Write on: Letters to the editor

April 5, 2000

American Beauty

Having read the review of American Beauty and the subsequent letter in the March 8 Green Left Weekly, I feel compelled to write.

I completely hated American Beauty. Although I enjoy and would love to see more films critiquing the alienation of the suburban experience, I felt that misogyny ran through the film. Annette Bening's character is portrayed as a nagging wife who bosses her husband, Lester, around, whinges constantly and gives him no peace. Basically, she is supposed to be a real "bitch".

One of the reasons why this portrayal upset me is because of a common sexist stereotype about wives is that they are nags, they are bossy, they whinge and complain. This sexist stereotype was portrayed without any critique in the film and that bothered me a lot.

I felt that the film compared Bening's role in Lester's personal life to his boss's role in his working life. This comparison is extremely reactionary.

The audience I saw the film with agreed that the character fitted a cultural (sexist) attitude towards women. They related with it so much that when Lester finally yells at his wife for her whingey, naggy ways, the audience burst into thundering, spontaneous applause (the only time they did so throughout the movie). Enough said.

Becky Ellis
Toronto Canada

Welfare 'reform'

I have some questions for Jocelyn Newman as she prepares to embark on "welfare reform". Does she believe that people who are sick and incapacitated enough to qualify for the disability pension — people who must subsist for years on $200 a week — are privileged or underprivileged?

Since disability pensioners are obviously extremely underprivileged, when is the Minister going to significantly increase the disability pension?

Does the Minister believe that most disability pensioners are so incompetent that they don't know what's in their own best interests? If not, won't government hounding, bullying and authoritarianism do more to harm than help the disabled?

When is the Senator going to demand an end to the post-income-tax, $100 billion per annum something-for-nothing scams of the able-bodied? I refer to inheritances, large gifts and property income. One might add excessive wages (worth perhaps $30 billion a year) too.

Brent Howard
Rydalmere NSW

UN volunteers in East Timor

The East Timor Popular Consultation on August 30, 1999, could not have taken place without United Nations volunteers (UNV) who staffed the 200 registration and polling centres.

UNV has a proud history of idealism in action in many of the world's poorest countries. I was privileged to work alongside some marvellous people from 45 different countries united in getting an historic job done under very difficult circumstances.

A measure of how unimportant Australian governments view the work of the UNV can be seen from the table of contributions in the UNV 1998 Annual Report. The following figures are in $US1,000s: Japan 4,206.2; Germany 2,887; UK 173.6; US 100.1; Botswana 25.0; Australia 26.6.

The Howard government has recognised the contribution of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force in East Timor. It could now endorse the congratulations all UNVs received from the UN's Ian Martin by significantly lifting its contributions to the UNV Programme and by ensuring that it is well advertised as a worthy outlet for Australian humanitarianism.

Gareth Smith
Byron Bay NSW

NT's racist education system

Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has been reported as denying that Australia's criminal justice system is racially discriminatory.

There can be no doubt that the Northern Territory's mandatory sentencing law is racially discriminatory in effect and very probably in intent., if not the actual letter of the law. It targets people who are poor and poorly educated if at all, and Aboriginal people are very much over-represented in both those categories.

Education is the responsibility of the Territory government and the education of the Aboriginal people is in such an appalling state that it is obvious that that responsibility has been abdicated. Eliminating the causes and the need for crime would be far more effective than throwing more people in gaol.

Col Friel
Alawa NT

Unity against racism

I contend that it is not an accident but by deliberate design that the ruling class and those who act on their behalf have given inordinate publicity to the racist politics of One Nation. This occurred when the Coalition government was eroding social welfare and introducing legislation to inhibit the trade unions and reduce the jurisdiction of the Industrial relations Commission.

The ruling class and their stooges could see the political benefit for themselves if public anger was focussed on indigenous Australians and others. Every piece of regressive legislation, including the GST, is depicted as a "reform" by the federal government and the media who support them.

It is distressing to witness the humiliation suffered by Asian migrants and particularly their children from taunts and abuse from people who are infected by the virus of racism. I deplore the ignorance and reject the nonsense that racists disseminate about indigenous Australians.

A good militant trade union unites all workers regardless of ethnic origin. The picket line at Port Botany during the conflict with the Coalition government and the Patrick Shipping Company in April 1998 was an excellent manifestation of unity in action of Australians of Caucasian, Asian, Aboriginal and Pacific Island origin.

The key to success for progressive policies for the present and future is to extend this unity among a much wider section of the working class. It is essential to educate public opinion so that they can see why the ruling class tolerates and at certain times encourages racism. It is based upon the ancient Roman maxim, divide and rule.

Green Left Weekly is continuing to make a very valuable contribution to combat this social evil.

Bernie Rosen
Strathfield NSW

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