Archive for August, 2010

The Fairer Sex

Photo Courtesy Guillaume HERBAUT

A gang of six young females attacked two men and two women after the four refused their demands for money and cigarettes in Ipswich, QLD the other day. As the assault began a van with another two females arrived with the two women joining in before they all drove away leaving the victims injured and missing at least one wallet. It does not pay to underestimate the female of the species, especially when she is ‘mob handed’, ie: in a gang or group.

I guessed upon reading the first few lines that the women would be indigenous, we have a similar problem where I live with gangs of female Koori’s begging for cigarettes and money down at the local shops. If you refuse they have been known to turn on you. They can inflict very serious injury yet it is difficult for many of us to react with sufficient force in the first instance to dissuade them from escalating from verbal taunts to actual violence. Yet by the time you realise it is really happening it is often too late.

Of course it is not all one sided.  In Albury-Wodonga in 2008 there were a series of attacks on Koori teens by white teen gangs, purely based on ethnicity or race. Aboriginal community elders called for calm and restraint from their young people and the point was well made that we all bleed red blood. So, was the Ipswich attack racially motivated or simply a criminal act? It is all too easy to play the race card when there is a visual identifier in place, such as physical appearance that clearly identifies those involved as being of one ethnic group or another.

While the Albury attacks most likely were racially motivated, the Ipswich ones I would presume were only partially fuelled by skin colour. It is easier to hate those who are visually different to oneself, the greater the differences the easier it becomes. Being so visually different has been a survival aid since time began. If that other human did not look like you and your clan then there was a good chance they were from somewhere else and quite likely a threat. All very well 40,000 years ago but times have changed.

Times have changed for our indigenous citizens too, albeit not always for the best. However the status quo is what it is and we can’t turn back the clock to 1769 and send Cook off somewhere else. What we can do is listen to the words of Wiradjuri elder Nancy Rooke, “We’ve got to live in this world, we’ve all got to get on.” That goes both ways.

There is NO EXCUSE for assaulting other people. Race is not reason, nor is religion or orientation or any other ‘difference’. However, this is not a fair and just world and I suspect while there are human beings inhabiting it, it never will be fair or just to any great degree. So be aware other people may not like you or who they think you are. In the Cronulla riots of 2005 an Indian man, a Sikh complete with turban, was set upon by the ignorant crowd of thugs because they mistook him for a Muslim. In his mind he is not a Muslim and so was not at risk but he failed to take into account the fact that thugs are pretty thick to begin with, hence they run in packs and are easily riled.

I do quite a lot with the indigenous community in my area but I still give gangs of young ones a wide berth because I know they have the capability if not the intent to harm and they might think I am just another ‘white bum’. Being proactive and aware does not mean you are stereotyping or racially profiling, just prudent. But keep it to yourself or you run the risk of an assault of a different kind.

Manila Madness

The recent calamitous hostage scenario played out in Manila that saw 8 hostages murdered and the hostage taker killed underlines how random risk can be. Those Hong Kong tourists could never have expected to be caught up in such a a situation.

Armchair critics can dissect the footage forever but unless one was there, on the spot, it is all speculation. I do wonder though when I see the police all lined up and doing nothing for long minutes while one man attempts to break windows with a sledge hammer. At one point he loses the tool and has to retrieve it from inside the bus!
A Botched Hostage Rescue in the Philippines is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Did the gunman start shooting and so the police had no choice but to storm the bus? Did they cause the gunman to start murdering hostages when they began the recovery operation? What I do know is that they were far too slow, too ill-equipped and obviously totally untrained. Compare their tactics with those used by the Israelis, German GSG9 or British SAS in similar scenarios. Surprise, aggression and speed. The Manila police couldn’t even get a light stick in through the window first shot. Imagine if that had been a stun grenade and it went off outside the bus? Chaotic and inept.

Manila Police SWAT Training prior to hostage 'rescue'.

Now watch how the Germans did it… first man in the bus (at the back) in about 3 seconds! Even the harder to access front has them in after just 8 or 9 seconds, while the guman is distracted by events at the back of the bus. No hesitation, no hiding behind shields, SURPRISE! AGGRESSION! SPEED! When you commit to action, you don’t hesitate or hold back and that is the same in all situations.

When In Rome, Or Riyahd…

A report today tells the chilling story of a Sri Lankan woman tortured by her Saudi Arabian employer by having nails inserted into her hands and other parts of her body. The torture and mistreatment of female domestic staff by Middle Eastern and Asian employers is not an uncommon event.

