Write on: letters to the editor

Issue 

Shame

Shame on you for publishing Mark Stoyich's appalling piece of vintage homophobia dressed up as a review ("Why are Gay Plays so Bad?", GLW #306). I found it hard to understand why you wanted to publish something that resembles the platform of the Call to Australia Party. Is Stoyich Fred Nile's cultural attache, or just a latter-day Les Patterson transmogrified into a (putatively) left-wing reviewer?

Stoyich starts from the premise that disease + war = great literature. Well, one can only hope the US bombs Iraq so someone can write the great Iraqi novel.

AIDS, he intones, meant that "once again healthy middle-class people in their prime could be dead within a few agonising weeks". One suspects the omission of tens of millions of working-class people from this fairytale, but let's press on to the crux: "This grave development could have given us a revival in drama and literature in English. In fact, it's given us plays like My Night With Reg."

OK, so Stoyich hasn't read much Marxist, feminist or queer cultural theory. But basically, he just doesn't like the play, and, heaven forbid, had to share the experience with too many poofs for his liking ("873 queens, four women"). He takes this to be proof of his belief (many would say delusion) that "gay" plays are "so bad".

Where has he been all these years? At the same time as the play he reviewed was being staged, the Mardi Gras festival, in its 20th year, has a diverse range of excellent dramaturgical, literary and cultural offerings. And in the last decade there has been an outpouring of excellent cultural works on AIDS and on issues of sexuality.

Was Stoyich asleep under a slab of XXXX when Kushner's Angels in America was staged? Did he miss The Celluloid Closet or The Sum of Us? The cabaret of Robyn Archer? The novels of Edmund, nay, Patrick White? The verse of Dorothy Parker? The opera and theatre of Barry Kofsky and Neil Tovey? The reviewing of David Marr?

More conservative media would not run such a rabidly homophobic and wilfully ignorant review.

Gerard Coggin
Rosebank NSW
[Abridged.]

Con-circus

Even before the start of the so called "constitutional convention" it was obvious, that this expensive exercise was only a farce cleverly introduced by our PM to divert the peoples concern about another debacle. At the time this matter was in an embryonic stage and condemned to failure.

Malcolm Turnbull and his mates treated the Australian people with contempt by inventing a system only suitable for politicians and in direct confrontation with the Australian people. A Republic at any cost is undesired and a popular election of the President is what the people want.

Voting in fact was a shambles. After two rounds of the elimination process, a number of confused candidates complained about the ballot-papers with regard to the No Module, Status Quo and the Abstain vote.

The chairman subsequently admitted that: "The ballot-papers are wrong". The result of the vote on the republican module was cunningly distorted. The fact was that only 73 candidates voted for the pro-republic module, with 79 not voting for this abortion, costing 40 million dollars. One has got to be a top gun politician to turn such loss into a victory. The people of Australia will not tolerate such perversion of our democracy.

Nobody should forget, that finally Australia will become a People's Republic, and not a Turnbull Republic the Howard's way.

Horst Manger
Nowra NSW

Spiritualism

Over my years of reading GLW, I have noted an aspiration towards engaging a broad platform of thought for analysis and mobilisation. This aspiration is, in my opinion, being squashed on at least one account.

Two articles highlight this: "Why is superstition so widespread" by Allen Myers (GLW #282) and "Asian crises: why capitalism is crumbling" by John Percy (GLW #304). It appears that in dismissing spiritualism and superstition simply as irrational, both writers fail to sufficiently extend their powers of inquiry.

Firstly, I see spiritualism as having grown into a study of spirit beyond the bounds of organised religion, into a study of energy; where it wants to go, what it wants to do. It is on this basis that we could understand more about the energies of the Earth and its inhabitants as a whole.

Superstition on the other hand, seems to be just a bit of name-calling used through the ages by those with "superior" abilities, often "rationalists", as they have gone about selling their ways of thinking and constructing their pathways to capitalist power. Consider, for example, the Enlightenment and its opinion of indigenous peoples, as men of rational mind ploughed into new lands, committing acts of colonialism.

John Percy was more correct when he referred to the irrationality of present day capitalism because capitalism purports to work with rationality.

