Welcome to 'Middle Ground View' where we seek to find reason, common sense and clarity in all matters of life. It is our firm belief that no matter how muddled a topic is or how emotionally charged, with a bit of investigation a sensible Middle Ground position can always be found.

Saturday, 23 April 2011


The other day a woman approached me as I was doing some last minute shopping with my children, and told me that I am an irresponsible parent. Now, I fancy myself quite a good father. Other then an occasional sleep in or a verge out on the couch I spend hours of quality time with my children, maintain a comfortable roof over their head (and a whopping mortgage), feed them nutritious meals (which my wife cooks so well). So after all that you might think that some credit to me as a father may be overdue. Not so. You see, I have four children and that's about two more than a family is allowed in today's civilised society. Don't believe me? Just watch the indignant stares we get while walking down the street.
Once upon a time 'responsible' meant looking well after you children. Today it means not having any. Maybe one or two if you must, but no more. 
It all began when the western civilisation decided to away with that Religion thing. There were some good things about it, of course: charity, social justice and the like, but they could  be had without worrying about God and the after-life. That theory seemed good, but it had one flaw. You can be a good person, responsible, well adjusted, kind. But sooner or later the question pops up. If the universe is just a blind non-system of random events, then what's the point of it all? Why should I get out of bed in the morning? Teenagers usually go through this stage: 'I am worthless, the world would be better off without me'. And then they grow up. The generation of western atheists never grew up. They were forever trapped inside a feeling of vague, restless inadequacy. In this twisted mindset it's the whole of mankind which is worthless, and Nature would be better off without it. Never before in human history did a society achieve so much in combating man's ancient enemies - hunger, disease, natural disasters. Never before did a society yearn so much to see itself annihilated, destroyed, evicted from planet earth. The victory was a hollow one. But it doesn't have to be like that. I believe in the world's purpose shaping every facet of creation, every soul of humanity. I love my four children and will probably have more. And you know what? Whichever way I look at it, it's the only view that makes sense.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Oh boy, so many 'opportunities'

A taxi-driver friend of mine recently enrolled into a teaching degree. He says he wants to fight 'disadvantage' in schools where it begins. I do understand him. In the taxi business the only time you encounter 'disadvantage' is when a non-paying customer smashes a beer bottle on the back of your head. As a teacher you expect you encounters would be a little less traumatic. One would hope. The unfortunate thing is that even if my friend tries his best as a teacher, not a few of his pupils will probably graduate to smashing bottles over unfortunate taxi drivers' heads. The story of why that is has to do with 'disadvantage' - not what the word means but how it is used within the education system. What is 'disadvantage' anyway? If we are running a marathon and you start fifty meters behind the rest of the field, that's called a disadvantage. It's not you - it's your starting position. Now lets say you walk into a typical public school classroom somewhere in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne. Down the back are a few kids whose dads are drunk by mid-afternoon. That's called alcoholism. In the corner is a boy who covered in bruises. That's called physical abuse. At the front are a couple of kids on Ritilin. That's called ADHD. And the rest of the room is peppered with the pupils whose dad went out one day and never came back. That's called broken families. Or you could lump all of those problems together and call it 'disadvantage', but that wouldn't tell you anything other then 'That class at the and of the corridor - stay away from it.'

The education sector is famous for eviscerating the meaning of words. Violence becomes 'impulsive behaviour' and bigotry is renamed 'cultural stereoptypes'. But this verbal deception is more then just misleading. The education system can not possibly correct unacceptable behaviour if it can not even call that behaviour by its' name.

A teacher-friend of mine once remarked that the education gurus once took exception to the words 'problem child'. That's labelling, and we can't have that, can we. Instead of 'problems' they started using the wold 'challenges'. Fast forward five years and 'challenges' wasn't good enough either, so the new buzz-word was 'opportunities'. In the staff room the teachers would joke with each other: "I had so many 'opportunities' today in my class. Look at all the bruises I got." "Oh, that's nothing. I had so many 'opportunities', I barely got out alive." Changing the words around doesn't make the problem go away. It just makes it that much more difficult to fix. Right now the school system is facing quite a few challenges of how to turn children into well adjusted and responsible adults. And no, I wouldn't be calling them 'opportunities'. 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Israel-Egypt war?

For the first time on over thirty years Israeli Army is making preparations for a war with Egypt. 

