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The Cell

February 28, 2012

I am in a small room, lying on a small bed hastily dressed with a pillow and scratchy blanket. The previous hours have been a confusion of interrogations punctuated with long periods of waiting. For what, is unclear. Although now friendless, I am not quite solitary, with the constant movement of the silhouettes of security guards behind the open blinds reminding me that I am under constant guard, despite the presence of a closed-circuit television camera capturing every movement for an unseen audience.

The room is safe, which is to say a marvel in minimalist design. There is not a sharp surface, a fitting not securely bolted; there is a superfluous mirror of roughly polished stainless steel. The door handles curve and slope downwards towards the floor. There is no escape here.

Though the outside atmosphere does not penetrate this sequestered space, I know that it is late and dark outside. I try to sleep, but the overhead fluorescent lights illuminating my prison flicker and bore through my skill, inflaming the backs of my eyelids.

Snatches of sleep are punctuated by terrifying moments of lucid paralysis. An acrid chemical stench fills my nostrils and I am being electrocuted. I awake screaming and sweat-soaked, head buzzing. The silhouettes do not intervene. I wonder if I am imagining my animal cries. I lay terrified of the sleep I so desperately need.

*

The date is 27 October 2011. I have been admitted to Grafton Base Hospital having been found by concerned friends in an acute state of bipolar-induced depression: intoxicated, isolated and planning my demise. I am suffering self-inflicted cold turkey withdrawal symptoms from high doses of ‘non-addictive’ psychiatric medications. I receive no sedatives, no hydration, no food; little understanding. I am told by my treating doctor that I need to become more independent. If only she knew that my desperate wish to be so is what has paradoxically led me to my current situation.

I am in what appears to be the hospital’s only appropriate mental health bed, I assume for the safety of myself and others. The room is new, and presumably designed to withstand the throes of violent psychosis.

Within twelve hours, I will have been gently escorted from the premises by a friendly allied health worker and left to my own devices. There are no beds available at the two closest psychiatric hospitals, both located more than 100km distant. Though it is only implied, I gather that I am not sick enough to warrant treatment.

Thankfully for me, my own devices include two incredibly worried, caring and informed friends who rescue me, shaking and foundering on a bench outside the hospital. They take me to see my wonderfully empathetic General Practitioner who bypasses the public health system, booking me into a private psychiatric facility. My brother, a successful chef in Melbourne, drops everything to be with me. Selfless family friends take me into their home to ensure my safety until I can be admitted to hospital.

From the depths of despair, with the support of my friends and family, I begin to find the strength within myself to heal; strength fortified by weeks spent in the clinic, a life-saving experience.

*

I tell my story so that there may be some understanding of what it is like to suffer at the strangulating hands of mental illness, and because the support provided by our public health system simply isn’t good enough. Having found the strength to live, I have now found the strength to fight, that others not have to suffer the trauma I have faced. It is my greatest wish that my experiences can provide hope to others in crisis.

For those who are feeling helpless, please know that there is help to be found. Communicate with your family and friends; see your General Practitioner regularly; call Lifeline (13 11 14) – voicing the ruminating fears in your mind is the first step towards wellness. And invest in private health insurance: your wellbeing is worth it.

Drugs, Stress, Money

February 24, 2012

Sociologist Frank Furedi’s recent piece ‘Individual difference suffers in the neverending explosion of mental illness’ in the Australian raises several valid concerns regarding the impending publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  DSM-5), the ‘bible’ of psychiatric diagnosis. The manual, currently being circulated in draft form, has attracted criticism for it significant expansion of what are considered to be mental disorders, including behaviours, particularly in children, previously considered to be within the spectrum of ‘normality’. The trend towards the ‘lexicalisation of normality, individual difference, and criminality’ is indeed a disturbing one.

What is also disturbing however, is Furedi’s focus on the increasing recognition and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in the armed forces and law enforcement. To suggest that the day-to-day work of men and women in defence and law enforcement entails ‘everyday stress’ is to underestimate the high potential for exposure to trauma in these professions.

While he quotes Surgeon Commander Doug McKenzie’s unsubstantiated claim that a ‘staggering 90 per cent of recent mental illness pension claims could be false’, he fails to recognise that the Department of Veterans Affairs is compensating just 27,500 veterans, 20,000 of whom served in Vietnam.

