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 comments and discussions from five articles I thought worth highlighting.

Why Aboriginal people with disabilities crowd Australia’s prisons

Amanda Barnes shared her experiences of an Aboriginal community and, drawing from that, posited some ideas on how to change the problem of Aboriginal incarceration.

I recently visited Uluru and the Anangu people have managed to protect their community from much of the toxic aspects of Western life by creating a closed community. Several Europeans that I met are allowed access because their contribution is respectful and helpful. One woman is learning the language and lore and has a deep respect for this ancient history. One fellow and his wife have their daughter attending the Anganu community day care whilst he and his wife work in a resort. Both volunteer at the centre and are helping the Anangu with healthy eating and are helping to establish a sustainable farm for growing organic produce in the community. This is the hands on, creative solution that the indigenous community needs. Admittedly this is possible in this particular community because of the tourist industry - which gives work to these Europeans and supports their work - but surely our taxes would be better spent in having committed, well educated people (as in intelligent enough to not feel superior and wish to make indigenous people live in a way that is not comfortable to them) on the ground providing support but not sermons?

To an indigenous person being removed from community and locked away when they are in trouble is illogical and potentially catastrophic. In a functional community they are given the support they need to get back on their feet. The wider community should have an emphasis on making these communities functional not further fracturing them through incarceration.

Study: Australians can be sustainable without sacrificing lifestyle or economy

Chris Harries shared his views on the range of opinions people have when thinking about global threats.

What this article and a previous one by Richard Eckersley have thrown up is an interesting spectrum of opinion amongst thinkers, on the subject of global threats and the chances of overcoming them. These days those at the ‘she’ll be right mate’ end of the spectrum are very few in numbers. A small but growing minority have calculated that we’re gone so far over tipping points that there’s no chance of recover.

In between lie the majority of the population, who sense that the world is facing a rather intractable set of problems. Within that band are those who have absolute faith that new technological developments will see us through, without the need to change much other than the engine in our cars and so forth. This subset is most likely by far the biggest slice and even includes a large slice of the environmental movement.

A lesser component within the normal distribution curve hump are those who just hope that a combination of technology and changed values may see civilisation continue, but not without radical changes in lifestyle and values. Most of this set believes those changes will be forced not chosen. Their sense is that civilisation of some sort will continue, though it may end up being rather bleak if we act too late.

Amongst all of this are those who have a latent feeling in the back of their minds that serious global disruption is going to occur within the coming century (expressed in Richard’s statistics) but who go about their days as if this is not the case, a valuable insight into cognitive dissonance. What we believe and what we latently feel are often two different things.

Then there are those who deliberately and overtly express a much more optimistic viewpoint than what they really believe to be true, this being driven by a popular (and probably correct) meme that the public will respond better if given hope. I think this meme runs across most of the spectrum.

Most of the time these questions are not in people’s heads at all, they’ve got their lives to live and on the surface everything still seems to work fine. Humans have a huge predilection for cognitive dissonance so they can be hard to read.

I’ve obviously generalised here, because there doesn’t seem to be complete set of reined data on what people think. I would love to see an analysis, especially within environmental and economic circles, that tests people’s true opinions rather than just their sales pitches. I know that often I communicate pragmatically and keep my mouth shut because at times saying what you believe may not be the most constructive thing to do.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank Richard and Steve for their illuminating essays, the divergence between them exemplifying this spectrum of thought. Looking forward to the next episode along these lines.

Keep an eye on vocal fry – it’s all about power, status and gender

Ben Marshall discussed vocal fry in an Australian context and offered up some ideas about why some people find it so annoying.

Like, omigod, this like totally nails it in, like, sooo many ways, Cate.

But for me here in Australia it’s a strongly female trait, and one that’s linked to other vocal and linguistic traits that signal a tribal level of disengagement, ironic and real, and signalling difference from the adult world, from the male world and the childhood they’ve recently left.

I hear it in common young Australian female speech linked with the Valley Girl traits of the 80’s, which persist from before these young women were born, and conjoined with the subtle lilting Americanised inflections of youthful speech patterns.

I hear it almost exclusively in young women, gay men and less masculine young men trying to fit in with the young women.

A few years ago, I mischievously asked a woman in her early twenties how long she’d been living in Australia. She was taken aback, then annoyed, confused and defensive. I made light reference to the Americanisation of young people’s speech, blamed my age and quickly moved on.

I think one of the reasons fry and the other traits annoy is it simulates disengagement and eye-rolling otherworldliness. This implies the individual’s superiority over others and their disdain for their environment (whether that be home, family, a party, a work situation or school) - and, on a deeper level, a lack of connection and confidence.

What would be interesting is to test the persistence of the fry and the other traits when the individuals are outside their tribe, and feeling secure and relaxed enough not to need to make vocal signals of difference.

It’s profoundly depressing to see ‘creativity’ used as the go-to word for a flagging neo-liberalism

Jason Potts responded to a rebuttal of one of his column posts and added to his original argument.

Hi Julian, Thanks for the thoughtful rebuttal. I think the question of who owns the term creativity and whether it is being made to do too much work (and therefore debased, in your view) by using it in market context is certainly a good question. The Florida point, and mine too, along with all who hitch to the creative industries wagon, is really to say that there is a valuable market incentive as well as (not instead of) an intrinsic/spiritual incentive to creative production. the point is usually that the market incentive side has been under-appreciated, and is rapidly increasing in value, particularly in a global economy (neoliberalism yada yada yada).

Although not mentioned in the column, you may be interested to look at a recent book myself at Curtin University Humanities Professor John Hartley wrote called ‘Cultural Science: A Natural history of stories, demes, knowledge and innovation’ (soon in paperback!) where we attempt to connect creativity through culture as an evolutionary account of meaningfulness.

Fruity, with a hint of gobbledygook: it’s time to give up on wine wankery

Finally, Mark Jackson made the joke I was hoping to see on this article.

A cheeky little article with pragmatic notes and a hint of scepticism on the back palate.

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