It is a tragic irony that once again the fulfilment of United States foreign policy objectives will lead to the Middle East and the world becoming a far, far more dangerous place.

We Are All In This Bed Together

Senator Bob Brown is angry and the target of his anger is an unusual suspect. The President of the Australian Workers Union Paul Howes has sad that he will not support the carbon tax if even just one job is lost and that got Bob Brown into a spin. He has accused Howes of being 'ignorant' backward' and 'in bed with big business' and we can't have that can we?

Now I am no great fan of big business or the fat cats that run it. Just the other day an Audi driver cut me off on the freeway. I was so angry I almost screamed. 'You bustards!' I fumed 'You own the big businesses, the expensive cars, now you think you own the road too!'

In truth, the thought of the big end of town paying a bit more tax doesn't upset me much and I suspect a lot of Australians feel the same. The problem is, I just don't think it will work like that. Let's just say we bring in a Carbon price of $20 a ton or $30 a kilo or whatever they are telling us it will be and the business has to find the money to pay. What will your boss do? Well he trade in his Audi for a Toyota? Maybe. Put a wind turbine on the roof? It's possible. Or will he just sell up and relocate to China? In a world where a manager is as good as his last  financial report, I suspect that more then a few of us employed folks should be feeling worried. I am reminded about this every time I make a tech support call. Just think - years of marching for workers' rights thousands of strikes in the fight for minimum wages, penalty rates, equal pay, all so that when my computer breaks I get to talk to some guy in Bungalore who works for five cents an hour, doesn't speak English and never even had a bite a Vegemite. You think that's funny? Next week that same guy could be doing your job. Now if I was a union leader, I too would realize that this is a battle worth fighting, if only because unemployed people don't pay union fees. The union may be getting into bed with big business but that bed might be the warmest place to be if you want to keep your job. To paraphrase Anna Bligh after the Queensland floods: 'We are all in this bed together.' If I was a Greens Senator, I might hold off on some of the harsher adjectives, especially when publicly disciplining a fellow activist of the Left. As for me, next time a guy in a Lexus cuts me off at the lights, I will remind myself that he may be giving a job to some fellow just like me. But not after the Carbon Tax comes in because by then I might not have a job to drive to.  

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Human Footprint

In recent times a new concern has crept into people's lives. Increasingly people judge their actions in light of how much Carbon their living generates. Reducing the 'Carbon footprint' has become a measure of one's concern for the environment. Where once children were taught to be polite, to vacate a seat to an elderly person, to not litter or be rude... These days it's all about five minute showers, the 'half flush' toilet and solar power. Concrete expressions of civility and kindness have been replaced by virtue whose value is little more then symbolic. The claim of 'It all adds up' fails to account for were exactly does it all add up, on whose account and for whose benefit.

Saving the Amazon and decreasing global temperature by 0.001C in our granchildren's days may be worthy goals but what about our own 'environment'? The people we live next to, the streets we live on, the sidewalks we step on. Aren't they worthy of protection and care? I propose a new definition. Let us call it 'the Human footprint'. The Human footprint is that impact we make withing the hearts and lives of other people. Just as caring to keep the Carbon footprint small so too we must work our hardest to keep our Human footprint as large as possible. We must strive to make a positive and meaningful impact on our fellow human beings at every interaction, no matter how brief and insignificant. We must become conscious and awake to the impact that our words and actions carry on our family, friends, work colleagues, even strangers. We must learn to be sensitive to their feelings, always civil, never dismissive, always ready do back up words with action. Only by treating other with civility and kindness, only by being genuinely concerned with the welfare of those close to us can we hope to enrich the human universe we live in. And isn't that the environment worthy of protection?

Government sponsored fun

I was driving in the car the other day when I heard this promotion for 'The Great Garage Sale Trail'.The idea is that a whole bunch of people get together and hold garage sales on the same weekend. I though this was a fantastic thought until I heard the words 'This project is being supported by a number of Local Councils.' I was so curious about this 'support' that I had to check the website and as expected the 'support' was of the financial nature, as well as free advertising, giveaways and the like. After all, it's good for the environment, isn't it?