I have spent a not insignificant amount of time with veterans and law enforcement officers who are experiencing post-traumatic stress, and all anecdotal evidence I have gleaned suggests that this very real and destructive disorder still largely goes unrecognised and untreated among these communities, particularly within the management structure of the armed forces and law enforcement. There can be no doubt that there are those who will use the increasing recognition of PTSD to ‘rort the system’, but is this really more endemic than other illegitimate workplace injury claims?

Similarly, Furedi’s argument that the pathologisation of stress among farming communities and those affected by natural disasters somehow undermines ‘the potential for resilience in communities facing hardship’ smacks of the Aussie attitude that one should just ‘harden up’ and get over it, the very attitude that often prevents people from seeking help in times of genuine need.

In short, in my view, Furedi has completely missed the point regarding the DSM-5. There is a genuine concern that an increasing spectrum of behaviours considered to deviate from the norm are being classified as disorders requiring treatment. The real issue though is, what is the treatment? While Furedi’s focus is on the provision of therapy (and I still fail to understand how individual therapy undermines our collective coping skills), the biggest stakeholder in this concern is the pharmaceutical industry.

Allow me to state the situation simply: drug companies make enormous profits from selling psychopharmacological drugs. The profits generated by drug companies are therefore the main source of funding into mental health research. It is in the interests of drug companies to pathologise behaviour to require psychopharmalogical treatment. Profits continue to grow, and the cycle continues. The DSM-V drastically increases the range of diagnoses. Coincidence?

While the taskforce overseeing the development of the DSM-5 includes not only research scientists from psychiatry and other disciplines, but clinical care providers and consumer and family advocates, there can be no question that the pharmaceutical industry is inextricably linked to the development of this document. Whose interests are being served here, and how will the DSM-V impact on the treatment of individuals and the perception of mental illness in the community? These are the questions that should be being asked.

I await further analysis of the draft document in the Australian media in the coming months, which hopefully won’t be limited to Frank Furedi’s curious and distracting perspective.

That’s Opinfotainment

August 11, 2010

During my year back in Grafton, I have delighted in re-engaging with local news and politics. Reading the daily rag, edited by the eminently capable David Bancroft, over coffee every morning, I enjoy keeping an eye on goings-on about town. I am nothing if not an engaged and responsible citizen.

Depending on your outlook, the lead-up to a Federal election is an exciting time in the news, and Grafton is no exception. Located in the marginal seat of Page, incumbent Labor MP Janelle Saffin’s major opponent is National Party candidate Kevin Hogan. The National Party in particular has launched a strong campaign, looking to lure voters back to the Coalition, with Barnyard Barnaby Joyce and Warren Truss making regular appearances around town. Just yesterday, Mr Truss was at one of the local surf shops to announce the Coalition’s first major policy for the area, a $250K funding package for CCTV cameras (NB: pork barrelling: ur doin it rong. Margie Abbott probably finds $250K in Tony’s trousers when she does the washing).

However, I digress. The section of the newspaper I most enjoy is the Opinion page, and in particular the letters to the editor. You see, the letters pages in regional newspapers contain a wealth of what could perhaps best be described as ‘opinfotainment’. Unlike the letters in the major dailies, which are usually limited to short quips on topical major issues, these opinfotainment pieces have been known to run to 500 words and cover all manner of subject areas.

With all newspapers, when you read the letters page over a long period, you become familiar with ‘serial pests’. As you can imagine, people who bother to write letters to the editor are often quite passionate and forthright about their views. It so happens that a couple of the ‘serial pests’ in our local area are a fair distance right of centre, somewhere in the region of the Andrew Bolt Retirement Village, and arguably a stubby short of a six-pack, qualities which render their contributions entertaining on one hand, and reasonably frightening on the other.

I’ve lately been endeavouring to forge a reputation as a local crank myself, albeit a staunch left-wing crank with a relatively sound grasp of English grammar. In the lead-up to the election, I feel that it’s important to balance baseless claims with verifiable information, lest anyone actually believe that Julia Gillard is a puppet operated by the ghosts of Marx and Stalin sent to make Australia the new North Korea. After all, when you’re told something repeatedly over a long period of time, there’s a danger that you’ll start to believe it.

