what Sagan says:

Sapientia et Doctrina ... 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Media Storms & rushing to conclusions

The title to this post could have read rushing to deductions, assumptions or inferences.

Consider an issue of local or global concern that consistently populates the headlines, or a news story break that creates a social media storm. Narrative/s take hold and everyone incl. bloggers, citizen journos on Facebook or Twitter alike are commenting on, and reporting in accordance with the prevailing theory of the moment, deductions are drawn consistent with the narrative, alas groupthink follows.
“The commentariat fell into a bubble and were reflecting what each other thought”
Said Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten, after nearly wrestling government from the Liberal Party in the recent election, he went on,
"A narrative caught hold and everyone started reporting it."
A politics example demonstrating how in this case, the prevailing consensus or narrative amongst political journalists shouted of a convincing win for the incumbents, as it turned out they only won by a whisker.

As Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Dom Cobb asks in the film Inception,
"What is the most resilient parasite? “A bacteria, a virus, an intestinal worm?"
None, it is an idea!

Narratives take hold and everyone follows suit and once this happens the prevailing theories are difficult to stamp out.

In relation to its basis and, likely motivations, citizen or guerrilla journos in particular, ought contemplate next time a major news story breaks. Think Orlando shootings or Nice terror attack, indeed it should also be contemplated in relation to any number of social issues e.g. Climate Change, Abortion, Birth Control, Capital Punishment, Equal Pay, Euthanasia, Gun Rights, Racism and Same Sex Marriage to name a few.

A more intelligent response would involve seeking information from a variety of news sources and employing rational reasoned thinking that balances all the known and unknown to arrive at a fluid response until all is known which mostly occurs sometime after the event. I would refer to this as sharp-witted critical thinking!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Notable Personal Introspection

Considering I was, and have been in varying extents silly, immature, anxious, cruel, reckless and impatient, egotistical, unprofessional, incompetent, irrational and simply bad most often. I refer to the age of 15 - 25 and, to a lesser though still significant extent, between the age of 25 – 35, and again to a lesser but still significant extent, between the age of 35 – 45, and yet again, to a lesser extent from the age of 45 onward .... I am now fantastically successful in my mid fifties.

As I reflect on this, I also realize that at core, I always knew where the “off” button was, I knew when to draw the line, I knew how to maintain the fundamentals right, e.g. marrying the right girl, buying a home, keeping a job, keeping my financials in order etc. I also knew how to maintain appearances and create righteous facades. Nonetheless, this does not diminish the fact that I was, at times very irresponsible, and came too close to outright sabotage and yet, given where I am at this time, being August 2016, in totality I am fantastically successful, in spite of my past foolish idiosyncrasies.

The other realization is that the first paragraph reveals improvement as I grew older, and this is the inspiring feature of my being, better late than never, constant and never-ending improvement to become the man, person, and “individual” I am today.

I am tempted to list the acts that constitute the “foolish idiosyncrasies” to which I refer, however this may not be a worthwhile exercise, more to the point, I feel it would be self-defeating. 

One way to make amends is to continue growing, becoming better and ultimately more successful still...

Friday, 17 June 2016

Audio - Guns, Religion, Islamic Extremism and Orlando Shootings

" ... Can I venture to suggest that it may be more accurate to ascribe the cause of Mateen's actions to extreme homophobia inspired by radical islamism? Gun availability in and of itself, was not the root cause ..."

" ... but aren't all religions hostile to gays?" ... " .... mostly yes, but this reason is superfluous and a lame form of moral equivalence ..."

If you would like the transcript of above audio please email me at:

Update April 2018: It has been pointed out that the audio to transcript does not work on some browsers e.g. Chrome. I do know however, that it does using Microsoft Edge.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Radical to forms of liberal Islam – Is intrinsic change possible in a new country, Australia?

"... it is my belief that we can never discount the possibility that radical Muslims or simply those susceptible to elements of such will remain a threat to our way of life, not merely those from abroad but unfortunately and most alarmingly, the home grown variety ..."

