14 September 2010

A Lateralist Approach to Government Ministries

When Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn created their classic satire, Yes, Minister and its equally impressive sequel series, Yes, Prime Minister, one of their many masterstrokes included the decision to focus on the Ministry of Administrative Affairs; or put more plainly, the Ministry of Bureaucracy.

The eventual re-emergence of a Gillard Government and its rather protracted gestation period stirred in me thoughts of that wonderful Civil Servant, Sir Humphrey Appleby. For Sir Humprhey, all Governments would have been, if he'd had his way, care-taker Governments. Or even just eternally hung parliaments. As was recently postulated by this site's co-founder, a government which cannot pass a single act of legislation (save for supply) is logically anything but an unstable Government; it is in fact, the absolute apotheosis of its opposite. Given his (Humphrey's) belief in the virtue of "masterly inactivity", I think Humphrey would have liked how things have panned out for the Colonies. He'd love all the fussing, finagling and finessing. He'd consider it "activity", which as any good Civil Servant knows, is, for politicians, their "substitute for achievement".

Gillard seems to have had a few teething problems in getting her new Ministry up and running. Appearing to neglect Indigenous Health and abolishing Education have not won her any friends. Of course, simply by not having ministries which include these precise words in their names is hardly the same as abolishing the concepts or the intention to address their associated problems, but in an age of spun symbols, it seems appearances matter.

To that end, I'd like to see the creation of a number of other Ministries, which, if given the change to operate, could really get this country moving in the right direction.

To that end, I think we'd best start with a Ministry for Cartography and Navigation, lest we get this country moving forward in what turns out to be the wrong direction.

I think we really need a Minister in charge of Symbolism. In this day and age, we'd best get our emblems (fossil or otherwise) licked into shape. They can also finally appoint our official national dish. (I vote for Spag Bog.) They can get "Up There Cazaly" or "It's A Long Way to the Top (if You Want to Rock and Roll)" sworn in as our National Anthem. And I mean really; without Ministerial attention, how else are we finally going to get a sheet of corrugated iron, a beach ball or a stuffed Koala nominated as our new flag?

Actually, flags are a serious issue. To that end, I think we're going to need a Minister for Vexillology, so this issue gets the attention it deserves.

Given the importance of sport in Australia, I think it's high time that the major codes got a Minister apiece. A Minister for Football and a Minister for Australian Rules Football should do it. I mean, the AFL clearly needs someone other than Dimwitriou in charge, and Football needs the full support of the Federal Government if we're ever going to get a World Cup hosted down under. (If you were wondering about the other sports; Cricket and Rugby can get stuffed, and Tennis and Golf are actually hobbies.)

I think the Minister for Health can stay, but needs to be re-named the Minister for Anti-Fat. Cutting to the chase really focuses the attentions of the voters. To that end, the Minister for De-Hooning Our Roads and the Minsister for the Forced Deportation of Racist Morons should also come in very useful.

If you look around, I think it's clear that a great deal of damage over the years has been done by there not being a Minister for Suits and Tailoring in this country. (For the record, this person will simply be known as the Bespoke Minister.) I also think that a Minister for Language is definitely needed, lest our language continue to devolve to the point where we are as illiterate as America. Or Britain.

The possibilities are endless. I think every single person elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate should have a Ministerial Portfolio. I welcome input into this matter, people.

But don't forget the Minister for Lateralism. They are the glue, the paper, the ink, and the inspiration. Without Lateralism, this country is stuffed.

13 September 2010

Freedom & Respect - Lateralist Musings

The United States just can't seem to get past the pain of September 11, 2001. I'm not surprised, but I fervently wish that for their sake, it were not so.

I can understand the pain felt by some Americans over the plans to build a Mosque in close proximity to what has come to be known (a little disturbingly) as Ground Zero, but I certainly don't think it's justifiable, any more than it was (or is) justifiable for people involved in World War II or the Vietnam War to hate Germans or Asians. The pain is certainly real, but the expression of it is really no better than, after being made to feel foolish by Person A, walking down the street and socking Person B on the nose.

Possibly the greatest thing the Americans could do is build a multilayered or singular non-denominational "Church" right on top of where the World Trade Centre once stood. Or a park; you know, the universal church. People from many different faiths and nations died on that day, including innocent Muslims. If that site of such terrible, terrible waste became a place for active healing as well as for remembrance, then I reckon that really would be something.

But instead, the squabbles over rights drags ever onwards. And just to give things a local flavour, some goose over East decides to test to the smoking suitability of the Koran and a Bible. I mean, honestly. I can't fathom being stupid enough to do something that pointless, never mind being dumb enough to film myself doing it and then to post it online. The guy was obviously looking for attention, and really has no one to blame but himself if he loses his job. I'm not sure if what he's done should really be considered a sackable offence, but if he worked for me, I'd probably be looking for an excuse to show him the door.

Our world - like all worlds - is defined by a shared sense of values. Without them, we're just going about our individual business in close proximity to a lot of other people, with whom we have nothing in common. I'm not saying that's a bad way to live, but you can't call it a society. So if we want one, we're going to have to learn to play nice. And playing nice actually means deciding not to exercise certain rights.