Word has it that my third letter in as many weeks will be published tomorrow and, as a young writer, I couldn’t be prouder to finally see my work in print. There are some letters however, which just don’t require a written response. They speak for themselves. This is one of them. It might be too early to call, but I’m going to nominate this for letter of the year.

We are living in unprecedented times.

Established society, that is the capitalist political-economy, is collapsing globally, including locally.

Signs of this dead ending include increases in armed robbery, inequality, pornography, home invasions, homelessness, drug abuse, domestic violence, road rage, unrepayable debt, oil spills, illiberal laws, water pollution, soil erosion, overpopulation, illegal immigration, under-employment, information overload, climate change, taxation, disease, inbuilt obsolescence, moral decay and juvenile delinquency.

Whew! The good news is that a better world of neo-gnostic anarchy, that is the universal love economy, is emerging from the old, for those who can, by adaptation, survive the transformative change.

According to seers like Jesus, those fit for this survival will be the spiritually meek, and not self-righteous, who can learn to live together, in voluntary simplicity, governed by the golden rule of nature and/or God and so share the earth, peacefully and productively, as tenants in common of a multiple occupancy; not as capitalists, who claim to own private, including corporate, property for profit, feudalists or socialists.

However the changeover to this new regime is attracting massive resistance from those with vested interests to defend and will entail acts of violence, war and terrorism, which, as neo-fascism, have already begun.

Rubbish we seers as fools, by all means, but nobody can escape, with their dependent children, this imminent bifurcation of the entire human race.

Dr Doug Ogilvie
Bilambil

Meanwhile, tomorrow I am hitting the campaign trail to attend a community forum about border security and immigration hosted by the National Party. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures in country politics!

UPDATE: I’m not quite sure why, but this just came to mind.

Julia, the People’s Powerfox – Your Questions Answered

June 24, 2010

On one of the most historic days in our history, the Governor General has sworn in Australia’s third bloodnut Prime Minister. Naturally, there has been a lot of confusion about what this means for the people of Australia. As a proud member of Hawkie’s Surf Team, a time-honoured Government-funded special task force, I’d like to thank working Australians for investing in my future by clarifying some of the key issues and separating fact from fiction regarding our new leader, Chairman Chairperson Prime Minister Gillard, so that you, the hardworking mums and dads of Australia, don’t have to. While you may not have the luxury of watching untold hours of inane coverage and analysis on television and social media, I literally have nothing better to do!

Q: I didn’t vote for Julia Gillard! What gives those factional warlords the right to choose a Prime Minister I didn’t vote for? Is that even legal?

A: It’s a little-known fact that Australia still differs from America in some significant ways. One of those is that our citizens do not vote for a President-style Prime Minister, but for a political party, through electing local members of parliament. If the party doesn’t think their leader is doing a good job, it’s their right to choose another one, either undermining them in a long, drawn-out public attack, or privately and swiftly, in an unexpected overnight coup. If you don’t like it, move to America, there’s an illegal immigrant jumping a queue right now in preparation to take your place.

And anyway, you said Kevin Rudd was an incompetent crypto-fascist a minute ago, what DO you want? Oh? A narrow-minded hypocritical and fanatical Catholic ego-maniac with a thinly-veiled disregard for the majority of Australian people to become the next Prime Minister? Just excuse me for a moment while I go and trawl some Kings Cross bars for an itinerant New Zealander to marry for citizenship purposes.

Q: Julia Gillard isn’t married and doesn’t have children. Is she a satanist?

A: No Senator Fielding. While it’s likely that she will now be forced to pander to the religious lobby, she is simply among the majority of Australians who really don’t give a rats about the outdated moral standards of the vocal minority represented by the major organised religions and the Family First party.

Q: Annabel Crabb said that Kevin Rudd is a robot. Why didn’t his head short-circuit when he cried, resulting in a spectacular explosion? Will robots still be welcome in this new regime?