Recent mumblings about the failure of multiculturalism coming out of Europe, in addition to the ongoing spats about race and immigration issues here in Australia, not to mention Islamic threats cultivated within our borders have left me wondering whether our terrorist fears stem from issues associated with integration, pure racism or actual terrorist threats. Let us be honest, we have problems associated with race or otherwise, anti-Muslim sentiments as demonstrated by recent findings that show, 1 in 10 Australians have “very problematic views on diversity and on ethnic difference". In a recent discussion with friends they seemed to justify their concern in terms of possible terror threats posed by those arriving on our shores illegally.

Is this concern valid? This is a question I posed several years ago when writing a short piece whilst at University where the topic was ‘change’. Specifically,  can those illegals who harbour radical elements of their faith change by abandoning such beliefs as they commune within their new society, moving away from considerations of the extreme or moderately fanatical elements of Islamic thought - moving therefore, from radical to forms of liberal Islam.

Upon reading it once again, I got thinking about how it might apply to personal change in relation to religious doctrine and beliefs, not just adaptation but rather, deep seated and cultural transformation among Muslims living for example, in the United States, Great Britain and Australia.

I refer to the tens of thousands of Muslims that form part of our communities and in particular, what proportion of them may harbour radical elements of their faith. Unfortunately, studies reveal that a small but significant segment not only sympathise with their radical colleagues but have a propensity to consider and carry out violent acts against westerners in spite of an entire lifetime living amongst and appearing to outwardly enjoy the benefits of the societies in which they reside. How could this be? I should add that the percentage of Islamists who pose a danger to their communities within for example, Australia would be very, very small, perhaps minuscule, but as we noted with the London bombings and the 9/11 attacks it does not take many to inflict harm on a massive scale.

It poses more questions, does ones external environment and the behavioural modifications and modes of personal conduct associated with such, lead to permanent change. I guess we need to consider the question of change as it relates to the common oxford definition, one that refers to a person 'making or becoming different', because of environmental factors. This obliges me to consider that age-old concept of modernism, in particular, the modernist concept of a 'true (constant) self'.

I am of the opinion that participation within our way of life does indeed involve being changed and changing oneself however, I do not feel that the change is intrinsic, and accordingly, the modernism concept of a 'true self' is compelling.

I do not wish to delve into comprehensive considerations about “concepts of self”, as one could write a thesis in this area alone; it is easier to restrict the discussion to the more discernible elements of Muslims within our social order.

All societies have unique characteristics that provoke different thoughts and subsequent actions amongst it participants. They also all have there own grand and historical elements that present a multifaceted culture both as a whole and within its parts. Even as there are various consistencies and diffusion amongst different groups, disciplines, and sub-cultures, a person (in this case Muslim) may at least, be influenced by a society’s ‘different norms and values’ … ‘patterns of power and authority’ … ‘different standards’ … [and] ‘modes of expression’ (Kolb, David, 1981 p.233). The influence of a society is exacted circuitously upon individuals through the processes and norms of its institutions and this represents but one way that a culture, exacts change (the accepted social order) upon partakers. Whether this influence inhibits or promotes real change toward westernisation, depends on the person’s disposition and worldview (the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world), and we know how much this can vary between different cultures and religions. At another level, the extent of change, obligatory or otherwise, will contrast amongst individuals again depending on their worldview, (which also includes their deep seated beliefs), but also made subjective by their education, specifically the disciplines one may study. Incidentally, education of even the highest standards does not; in itself guarantee to purge ones deep-seated and fundamental beliefs.

Of course one can also mount a plausible contrasting argument on the belief that any modifications of behaviour as a result of environmental factors are in fact indicative of real and lasting change, arguing that humans are ‘fragmented’, ‘fluid’ and ‘constructed’; that ones experiences lend to the construction of self – classic post modernism, (this is in contrast to modernism views expressed and defined with terms such as, 'fixed' and having a 'true', 'unified', and essential self). Uncertainties in relation to which concept of self applies arise when one acknowledges the difference in human modes of conduct, in differing life roles. We may be one self as a mother, sister, or brother, a different self as an employee and different again depending on our roles. The different contexts create a problem, thus we mistakenly confuse behavioural changes and environmentally induced responses with concepts of self, believing that they are more representative of Post Modernism thinking. Here I cannot agree, imagine if you will moving to a strictly Muslim nation, behaviorally you may present differently but can you really expect to discard all that you have been, all that has been indoctrinated into your being through socialisation and guardians over time within your home culture? Will your fundamental worldview shift at all, let alone profoundly?