I've never much cared for the shenanigans of The Chaser crew. It's not that I dislike all - or even most - of what they do. It's more that because they seem keen to take pot-shots at everything, their own rather limited values come into sharp focus. All they seem to value is what they see as their right to lambast, critique, ridicule and undermine all that they see. I think that's a bit too shallow for my taste. I mean, I could make fun of everything I saw, too, but I'm not a depressed fifteen year old, so I'm not going to waste my time. Creating beats lampooning any day of the week, for mind.

What's the link between these things? It's not tolerance; because tolerance isn't enough. It's about respect. In my mind, the building of a Mosque isn't disrespectful, and to think it so is to draw a direct line between the sins of some Muslims with a punishment for all Muslims. I cannot do that. But I can find the actions of our book-smoking buffoon disrespectful, because the actions seem to be calibrated to achieve little more than revealing - via questionable means - that some people care deeply about religion. I mean, he can hardly claim that it's about revealing that some Religious folk are hypocrites. Surely that's not a secret, is it? Will some of these religious people react in ways ill-considered and over the top? Of course they will, and they in their turn ought to be held to account, or simply ignored.

It's also why I can take issue with the actions of those in the US who are protesting so very loudly over the building of a mosque. These protests logically must have at their core a associative link between terrorism and Islam, which is to mind, the very definition of prejudice at work.

It's okay to care about things in this world. But the only way I can meaningfully care about things that matter to me is to try and care about the things that matter to other people. This is actually far harder than it should be, but the alternative to pluralism is totalitarianism, and I know which of the two I'd prefer.

I don't envy the US their pain and struggle; but there's a noble path ahead for them, if they've the courage to follow it. If not, then I think the dark times presently being experienced are going to linger for a while yet.

And that's a shame.

02 September 2010

Lateralist Advertising

On route to dinner with some mates last night, I noticed a new advertisement for a "toasted sandwich" that was being promoted by a well-known pizza chain.

Setting aside that I wouldn't call what they were promoting a sandwich (I don't put meatballs in a sandwich all that often), and that I woudn't eat one under threat of gastric distress, I had to concede that they'd obviously spent some time on getting the pictures for their promotion looking just right.

If only they'd spent a bit longer on the wording.

I noted with amusement, that their sign proclaimed proudly that these sandwiches were baked in their ovens at 260 degrees.

Hmm. Now, surely you're grasping somewhat to find anything worthwhile to say about your product if you've got to boast about how hot your stove is. I mean, come on!

But if they're going to go down that path, who am I to complain?

In fact, he's a few product perks they can add any time they like:

  • Rectangular for easy transportation!
  • Made from real ingredients!
  • Eventually digestible!
  • Baked in Smeg Ovens!
  • High in value!
  • Low in fatty nutrients!
  • Individually assembled!
  • Cheesy!
  • Almost tasty!
If I'm honest, I applaud their honesty. They had bugger-all of value to say about their product, so they opted for something banal, but true.

There should be more advertising like it. Assuming of course, that we cannot do away with products of no real value. And let's face it. That's still a way's off....

Lateralist Smoking

I detest smoking. I try not to detest smokers, but I don't try that hard. Part of the reason for this, I think, is that I was once a smoker. Yes, I know. My head is hanging in shame, and that hung head is filled with questions along the lines of, what was I thinking. I don't know why I thought it a good idea to start, but I am very, very pleased that about four years ago, I made the decision to stop.

I got this idea the other day, when, to my chagrin, I found myself alongside a car at a set of traffic lights. The car was to the right of me, and the passenger in the front of the car was smoking. My window was down, and so was his.


I wound my window up with a grumble. But as I did so, I thought, why am I winding up my window? He should be winding up HIS window!

And like so many of the universe's eternal mysteries, another wonderful idea miraculously began to form.

In its embryonic stage, I felt myself leaning towards the decree that all smokers in cars must do so with windows wound up. I mean, if the smokers themselves can't put up with the smoke and the stink, why should the rest of us?

But then, I had a flashback to my time in places like Thailand, China and Vietnam, where it's decidedly de rigueur to see people smoking whilst astride their moving scooters. And then it dawned on me; all smokers must smoke from within the confines of a motorcycle helmet at all times.

Not only is this a boon for those of us who've decided not to make the poisoning of oneself into an all-consuming habit, but it's actually good news for smokers themselves. Once again, smokers can smoke virtually anywhere they like!

With the possible exception of banks (for security reasons, of course), smokers will he able to suck away of their toxins with nary an influence on the outside world. And I'd reckon that when encased within about eight cubic centimetres of air space, even the ultra-mild brands are going to pack some punch. Heck, if you try to smoke the double-barrelled red-label raw diesel varieties that only those working on cray boats would even contemplate using, you'd have a face like black minstrel after just one dart...

Obviously, the helmet would need some modifications. Some kind of air filtering system, and possibly a small generator. But I think that's a small price to pay. Given that even the wildlife smoke in most parts of Asia, the reduction in atmospheric pollution would be pretty darn impressive, I'd wager.

So there it is. There's no zealot like a reformed smoker, and I've been waiting for a moment of inspiration like this to strike.

But until I can get my helmet design through the arduous patent stage, I'm going to elevate PLAN B off the bench. Whenever someone lights up in my vicinity, I'm going to set fire to the car tyre (stuffed with human hair) that I just happen to have with me.

If they can blow smoke, so can I. And smokers, beware; I'll be packin' more than a Winnie Blue.