Filipina OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) often run away from their employers in Kuwait, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia after suffering abuse, rape and grievous injury. Singapore, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Hong Kong also have their share of abuse stories and sometimes the Filipina will react violently and suffer prison or execution as a result.

Why do these atrocities occur, over and over? Why more prevalent in some countries than others? Is there some societal or cultural value or standard that allows, even condones the treatment of other human beings in such a vile fashion, provided they are female, or employees or not of the same religion or whatever?

I think there are at least two main streams of thought. In the case of those mistreated by Asian (mostly Chinese) employers one can often see a sense of superiority for their own kind exhibited in many Asian people, almost an arrogant and contemptuous attitude towards those not of their ethnicity. When present in a western person it is labelled racism and is considered a sin, if not a crime. The cultural cringe still with us (westerners) following the end of colonial days and slaving seems to put us automatically on the back foot. We seem to fear calling it what it is when it is a non-white group doing the discriminating.

For those mistreated in the Middle East the abuse of the Islamic religion by many cultural groups is a key factor, surely? The attitude towards women displayed by Muslim men, contrary to the teachings of the Koran I might point out, makes it easy for one to follow the trail from dominating their own female family members to domination and abuse of female employees.

I know personally Filipinas who went to work in the Middle East and were brutally treated from the moment they landed and surrendered their passports to their employer or his agent. They were stuck there for several months working off their passage and application fees on top of what they had paid in cash back in Manila. No days off, worked from before dawn to well after midnight, fed poorly and often beaten and for some, sexually assaulted. It was a living hell.

So why do they still strive so hard to become an OFW? Because the situation at home, thanks in no small part to the rich oligarchy that owns the nation’s wealth and their enforcers in the church, military and police, is such that there is little to no hope of adequate employment. They have to work abroad to remit money for the entire family to live on. Sadly that often breeds a bunch of lazy relatives who do little but wait for the monthly remittance and then complain it is not enough, putting more pressure on the OFW to remain and continue suffering.

With the basic situation grim enough, it is tragic that they then suffer abuse and worse at the hands of their employers. Not all, of course. There are many excellent employers but there are too many bad ones, more than enough for inferences to be drawn.

When you work abroad, either as an OFW or an Australian in an expat situation, you are pretty much on your own. There is little your government can do and too often not a lot they want to do for you.

When you leave our shores you have to resign yourself to their way of life and their standards of acceptable behaviour, whatever they may be. Having worked in several overseas countries myself, I prefer to work in Australia for many reasons, not the least of which is that I understand the culture and can exist within it comfortably.

‘When in Rome’, as the saying goes. That doesn’t mean what the ‘Romans’ are doing is right or wrong but if they do it in their country and it is tolerated or legal there, then so be it. It behooves the individual to do their due diligence and fully investigate the culture before they let the dollar signs block their vision. We can’t grab pitchforks and torches and expect migrants to adapt to our culture if we aren’t willing to do the same should we choose to live in theirs. To expect special treatment based on our ethnicity or race is no different than mistreating others based on theirs, surely?

Finally, when it comes to working in Australia and working safely; know the law and know your rights. It is your responsibility to know what you are allowed and entitled to, not anyone else’s. Sure they should do the right thing but if they don’t then the onus is on you to know, 100%, what should be done and then to make it happen.

Boxing Kangaroos A Reality

I was doing some research on the risks faced by real estate agents when they show houses to people unknown to them when I came across this story about a Canberra based agent. He was out for a run during his lunch break when he was attacked by a kangaroo and knocked unconscious. The story continued with a report on a kangaroo that broke into a family home and hopped around wreaking havoc until wrestled out of the house by the home owner.

There are two points to be made here. First of all there are hazards in every occupation and often not ones we might foresee. I admit the jogger could have been an ice cream salesman out for a run and not a real estate agent but it goes to show no matter what your occupation, your time going to, at and from work can be perilous in various ways.  The second point is that even when in your own home you are not entirely safe from harm and who would ever have prepared a contingency plan for a kangaroo breaking in? Not me!

The lesson is that your safety can be at risk at any time, in any place from any number of causes. You can never prepare 100% for any and all eventualities so don’t worry too much about this. Don’t abandon all risk analysis and preparation but do accept you can’t proof yourself and your loved ones against everything. And stay away from kangaroos!

Burqa On Trial 4

Never forget - there's a human being inside that burqa.