Like all humans, Muslims aspire to certain universal attributes of character and whilst these may differ amongst them, the majority (like all of us) seek to be content, happy, and good as based around an established worldview (and self) that minimally takes into account race, gender, class, geography and present and past cultures that they, may have experienced. There is a lot to take into account hence, this needs to be considered as part of our attempt to understand the inner beliefs and ruminations of the radical Islamist and the depth of hatred toward anyone whose beliefs run contrary.

The process of being changed and changing as a person lends to the exploration of feelings of, and about life goals and purpose. Thus membership and participation in our, or indeed any society/culture facilitates and contributes to a process whereby, 'the meaning of … personal directions' is explored thus guiding the person toward that which is the essential, already constructed self, so as to move toward, ' … that self which one already is' (Rogers, Carl R. 1967). Therefore, it goes that in spite of all life experiences and the resulting outward change exhibited by Islamists, age-old questions linger. It is as if there is inherent within, a quest to move toward the 'true self'; that self which has always been. As Carl Roger's states, an ‘individual moves toward being, knowingly and acceptingly, the process which he inwardly and actually is … listening to the deepest recesses of his … being'. As an example, I vividly recall a conversation with a group of young (twenty something) Bosnian Serbs as we discussed news reports about Bosnian Serb soldiers systematically executing as many as 2,000 Muslim prisoners after taking the UN ''safe area'' of Srebrenica. To my disbelief, the young Australian born Serbs completely condoned the actions of their compatriots overseas. Probing for explanations one of them simply said, “I don’t know, I just feel it here,” pointing to the centre of his chest, added another, “It’s in the blood”.

Accordingly, it is my belief that we can never discount the possibility that radical Muslims or simply those susceptible to elements of such will remain a threat to our way of life, not merely those from aboard but unfortunately and most alarmingly, the home grown variety.

We humans have a central 'true self' that remains intact throughout our lives in spite of society’s dominant contemporary and historical permanence, its institutional processes, values, ideology, culture and sub-cultures.

If I am right, even partially so, what is the most constructive way to deal with our local Muslim populations? Wouldn't any attempt to indoctrinate them in terms of western values be an exercise in futility? Is acceptance and tolerance the answer? Perhaps as a way of teaching them the values of mutual respect for all cultures and race.

What do you think?

© 2016 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.


Rogers, Carl R. 1967, 'To be that self which one truly is': A therapist's view of personal goals', On Becoming a Person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy, Constable, London, pp. 163-182.

Kolb, David A. 1981, 'Learning styles and disciplinary differences' in Chickerine, Arthur W. & Associates, The Modern American College, Jossey Bass, San Francisco, pp. 232 - 235 and 251 - 252.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Tech issues

" ... But those bookmark differences between Edge on PC and Edge on Lumia 950 persist ..."

Heard about sync settings on Windows 10 devices? It is a great feature that allows windows users to keep track of the settings you care about as it sets them for you on all your Windows 10 devices.

You can choose to sync such things as web browser settings, passwords, and color themes etc.

Thus when surfing on my Lumia 950 yesterday (which is packaged with Microsoft Edge), I was surprised to note some differences between my bookmarks on my phone and those for my PC back home. It appears that some changes I recently made on the PC's bookmarks have not synced to my Lumia.

A bookmark I have re-named “Present Interests" on my PC's Favourites Bar within Edge still has the old name on my Lumia. Furthermore on my PC it contains contains no less than 10 bookmarks/favourites however, this same bookmark on my phone contains only 4. I happen to add the additional six favourites some two weeks back - Surely enough time for them to have synchronized with my Lumia 950?

Before I am asked, I have turned sync on, on my PC via Start > Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings AND via Edge More (...) > Settings.