A: Despite many indications to the contrary, Kevin Rudd is not a sophisticated cyborg. He is just a bloke doing his best, who happens to be a bit socially awkward and a control freak who didn’t know when to let go. As a result, the once loved Chavez from Nambour was slowly crucified by the media, turning his once adoring public against him in a spectacular fashion. Bafflingly, this included the left-leaning pundits who you would expect to be horrified by the possibility of Labor losing government after just one term attempting to undo the untold damage left in the wake of the Howard years. Who’d have thunk it. As demonstrated by Julie Bishop’s continuing tenure as Deputy Opposition Leader, equal rights for cyborgs is still at the core of Australian politics.

Q: Will Kevin Rudd’s Cat continue to play a role in the ALP?

A: While he is yet to make a public appearance, sources close to the cat have confirmed that he has indicated he will continue to serve the party in any manner he can be of assistance.

Q: Are all redheads communists?

A: Yes.

Please feel free to send any further questions you might have on these confusing but exciting political developments. In the meantime, as another person who spoke Chinese once said, may you live in interesting times.

Mad Men

June 21, 2010

Picking up the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, if it wasn’t for the tell-tale (and, frankly, misleading) broadsheet format and the masthead displaying the date, you could have been excused for thinking that the world had gone all Life on Mars on your arse and taken you back to 1972, when tabloids like The Truth could be relied upon for news with a side of boobs on page three. A touch of Don Juan about DJs big honcho screamed the headline, ‘Attractive, blonde and smart, Kirsty Fraser-Kirk was not the only female employee who found herself the object of the disgraced chief executive, Mark McInnes’s affections’ began the front-page article in the paper which broke the biggest business story of the weekend.

Anyone paying even the vaguest attention to the news over the past few days would have heard that McInnes resigned suddenly on Friday from his position as CEO of David Jones, confirming that ‘at two recent company functions I behaved in a manner unbecoming of the high standard expected of a chief executive officer to a female staff member … as a result of this conduct I have offered my resignation to the David Jones board and we have agreed on the mutual termination of my employment with the company, effective immediately.’

‘a manner unbecoming of the high standard expected of a chief executive officer’.

OH! Is that what they’re calling it now? I thought it was called SEXUAL HARASSMENT, a crime under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984!

A Crikey analysis today rightly pointed out that David Jones’s handling of the situation to have been commendable in its swiftness, transparency and financial penalty to the former CEO. However, the fact that they would allow McInnes to fall back this euphemism is abhorrent.

Let’s give credit to the media where it’s due though. It’s true, if it was 1972, the story would never have been published. Because what CEO worth his share portfolio WOULDN’T have been chasing skirt to bend over the photocopier after a couple of cheeky scotches? This is the twenty-first century though. These days, sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. Happily, like many other crimes, the reporting of such incidents is an important contribution to a shift in the entrenched culture and attitudes surrounding harassment which is needed to accompany these laws.

The condemnation of sexual harassment even occupies a place in popular culture these days, for example, as one of the central themes of Mad Men, the popular series chronicling a New York advertising agency in the 1960s. We all love Joan’s sassy curves and marvel along with the fellas when she provocatively displays her derriere, but we know that IT IS A SATIRE, because we are a society which now recognises that women are equals in the workplace! How enlightened we are to have come so far!

Things get a little more uncomfortable though when we see that creep Pete’s advances towards Peggy. That is so not cool. Through Peggy’s journey we realise that sexual harassment isn’t all strategic necklines and strutting, it’s about women (and men) feeling pressured by their colleagues, often senior and male, to tolerate their advances in order to advance their own careers. SO last century!

Unfortunately, it’s SO not last century for some. That shit still happens. All the time. And if the Sydney Morning Herald is anything to go by, some people still seem to think it’s a bit of a fucking joke. ‘A touch of Don Juan in the ladies’ department‘ read the online headline, prominently displayed on the paper’s hompage for most of the day, helpfully filed in the ‘Lifestyle’ section. Oh Mark, what a card, a libertine, a rogue! With the precise nature of the ‘unbecoming’ behaviour in question still a mystery, and rumours that McInnes was a bit of a notorious ladies man, Fairfax ensured that Andrew Hornery, their resident gossip peddler, was on the case, leading this front-page expose. I’m sorry, but have you SEEN this guy’s Twitter profile picture? That’s some heavyweight journalist right there. Fairfax is really leading the pack. Or more accurately ‘a’ pack. Of rabid, salivating, pustulating gossip mongers. There’s plenty of dirt to be dug, because although only one formal complaint (and one alleged complaint) has surfaced, apparently Mr McInnes’s ‘unbecoming’ behaviour wasn’t limited to these two occasions.