Now let me admit that I love a good garage sale. I hosted a couple myself after moving house and not a few of my things were purchased at one. The difference that in my memory when you wanted to run a garage sale you just drew the signs, put you stuff out on the front lawn and got on with it. There was no word of Council 'support' being offered. Every quarter when I open my Council rates bill I have a mini heart attack. It feels like every time I blink my rate fees are growing. This is despite my rubbish bin shrinking by half and the local park looking more and more like a safety hazard. But I now realise that my council has found much better things to do with my money then the old rubbish removal and park maintenance. My council now offers sustainability grants, runs a writing competition and in my local library kids can sign up for free Play Station sessions. That has to be good for their academic development. I have never voted in the city mayor on the platform of free computer game playing or approved a special garage sale maintenance surcharge but the Council has made those financial decisions on my behalf anyway. So please allow me to ask: Has the community spirit sunk so low that we can't even hold a garage sale without the provision of Council funding? Is subsidised game playing really the best thing our teenagers need? Sometimes I wonder if all this local government 'support' is killing the real community spirit. After all, do we really need state money sponsorship just to have fun?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Have you voted yet?

Have you voted yet? No, I don't mean the Federal election due this year. I mean the election 30 year away. That's right that election due to be held circa 2040, just around the time you will be lying in bed drooling on a napkin in some nursing home somewhere (that's if you are one of the lucky ones to avoid the dreaded heart attack). Confused? Don't see what that's got to do with your comfortable present-day life?
Let me explain. You like where you are in life right now, right? I mean, it's not perfect, but there are a lot of things you are proud off, things you want to preserve. Things like your community, family, values, mp3 collection, you name it.  If someone came along and took it all away you would feel pretty angry. Now, these things are all secure while you are around but you know that it wouldn't stay that way forever. After all, the live we build is a product of multitude of decisions we all make every day. The life of a city, a state, a continent is an orchestra woven with the voices of its' citizens. The never ending ballot of minute decisions building our communal existence into a common melody. Right now you have a voice in that melody. A say in how the lives of the people around you will be shaped, but one day that voice will be silenced and someone else will get your voting rights. Who will that be? Will he (she) care about the things you passionately care about right now? Or will the fruits of your life's work be undone in an instant? Some people will say 'What do I care after I'm gone?' And maybe if you are one of them, you should stop reading the rest of this article (you probably already did and started watching 'funny cat videos' on Youtube). But chances are you don't feel that way. Chances are you feel the cumulative legacy of your lifetime to be a damn worthwhile thing to just throw away and the things and people you care about too precious to abandon. In that case I got a good news for you! Notice something? You are still around. Able bodied, breathing, reading this article. Wake up! It's a big job ahead of you so don't delay. Start imparting, teaching, communicating... To your kids of course, who else? They will be the ones left standing at the poling booth when you are gone. Show them why it's good to vote the way you did. None is watching, observing you more then they do so show them why the things you care about are worth it. It's a hard job and sometimes I think one lifetime is just not enough time to do it right. But if you succeed, in the eternity of human existence there will be a proxy vote reserved for you.

Steve and I

Good day, let me introduce myself. I am a thirty something professional with a wife,

kids, mortgage and a nine to five job. Well, it's meant to be nine to five if not for the

deadlines, performance targets, my boss's idiosyncratic moods... but I am getting

sidetracked. After all, this story isn't just about me. It is also about another man, let's call

him Steve. Steve lives in a ramshackle hut with leaking roof and broken windows. He

doesn't have a job and spends most of his time on the couch watching TV with a stubby

in his hand. When he is not drunk, he is on drugs, or at the pub, or explaining his latest

misdemeanor to a Magistrate. The problem is, for reasons I don't understand the

Government likes Steve much more then me. Let me explain. I work hard paying the

mortgage, bills and school fees but every year at tax time I get a shock realizing just how

much of my hard-earned money the Government has taken away. And not a small

amount of that money seems to end up in Steve's pocket. Since he doesn't work, he gets

the unemployment benefits, rent assistance, free doctors' visits and cheap public transport

tickets. Whenever he gets in trouble with the law, the Government helpfully offers him a

lawyer, a social worker and a councilor, all free of charge of course. If during one of his

drunken escapades Steve were to sire a unwanted child in whose life he will take no

interest, the Government will kindly step in with free childcare, schooling and parenting

payments. At no point in all this will Steve be asked to grow up, start acting like an adult

and take responsibility for himself. Which brings me to the following request: Dear

Government, I don't know what I have done to offend you and why you treat me so

poorly. I also don't know what it is Steve has done to get into your good books, but

please, please forgive me for whatever it is I have done and let's start afresh. Surely

whatever it is Steve is doing for you, I could do too.