I have also turned on sync my Lumia 950 via Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings AND via the phones Edge browser (…) > Settings > Sync your content.

Finally, on my Lumia I also verified my identity.

Importantly to, I have signed in on all devices using the same MS account (I only have one account anyway).

All my system app on both Lumia and PC are up to date.

I have tried to manually sync Microsoft account on the phone: People > ... > Settings > tap and hold Outlook > sync

What else can one do to make this feature work as it should, does Microsoft OneDrive have anything to do with it?

I am liaising via twitter with the folks at @LumiaHelp who are trying to assist with this.

Update 1:
It seems sync does work for my calendar as I just added a new event on my PC and the new event appeared on my phone calender app within minutes ... But those bookmark differences between Edge on PC and Edge on Lumia 950 persist.
Update 2:
I have just noticed that if I create a reading list on my Lumia it syncs to my PC but conversely, if I create one on my PC it does not sync to my Lumia?
 Update 3:
I thought to turn my sync setting on and off on both PC and Lumia to see if it corrects problem, but no luck. 
Update 4:
The folks at @LumiaHelp (Twitter) have escalated the problem and requested personal contact details, vital Lumia information including IMEI, Phone OS System and Microsoft Edge version details. Hopefully some answers soon... 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Our Ideological Divides II - Personality and Values

This post serves as an extension of my April 5, 2016 post, ideological divides.

These days we can make somewhat precise predictions about people's values in relation to politics through various unconnected factors such as how they dress, where they live, the cars they own, how much orderliness there is in their lives and even, music and book preferences. Given that, our two main parties have well entrenched publically espoused values through their party platforms, they make for good targets for whatever political personality types.

Interestingly, our political parties have shaped their own values that in turn, influence people's lifestyle elements by creating diverging facts resulting in different beliefs about history (stolen generation real or not?), science and notably economics. How you ask? By way of example, the previous Labor government’s school curriculum over- emphasised the themes, Environment, Colonialism, Social history, Anti-modernism, Class and Minority groups and Multiculturalism while under-emphasising, Religion, Western Civilisation, Political History, and Economic growth and Technology. We also have no mention of the three pillars of Western Civilisation, instead replaced by what conservatives would refer to as, the three pillars of political correctness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia and Sustainability. Moreover, on the question of economic growth and technology one would think that the entrepreneurial spirit of the era would warrant a mention in the curriculum, but the word “entrepreneur” appears nowhere. More exactly, when the curriculum refers to wealth it only refers to the distribution of wealth, never the creation of wealth.

Let us now look at the interpretation of economics in terms of beliefs and values as associated with ideology. A centre-right Liberal party supporter or politician would have very different views to an ALP or Greens advocate about some contemporary economic issues of the day. Will abolishing the minimum wage increase unemployment or decrease it? Will it stimulate the economy or depress it? How is it best to deal with economic recessions, via stimulus or austerity? What about tightening the eligibility criteria or completely cutting unemployment benefits (dole), will it propel individuals to find employment or set them up for the scrap heap?

Given the differing personality types and personal values of LNP, ALP and Greens supporters it is nigh impossible to obtain an accurate and impartial answer to questions about ideological righteousness associated with economic policies since all participants are both consciously and unconsciously seeking arguments answers and facts, that are consistent with their personal values. Individuals begin their personal deliberations about what is right or wrong, true or untrue and then seek out supporting evidence that in all cases, is available. Hence, one can always find documented academic (even peer reviewed) documentation and opinion pieces arguing that removing the minimum wage will spur economic activity and increase employment just as one can find same for the opposing argument.

Asking what is truth or who is right becomes almost superfluous but not entirely so, for we should never stop asking, questioning and arguing. Argument is good and when related to consensus in politics, it should always precede it.