The judge in the matter involving Tasneem, the Muslim lady who doesn’t wish to remove her niqab in the witness box has ruled that she must show her face when testifying. That might be from another room via a video link but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that, in my view, justice has prevailed for both the accused she is giving evidence against and our justice system in general.

This is not a racial issue or a religious one as the wearing of the niqab and burqa are cultural anomalies. They are not a part of our culture and while we should not force anyone who migrates to live here permanently to abandon their old ways, they should be respectful of ours. We would have to respect their culture if we wished to live among them so turnabout is fair play, surely?

My main concern is that it begs questions about the attitude towards women held by the husbands of these veiled ladies. It also makes one wonder if the women truly are content to wear medieval dress in a modern society and all that it indicates? Women’s suffrage and equal rights have come to where they are at a cost, a huge cost to men and women. Attitudes are changing and catching up with technology that is allowing women to compete against men on equal terms in the workplace and as far as choices about child bearing are concerned.

Historically it has been the physical superiority of the male in a manual labour intensive world and the inability to accurately plan families that has kept women at a disadvantage. While I acknowledge we have different roles to play and that when we compliment each other in a partnership we can achieve far more than we can on our own, that is no reason why women should not be given a fair go wherever and whenever we can. Highlighting her position as a ‘chattel’ of her husband by dint of her dress is not helping the cause of feminism or humanity one jot. But what do you think?

Idiot Filter At Work Again!

These cost less than US$20 - No Excuse not to be bought and worn

What is it with Americans? How can a country that has put human beings on the Moon have so many idiots? Just this weekend four men and four kids were on a boat on a lake in the USA. One idiot pushes another one overboard, very funny. First idiot can’t swim, so in goes the second idiot to save him. What was he thinking? He can’t swim either. Neither could Idiots #3 and #4. #4 had the sense to grab a lifejacket but didn’t actually put it on. All four idiots’ bodies have been recovered.

The smartest people on board were the four kids aged from 2 to 9. They stayed on the boat and used a cell phone to call for help. If the other three adults had used half as much common sense they would have thrown a life jacket to the man in the water then called for help instead of emulating their Hollywood heroes and impulsively diving to the rescue.

First of all they should have been wearing the PFDs, personal floatation devices. Second, don’t play silly pranks on the  water. If you are not 100% sure the man can swim then how funny is pushing him to his death? Third, Man Overboard (MOB) drills should be practised. I always run them when I sail so even my kids know how to stop the boat and throw a PFD on a rope to the MOB. Getting me back aboard might be problematic for them at this age but one can always cling to the side until help arrives and I would never go far from potential help with the kids aboard and no other adults.

Getting back to Idiotsville, USA, while I can understand the first rescuer diving in, why did two more follow? What did they hope to achieve? I have to say I find this rather indicative of the American psyche. I find Americans to be generous and giving and often brave as lions. In this case too brave.  Their ‘hoo rah!’ fist pumping braggadocio way of doing things back fired because it lacked the basic skill of being able to swim. Surely that would be foremost in one’s mind when deciding on the best course of action? Apparently not and another easily avoided tragedy strikes. I wonder how those children will cope with this in later life?

A Woman’s Worst (Motoring) Nightmare

A 49 year old woman in Queensland was raped by a passing motorist after her car broke down, leaving her stranded by the roadside. While waiting for help she was dragged into the rapist’s white van, punched in the face, threatened with a knife and raped. How could this have been avoided?

I think we too often feel we are being paranoid if we were to lock our doors and windows and remain in the vehicle, refusing help from anyone but the police or road service crew (NRMA, AAA, RACQ etc). I would certainly understand if a woman, especially at midnight, didn’t want me to help her, better safe than sorry and no offence taken.

In this day and age everyone should have a mobile phone they can call for help on and most places are within coverage. Having said that my 73 year old mother still goes once a month to a friend’s restaurant in the country and helps with the cooking. She returns in daylight the next day but only a few years ago she would make the trip at night. A lot of the steep, winding rural road has poor cell phone coverage. On one trip, on a Sunday afternoon, she was stopped by three indigenous persons blocking the road. As two remained in the middle of the road, one climbed in followed by the other two and told her to give them a lift to town. She complied and was terrified the whole way but fortunately this time, they just wanted a ride. Lesson? Lock your doors and keep windows up, use the aircon.