What of the anonymous colleagues who are fueling this speculation? There haven’t been any other complaints (though another alleged complaint is being investigated), so, could it be that women still feel intimidated by men in positions of power, and don’t recognise when a line has been crossed, or don’t have the courage to lodge a formal complaint? Who knows! The fact is, it’s a matter for a company and it’s employees, and an issue to be treated with the utmost seriousness and respect, not for Andrew Hornery’s trashtastic musings.

Secrets and lies; truth and lives…

May 21, 2010

They say ‘a week is a long time in politics’. Indeed, as the Federal and NSW state elections draw ever closer, the weeks seem to become longer and increasingly action-packed with all manner of happenings, controversies and unfathomable acts of stupidity.

A week is also a long time if you’re me. It may surprise you to know that there are many, many, many things that interest me more than day-to-day happenings in politics and the media, and lord knows I spend a lot of time thinking about and opining on those. So I’m tired.

In politics and the media however, this week has proven to be particularly interesting. Therefore, in the interests of brevity and energy conservation, I simply wish to state some information which interests me and is, to the best of my knowledge, factual. A recording for posterity. A snapshot, if you will, of politics and the media in Australia in 2010. After all, the facts can often get lost and distorted in the fog of media commentary. As that other saying goes, ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story’.

Thursday 20 May 2010, PM

NSW Transport Minister David Campbell issues the following statement: ‘I have resigned as minister for transport and roads for personal reasons, not for any reasons relating to my ministerial duties.’

Approximately half an hour later, Channel 7 airs footage, on prime-time television, of David Campbell leaving ‘Ken’s at Kensington’, ‘Sydney’s most intimate sex venue’ ‘for men who prefer men’. The report emphasises the fact that Campbell is alleged to have driven himself to and from the club using a ministerial vehicle.

This action is within the guidelines for the personal use of ministerial vehicles.

The following day, the Channel 7 journalist responsible for breaking the story, Adam Walters, argues that it was in the public interest to broadcast the footage because ‘It’s blindingly obvious that since 1999 Mr Campbell has purported to be a family man’.

Thursday 20 May, AM

The Herald Sun prints a column titled ‘Stay in the closet, Jason Akermanis tells homosexuals’ by regular contributor and AFL player Jason Akermanis which contains the following remarks:

But I believe the world of AFL footy is not ready for it. To come out is unnecessary for a lot of reasons.

Imagine the publicity associated with a current player admitting he’s gay. It would be international news and could break the fabric of a club.

Football clubs are very different environments. Locker room nudity is an everyday part of our lives and unlike any other work place.

I have played with a gay player in the twos for Mayne in Queensland in the mid-1990s who was happy to admit his sexual persuasion. He was a great guy who played his heart out and was respected by everyone in the team.

The only time I noticed a difference was when I was showering with 10 other players after a good win and I turned around to see all 10 heading out in a second with their towels. Sure enough, our gay teammate had wandered in.

For some reason I felt uncomfortable, so I left. I am sure most players these days would do the same.

Away from football, I’m all for any initiative that helps lessen public bias against homosexuality, such as IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia), which was run on Monday.

If you thought suicide was bad among young men, it is four to six times higher for people who are attracted to the same sex. It clearly can be a difficult and lonely road, one that hopefully can be made easier.

In women’s sport – tennis, golf, cricket, hockey and soccer – being gay carries no stigma. But men’s sport is well behind in acceptance.

In an athletic environment the rules are different from the cultural rules for men.

Never in a mall will you see two straight men hugging, a— slapping and jumping around like kids after an important goal.

Locker room nudity and homoerotic activities are normal inside footy clubs.

Young people from the ages 15-24 are the main participants in organised sport in Victoria. Some of them must be gay and I hope they thoroughly enjoy their sporting lives without having to experience any form of prejudice.

But if they are thinking of telling the world, my advice would be forget it.