As a final point, we should also acknowledge that in terms of politics and ideology, human values, knowledge, convictions and even creeds are relative, elastic and fluid …

© 2016 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Our Ideological Divides

Ideological Divides
Something struck me about the following lines that were on a flyer that landed in my letterbox some time ago:
“As a long standing member of the ALP, I appreciate the role councils play in providing quality services to the community” 
One could also envision the words, “The Greens” in place of ALP, but could you envision LNP in place of ALP? I dare say no. The innocuous lines imply that only the ALP establishment, in addition to others to the left of it, and their members and representatives can recognise, appreciate and deliver quality services to the community- the term being an integral word in the language and semantics of the left.

This conception is akin to an unwritten but contestable attribute of the progressive classes. Nonetheless, it belies the truth about the importance placed on community by their ideological opposites, that is, those on the right and including conservatives.

Truth is, those on the right also place importance on "community" they, like progressives and those of the left, have entirely similar moral foundations and act on their passions with the same vigour and conviction of righteousness however, they have different moral philosophies - defending, and recommending their concept/s of right and wrong conduct.

As a result of factors associated with the disciplines of Anthropology, Psychology and related cultural factors, individuals that engage in the political, either as active or passive participants, formulate passions from which they hypothesis, derive and construct partisan suppositions.

Accordingly, ideological divides result in wide gaps of opinion about political parties, their policies and, party leaders alike.

However, what of the legitimacy of each, who is right, who is wrong? 

As an appendage to the question I, being a conservative have come to accept as true, that the insights of all sides, the left and right, play a role for a nation to flourish. Not that this answers the legitimacy question I posed.

Once again, who is right, what is your view?

© 2016 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Monday, 4 April 2016

A simple thought about Progressives Vs Conservatives ...

A Progressive or those who champion collectivism the see a loafer, bum, panhandler or simply an incompetent family or individual leading a dissolute life and says/thinks:
“This is not your fault, society has done this to you, let me take you to the shelter and get you clothing, feed you, try to get you detoxed from whatever chemical dependency you may have. Afterwards, we’ll visit the local Centrelink office to ensure your getting all that you are entitled to and I will extending a hand for there is no limit to my compassion and caring" .... 
Progressives really live this; they have a natural unselfish propensity to give bread and fish instead of teaching one how to fish for themselves, they value a socialistic ethos of living. A Conservative or those that champion individualism sees the same and says/thinks:
“There is not doubt life has given you a bad cast of luck right now. Well, I am going to help you help yourself. I am not going to coddle you and feel sorry for you rather, I am going to impel you through tough love and show you how to get some self-esteem so that you can become a wealth earner and a resource to society instead of being a wealth-waster and a consumer of society's resources. I am going to give you this gut string and show you how to fish, cook the fish and never have to depend on anybody again for as long as you live"..... 
Conservatives are wired to be independent, isolationists, and fend for themselves. They value a capitalistic ethos and accordingly, do not understand the progressive way of responding. Granted, there are winners and losers in capitalism. If you want to win, you are likely to be honest, industrious, thoughtful, prudent, frugal, responsible, disciplined, efficient and a value a conservative ethos. Losers are lazy, imprudent, ignorant, extravagant, negligent, impractical, inefficient, and almost certainly value a socialist ethos.

Capitalism is the social system that rewards virtue and punishes vice; something that applies across all sectors and occupations whether it be doctors, business executives, or plumbers.

In the twentieth-century, collectivism has been thrust upon us in various guises and related theories that include, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, Keynesianism, Majoritarianism and Communism to name but a few.

The only social system corresponding with individualism is laissez-faire capitalism. The great advances of the past 150 years in addition to, the astonishing level of material prosperity realized owes itself to the capitalist system. In view of this, I find it perplexing that our educational institutions, professors, many politicians, and those in journalism deride the principles of free enterprise while holding the moral high ground arguing that it is exploitative, dehumanizing, alienating, and ultimately enchaining regardless of the prosperity it continues to create.

We must revive and teach our young the virtues associated with being free and independent citizens and, notwithstanding the intellectuals questioning of capitalism, it is the moral and just social system. The system that unleashes the potential of the entrepreneur, the very individuals that gave us penicillin, the internal combustion engine, the airplane, radio, the incandescent light globe, air conditioning, computers, and medical vaccines.