How safety conscious  do you have to be nowadays before common sense precautions becomes paranoia? Some experts speak of being in Code Yellow, then going to Code Orange and finally Code Red as things escalate and when there  is no risk they are at Code Green. But what if you are colour blind or simply can’t be bothered living your life by a colour chart? All too complicated really, either you are at risk or you aren’t.

Vehicle breakdown? You are at risk. After dark? At risk. By yourself? At risk.  It might be hard to overcome one’s natural predilection to believing most people are good and intend no harm (and that is true) but sadly the few who are not are opportunistic predators. They will be forever alert to the chance to make you their prey.

And to the woman who fell victim to this slime… You are not at fault, ever. You survived which means you did everything right. There are no hard and fast rules as every situation, every predator, is different and while there are some commonalities, if you escape with your life then you did the right thing, even if that was to not resist.  While that might seem to contradict an earlier post of mine, it doesn’t. As I said every situation is different and in this case the man had the element of surprise, a weapon and no hesitation in striking the woman to gain some compliance. I repeat, she did nothing wrong, it was not her fault, yet all too often victims suffer for years afterwards feeling they were the one that caused the crime.  Let’s hope this predator is caught and punished.

Burqa On Trial 3

Dr Ali. Photo Courtesy WA News/Sharon Smith

I feel vindicated to some degree because a leading Muslim academic has come out publicly against the wearing of the burqa/niqab. (Burqa has a mesh face covering, the niqab is the one that leaves just a slit for the eyes to look out from) While some ethnic community spokespeople might claim banning the garment attacks one’s cultural habits the fact remains it is not a part of our culture and it is both offensive to many and confronting to nearly all.

As the academic, Dr Ali, clearly states, the garment signifies a mindset as much as anything else. The wearing of it is, he says, “the lingering relics of a patriarchal, misogynistic and tribal culture” and argues there is no religious obligation in the Koran for it to be worn”.

He goes on to say that several European countries have banned the wearing of the garment in public places, including the Arab nation of Syria. My argument posits that if Muslims and predominantly Muslim countries find it offensive and confronting then surely we westerners can’t be labelled racist or religionist or whatever for wanting our public places free of this aberration.

My position has always been one of asking what does this garment say about the mindset of the wearer and her husband? What about their sons and how they view our women who don’t wear such a covering? Back in their home countries they can do as they wish because I will warn my daughters against travelling there or having anything to do with those men who support this cultural habit. But here in their own country they have a right to walk the streets as free from fear of harm as possible. We have enough home grown threats and hazards without importing more.

Burqa On Trial 2

Tasneem X, the woman who prefers not to show her face to men

The Muslim woman who doesn’t wish to remove her niqab (veil) covering her face that I reported on a few posts back has put her side of the situation to the media. Tasneem has made it clear her not wanting to show her face to men other than her husband is not a religious requirement. To my mind that means she must remove the veil when giving testimony.

She has said she would prefer to give her testimony via video link up from a separate room with a woman present. I don’t have a problem with that as it is something we do for other witnesses for various reasons. I have my own views on the mindset of someone who doesn’t want other men to see her but I will keep them to myself. The world is full of eccentric people who aren’t like ‘most people’ in the society they are a part of and that isn’t a crime. At least not yet.

I believe she has made it clear there is no reason she gets special treatment other than her own personal choice. I don;t think that is sufficient reason to make an exception because of the precedent it sets. Perhaps I would like to appear nude in public because it is how I prefer to be and has nothing to do with my religious beliefs but it is a decision I made some years ago. Where do we draw the line?

A Balaclava, or ski-mask. As used by bank roobers, rapists and people needing warm clothing for their head.

This is a Ninja.

Balaclavas as worn by terrorists of the IRA

Hi-Tech To The Rescue!

Pity she didn't have this 'Toe Mouse' to make message sending easier when tied up!

A  woman, bound up by a robber, used her feet to send a message to her boyfriend to send help. This woman had the presence of mind to convince the robber not to steal her laptop saying it contained a tracking device. She then persevered until she was able to tap out a message to her boyfriend for help. I doff me lid to her! I wonder how long she might have remained tied up if she hadn’t been able to summon help like that?

Meanwhile in Manila, the Philippines, Police have used Facebook and Twitter to track down a gang of upscale young criminals who prey on the well to do to fund their drug habits. The Philippines National Police also used the internet recently to track down a computer technician suspected of murdering several foreign residents and their Filipino wives and domestic staff.

So it seems the Internet can be used for good rather than evil! Google will be pleased.

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