Indigenous knowledge, or even astrology and tarot cards, all full of what appears to some people, superstition, don't really make any claims to be rational because it is a different order of knowledge. An order of knowledge which, it seems to me, we could do well to seriously look at.

I appreciate the analysis of world events that GLW distributes, but the aspirations towards a broad perspective need to be allowed to open out and breathe into other, perhaps "irrational" models of thought.

Charles Smith
Adelaide
[Abridged.]

Citizens Initiated Referenda

I agree with the sentiments of Ron Guignard's "Housing Cuts" (GLW #305), however, I commend another system for preventing politicians from ignoring public opinion.

In Switzerland voters have the right (if they can collect enough signatures) to initiate a referendum on proposed legislation and legislation passed by Parliament (i.e. they have Citizens Initiated Referendums). We should also have the right to force a dud or a turncoat MP or Senator back to a poll.

Such powers are very germane to the question of the "reserve powers" discussed at the recent Constitutional Convention. The term is code for the ability to sack an errant government.

The question of "reserve powers" needs to be considered more in the context of how can the Constitution be so constituted that the people have sovereignty and not political parties in bed with big business. The so-called "reserve powers" should only rest directly with the people. The people should have the power to force a government to the polls if enough citizens sign a petition that this should happen.

Democracy in Australia is a joke. Currently we have the power to elect temporary dictators who are often openly contemptuous of public opinion. There have been occasions where both Labor and Liberal have voted for policies which have been opposed by the bulk of Australian citizens.

With Citizens Initiated Referendums it becomes less important which party wins an election. If a Government passes legislation which is out of kilter with public opinion then people start collecting signatures for a referendum.

Leigh Howlett
Campsie NSW
[Abridged.]

Aged-care cuts

If you thought the Howard Government backed down on its nursing home policy last year, consider this. An aged pensioner in a nursing home now is left with less than $50 a fortnight for all other purchases. (A daily paper and a few luxuries such as soap and shampoo will quickly exhaust that pin money).

If the person has assets greater than $22,500 (not much for all the careful savings and worldly goods of a lifetime), another $168 a fortnight must go to the nursing home. This is the penalty for trying to remain independent.

And that's not all. From February 1, the same victims were hit with an extra charge under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, applying specifically to medicines needed by the elderly — 16 medications for heart disease and high blood pressure, six for peptic ulcers and reflux.

Anyone with these conditions will tell you that even without shopping for the cheapest drug it is very difficult to find a heart disease/high blood pressure medication which does not produce so many side-effects that life becomes a dysfunctional misery.

What happens if the individual cannot afford the most suitable medicines? Where will he or she find an extra 73 cents to $4.46 per prescription?

From March 1, the screws tighten yet again. With little more than a fortnight to go, someone realised that many people would be double-charged — $37 plus the current $26.40 daily fee — until they could be "reassessed" in a bureaucratic process which could take months.

The weekly fee increase now has been deferred until March 29. When it hits, it still means that a retiree earning around $18,000 a year other than the pension will be clobbered with a 66% hike in nursing home fees — an extra $222.70 a week! Of course, these fees soon devour any non-pension income, and the tiny sense of independence that goes with it.

Who would do such things? Our Government would. Why doesn't our Government pick on someone its own size and strength? Ask John Howard and your Federal Member. Do it now.

Diane D. Michel
North Ryde NSW
[Abridged.]

Keys to many solutions?

We refer to the recent stunt Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim "Sorry" pulled a few weeks ago on the local Murri Community. "We're gonna bring them home", Soorley gave the Murris keys to the city of Brisbane.

How many keys does Jimbo have and how many venues does it open? Does this key open the mystery of why there has been increased police presence in the City and Valley malls over the last couple of years? Why do so many Murris die in police custody? Why don't those keys open the lock of the local watch houses?

Is there anything worse than a bleeding heart liberal staging an "apology play" to say sorry for closing a Murri youth centre that was axed to make space for a cafe in the Valley mall? If the community wants to support the local Murri community, get involved in the activities that directly affect Murris. Marching in the annual Invasion Day Rally supporting and protecting Native Title are some of the ways we can all give useful support.

Lynda Hansen and Mike Byrne
New Farm Qld