What the capitalist values most is individual freedom, minimal government intervention, taxation and regulation. To great a reliance on welfare, and tariffs, and collective based IR conditions are immoral because they are coercive, inhibit individual pursuits, and contradict our right to exist as, not merely autonomous moral agents, but as a self-contained individual enterprises.

As we progress into the twenty-first century, the virtue of capitalism awaits its new advocates - those prepared to endorse the principle of individual rights as the basis for a free society.

Your comments are most welcomed ...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Syria conflict explained

Syria, a quagmire of conflicting interests. It is difficult to understand what's going on; a civil war of great complexity. Within its borders Jihadis have built the best funded terrorist group ever, it is not that simple of course but what do we do? Do we try to turn it into Turkey, a modern moderate Muslim nation or for better or worse Iraq, which remains an unstable sectarian battlefield. This post is not about weighing up solutions, it is more about understanding the present. The sentiments below which I came across from one of my email subscriptions, tongue and cheek as they may be, might assist you me and others to understand.
President Assad (who is bad) is a nasty guy who got so nasty his people rebelled and the rebels (who are good) started winning (Hurrah!).

But then some of the rebels turned a bit nasty and are now called Islamic State (who are definitely bad!) and some continued to support democracy (who are still good).

So the Americans (who are good) started bombing Islamic State (who are bad) and giving arms to the Syrian rebels (who are good) so they could fight Assad (who is still bad), which was good.

There is a breakaway state in the north run by the Kurds who want to fight IS (which is a good thing) but the Turkish authorities think they are bad, so we have to say they are bad whilst secretly thinking they're good and giving them guns to fight IS (which is good), but that is another matter.

Getting back to Syria.

So President Putin (who is bad, because he invaded Crimea and the Ukraine and killed lots of folks including that nice Russian man in London with polonium poisoned sushi) has decided to back Assad (who is still bad) by attacking IS (who are also bad), which is sort of a good thing.

But Putin (still bad) thinks the Syrian rebels (who are good) are also bad, and so he bombs them too, much to the annoyance of the Americans (who are good) who are busy backing and arming the rebels (who are also good).

Iran (who used to be bad, but since they have agreed not to build any nuclear weapons and bomb Israel are now good) are going to provide ground troops to support Assad (still bad), as are the Russians (bad) who now have ground troops and aircraft in Syria.

So a Coalition of Assad (still bad), Putin (extra bad), and the Iranians (good, but in a bad sort of way) are going to attack IS (who are bad) which is a good thing, but also the Syrian rebels (who are good), which is bad.

Now the British (obviously good, except for that nice Mr Corbyn in the corduroy jacket, who is probably bad) and the Americans (also good) cannot attack Assad (still bad) for fear of upsetting Putin (bad) and Iran (good/bad), and now they have to accept that Assad might not be that bad after all compared to IS (who are super bad).

So Assad (bad) is now probably good, being better than IS (but let’s face it, drinking your own wee is better than IS so no real choice there), and since Putin and Iran are also fighting IS that may now make them good.  America (still good) will find it hard to arm a group of rebels being attacked by the Russians for fear of upsetting Mr Putin (now good) and that nice Ayatollah in Iran (also good), so they may be forced to say that the rebels are now bad, or at the very least abandon them to their fate.  This will lead most of them to flee to Turkey and on to Europe or join IS (still the only constantly bad group).

To Sunni Muslims, an attack by Shia Muslims (Assad and Iran), backed by Russians, will be seen as something of a Holy War, and the ranks of IS will now be seen by the Sunnis as the only Jihadis fighting in the Holy War, and hence many Muslims will now see IS as good (Doh!.)

Sunni Muslims will also see the lack of action by Britain and America in support of their Sunni rebel brothers as something of a betrayal (mmm….might have a point) and hence we will be seen as bad.

So now we have America (now bad) and Britain (also bad) providing limited support to Sunni rebels (bad), many of whom are looking to IS (good/bad) for support against Assad (now good) who, along with Iran (also good) and Putin (also now, unbelievably, good) are attempting to retake the country Assad used to run before all this started.
Got it now?