Monday 17 May 2010

Current Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is interviewed on the ABC’s 7.30 Report by Kerry O’Brien. The interview contains the following exchange:

KERRY O’BRIEN: But part of that judgment is judging whether they can trust you at your word, at what you say at any given time. In February this year you said in a radio interview, “We will fund our promises without new taxes and without increased taxes.” A month later you announced that you’d fund six months paid maternity leave by putting a new tax on big companies. I’m not quite sure how you justify such a fundamental U-turn in such a short time?

TONY ABBOTT: And, the point I tried to make at the time was that I didn’t like the levy very much, but if we were going to have a paid parental leave scheme any time soon, a decent paid parental leave scheme any time soon, it had to be paid for and this was the least bad way of doing it.

KERRY O’BRIEN: OK, so you are prepared, having promised one month no new tax whatever, no increased tax to pay for policies, one month later you find a rationale that says we’re gonna have to find a new tax for this. Yet when the Government says it wants to impose a new tax on mining companies in order to pay for, in part, a cut in company tax, a cut in – an introduction on – an extension on the compulsory super and various other measures, you say that’s not justified. So your tax is justified, theirs isn’t.

TONY ABBOTT: But what I’m saying, Kerry, is that this $9 billion-a-year hit on our most successful industry is fundamental economic vandalism. I think that a decent paid parental leave scheme is not only long overdue, is not only socially visionary, but I think it is a fair dinkum productivity measure. I think it will help the economy in a way that this $9 billion hit on the mining industry won’t.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But what you haven’t explained is how you can make one promise in one month and then completely change it the next. What happened in that month where you had this sudden explosion of vision?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, again, Kerry, people will make their own judgments about me and if they …

KERRY O’BRIEN: No, but I’d like you to explain it. Tony Abbott feels with conviction we will not have a new tax in any way, shape or form, we won’t have a new tax; a month later, you do.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, again Kerry, I know politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say, but sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So every time you make a statement, we have to ask you whether it’s carefully prepared and scripted or whether it’s just something on the fly? No, seriously; this is a very serious question.

TONY ABBOTT: But all of us, Kerry, all of us when we’re in the heat of verbal combat, so to speak, will sometimes say things that go a little bit further.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Mr Abbott, we’re not all leaders of major political parties who are either Prime Minister or aspiring to be.

TONY ABBOTT: True, true, true.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Would you agree there is extra onus on you …

TONY ABBOTT: Absolutely right. Absolutely right.

KERRY O’BRIEN: … to be accurate and honest and make promises that can be trusted?

TONY ABBOTT: Absolutely right.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But that time, you couldn’t?

TONY ABBOTT: But the thing is I made a statement in a radio interview in February and then I think in March I made a commitment to paid parental leave. Now, …

KERRY O’BRIEN: Which was the opposite of what you’d said the month before.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, it wasn’t absolutely consistent with what I said the month before.

KERRY O’BRIEN: It was the opposite! One month you say no new tax, the next month you say a $2.7 billion tax.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, again, I think that most of us know when we’re talking to people or when we’re listening to people, I think we know when we can put absolute weight on what’s being said and when it’s just the give and take of standard conversation.

Breed or Bust: Devine on the ‘Tatters of the Sexual Revolution’

May 15, 2010

Hallelujah! After questioning the very values at the core of my being while reluctantly agreeing with some of Miranda Devine’s recent outpourings, the natural order of the universe has been restored! She has resumed her rightful position on the mental receiving end of my boxing gloves with a piece on fertility which is scraping the bottom of the Fairfax barrel, even for her. Hurrah! Let’s go through this blow by blow…

I was going to develop this into a sensible blog post, but then I realised that there was no point, because many other people who are far more qualified to do so will rightly respond to this outrage. Meanwhile, please indulge me while I briefly explode with a hastily written stream-of-consciousness tirade which I hope communicates even a fraction of my rage.

Firstly, WTF? No, that doesn’t adequately convey my shock. More like ‘what the fucking fuck?!!!!!!!!!’

As the tattered sexual revolution spawned by the pill hits middle age we can see the consequences of unmooring sex from the possibility of children, and the rejection of the age-old imperative to be “fruitful and multiply”.

