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Community highlights

The Conversation receives a lot of comments each day and you can’t read everything. That’s why we occasionally end the week with a selection of community highlights: comments we enjoyed or thought interesting. Read on for four such comments from this week.


FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous youth suicide rates in the top of Australia the highest in the world?

Gerry Georgatos discussed the factors that contribute to Indigenous suicide:

Hi Anthony, of course there are various factors on the spectrum that include the cumulative factors you describe. They are not to be denied and where this were to occur - denial of such situational trauma - would serve to further traumatise. However, we have higher rates of suicide, attempted suicides, self-harming, depressions, clinical disorders and self-destructive behaviours among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations, particularly in the stated high-risk regions. The logical, even methodological, question is to ask ‘why?’

There are the cesspools of racialised poverty, economic inequalities. it has been one generation after another where these economic inequalities have not been addressed and many regions where one government policy after another has degraded the social infrastructure, social equality and functions of that community.

638 per 10,000 of the Kimberley population are in some form of homelessness - that is 6.38 per cent of the region’s total population. That is at the high end of homeless rates on the global spectrum, outside of natural disasters and civil strife. Most of this homelessness in the Kimberley is compromised of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples - and I have estimated this translates to 12 per cent of the region’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population is in some form of homelessness. This means that thereabouts one in eight of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the Kimberley are in some form of homelessness. The region’s extreme poverty indicators are among the worst in the nation. I see the correlations with all this and the displaced anger, the poverty related offending, the high arrest rates, the pressures on families and communities, the sense of hopelessness, the translation of all this as discrimination, racialisation, racism, the self-destructive behaviours, the suite of negative impacts, the self-harming and suicides.

Gerry’s comment continues on for a few more paragraphs and provides some worthwhile context for Indigenous suicide rates.


Change is possible when sexual harassment is exposed

Tanya Monro, University of South Australia’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Research & Innovation, on what can be done to challenge sexual harassment at universities:

I agree that this is much more about power than sexual impulses. While these stories of sexual harassment are harrowing and I really feel for the individuals it is really good that the message is really finally starting to get through. It is not OK, it is never OK.

We need to do everything we can to attract and retain talent in science, and feeling unsafe is certainly a tipping point for those who experience it. I remember vividly the Professor whose eyes were always at the wrong level, and having to find male colleagues to help me avoid predators at conferences. This must be called out as unacceptable otherwise we will continue to hemorrhage talent.

Universities must call out this kind of behaviour and not duck if it’s a research star who is behaving badly… indeed it’s all the more important to call bad behaviour if our high profile researchers act like this because they have the greatest reach and can do the most damage.


Who are we responsible for in the age of mass migration

Patrick Stokes got into the morality of refugee resettlement on:

The ‘60 million’ figure assumes a) that all refugees want to be resettled and b) no other country is taking any of them. But let it stand for a moment: Could we fit in 84 million people? I have no idea, though given Germany houses roughly that many people with less than 5% of territory I hardly think it would be “standing room.” If, instead, we ask “Is it possible to fit in 84 million people given the political resistance to the sorts of changes this would involve?” or more simply “Do we want to fit in 84 million people?” we’re asking a very different sort of question.

The trouble with trying to work out “where to draw the line” is that because moral demands are infinite but our capacity to respond to them is finite, such calculation is all too easily mistaken for determining a point at which moral responsibility is exhausted, a point at which we’ve “done enough”. And once you buy into the idea that responsibility is finite, there’s a temptation to make it just that little bit more finite, by increments, until we’re seriously positing “subject to not diminishing projected per capita GDP by more than a certain proportion” as a constraint on how much we’re prepared to do. At that point we’ve abdicated any real claim to be acting morally at all.

Ethics demands we act out of selfless concern for the other. That’s not a “motherhood statement,” it’s an articulation of the basic structure of moral reality. That is the “real world,” not realpolitik haggling over how little we can get away with doing.


Goodbye to all that: Orwell’s 1984 is a boot stamping on a human face no more

Finally, here’s Claudio Dionigi discussing the relevance of George Orwell’s 1984 today:

I disagree with Dr. Hassan and fully agree with Christopher Wright’s comment above… 1984 is just as pertinent today, if not more so.

Physical coercion has not been an option for western powers for some time now. Elites and corporate interests have much more subtle ways of controlling populations.

Noam Chomsky points out that, “[w]hen people wanted enough freedom that they couldn’t be enslaved or killed or repressed, new modes of control naturally developed to try to impose forms of mental slavery so they would accept a framework of indoctrination and wouldn’t raise any questions”.

Many of us have superannuations, mortgages and employment contracts that wed us to market fundamentalism. Coupled with declining education standards and massive amounts of misinformation fed to us through the mainstream media, we are more controlled now than ever.

Also, neoliberalism has been able to atomise people and break them up into seemingly incompatible interests, removing the common ground from under their feet. As Hannah Arendt suggested, atomisation is the first step towards totalitarianism…not the other way around.

Engagement in the virtual world is much more individualistic, and online it is much easier to engage with themes that are consonant with the user’s worldview. Sure, the online world has broken the monopoly of mainstream media on information flows, but people need to have enough education and knowledge to navigate those chaotic waters. People also need real associations in order to build a meaningful resistance to power. The virtual world holds little real power unless online engagement translates to action in the real world.


Read a comment you thought interesting? Let me know during the week. You can leave a comment below or send me an email.