Let me see: ‘the consequences of unmooring sex from the possibility of children’. So far so good. A woman can have sex, either within or outside of a marital relationship, or any relationship for that matter, maybe even enjoy it (heaven forbid), while being able to CHOOSE whether her womb cultivates the seed of her partner, creating a child which will impact the course of the rest of her natural life. Next.

The result is a so-called contraceptive culture, societies which regard children and childbearing as a nuisance, a burden and an expense, rather than a blessing.

Oh! THAT must be why mothers and fathers everywhere seem to hate their children so much! It does however beg questions like why there has been a recent baby boom and what is motivating desperate couples Australia-wide to spend fortunes on lengthy adoption procedures and IVF cycles which have a low success to high heartbreak ratio.

In the Anglosphere, New Zealand has the highest birth rate, at 2.10, and a tradition of cherishing babies in hundreds of tiny ways – from restaurants with high chairs to nosy questions of newlyweds to official street signs pointing to baby health clinics. By contrast, in Australia, children are regarded as nuisances, with complaints about monster prams and bitter competition for space in Sydney parks. Attitudes may make a difference.

That’s clever. She started out with a statistic. Unfortunately she followed it with a bunch of bullshit without any basis in reality! Or is it unfairly cynical of me to suppose that her sweeping anecdotal statements aren’t based on a lifetime of experience testing the child-friendliness of restaurants in Australia and New Zealand? Or, for that matter, even bothering to notice that Australia ALSO has baby health clinics, maternity wards and even whole hospitals dedicated to pediatric health, which I’m pretty sure are also officially signposted, as opposed to, I guess, hidden away like back-alley abortion clinics?!

In much of the developed world, birth rates today have sunk to below replacement levels of 2.13 children per woman. Contrary to popular opinion, these trends of the past 30 years are being mirrored in the developing world, in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

So, to summarise, women in the developing world with fewer resources, less political and social power and less access to adequate health care, are joining their sisters in the West to use contraceptives to reclaim power over their bodies. That’s without even entering into discussions about overpopulation or the State and Church-sanctioned prevention of access to other forms of contraception which have the potential to protect women from not only unwanted pregnancies but HIV and other STIs.

Just a thought: perhaps we could continue address the significant problems faced by women and their children in the developing world before complaining that they’re not making enough babies. Sorry to point out the obvious, but the shanty towns of Zimbabwe aren’t quite the sunny streets of Sydney’s lower North Shore (which, btw, seem to be constantly clogged up with annoying monster prams and SUVs filled with the progeny of the upper-middle-class on their way to Saturday soccer matches.)

The only Demographic Winter I’m worried about is one influenced by cynical, ill-conceived incentives to breed like the baby bonus and Tony Abbott’s alleged policy which was allegedly scuttled this week to allegedly pay $10,000 to mothers (I haven’t seen the word fathers mentioned anywhere) to stay at home (which, IMHO, is where he thinks women belong), instead of sensible, equitable and attractive paid maternity and paternity leave schemes that have proven to be successful in other Western countries of note.

‘Barren wombs and empty cradles’. How poetically evocative. Wait, let me Google that quote to find out where it came from. Hide behind your ‘quotation marks’ all you want Miranda, it’s pretty clear that what you’re really saying is that a woman who chooses not to bear children by using oral contraceptives has less value than one who does.

Frankly, I don’t particularly care to think about Miranda Devine’s sex life and it’s none of my goddamn business, but if she has enough time to write shit like this (not that it would have taken long), I assume she’s not nurturing a large new generation of Devine spawn to populate Australia’s media landscape, which suggests to me that unless she’s celibate, she has probably made use of the modern miracle of contraception.

Fertility is a serious issue which deserves serious discussion. This emotionally-charged response doesn’t do it justice either. I understand Devine’s schtick. She wants to polarise and goad people like me to get on their high horses. But this is so insulting to the whole of womankind as to be absurd.

My Twitter friend @fatjan summed it up nicely with the, frankly disturbing, observation that ‘the symbolic union of Miranda Devine and Tony Abbott was never going to be pretty.’

To all the ladies in the house: rise against; enjoy sweaty congress at your leisure; procreate or don’t procreate – the choice is yours.

<end rant/>