Apples with seething pustules of galloping disease

This is a product like any other, and it’s my right to use it, a product which is, after all, perfectly natural. As long as I’m not doing any harm to anyone else…well, OK, limited harm to anyone else, why shouldn’t I? I mean, my grandma lived to a hundred years old! All these health warnings, this panicking over every little thing. My parents generation – everyone did it! It was glamourous, sophisticated and considered normal. Have you seen Mad Men? That’s how it was in the 50s and 60s – everyone built with asbestos. 

The cheeky thing about asbestos is that it can have the unfortunate side effect of rendering you dead. Unless of course your house is on fire, in which case the fumes from the burning lounge suite will probably get you first, but your castle will shine on matching the immortal radiance of that pair of concrete flamingos .

Asbestos can cause cancer. It can cause other things too, like emphysema and an unsightly, chalky ring around the lips after a meal. But here’s the intriguing thing: The risk of lung cancer from smoking and asbestos exposure is multiplicative. In other words, the  combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is much more than those two risks added together. It’s thought that there’s something about the scarring of the lung tissue (caused by asbestosis) that interacts with the lung cancer that results in the higher risk. Interestingly, there is no relationship between mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer caused by asbestos) and smoking, other than it can take your mind off contracting regular smoking related lung cancer (and of course, make you look devastatingly glamourous as you near The End).

All that said, once you account for levels of exposure, the risk of developing lung cancer just from smoking alone is still WAY higher than the risk of developing cancer from asbestos exposure. This is why you can walk into Woolies and buy a square of blue asbestos with which to powder your nose. As long as you can get past those yukky pictures of diseased noses.

So how risky is asbestos? Well, highly contaminated environments, such as asbestos fibre mills or asbestos mines had about 10 fibres per cubic metre. This has been about enough to give around 20% of people exposed to this level of asbestos for 20 years, lung cancer. That’s pretty shockingly high, and you’d be shitting yourself if you’d been a miner or wharfie, but not so much if you’d once stood next to a sausage roll that was known to have once attended a conference nextdoor to a fibro aircraft hanger.

Remind me again why I can buy cigarettes at the supermarket, but have to wrap my neighbourhood in plastic to paint the mailbox?


Funny thing….

From New Matilda today,

The man who will review last week’s violence on Manus has previously said sexually abused detainees on the island are treated better than Australian rape victims…..

Cornall also questioned whether rape was simply part of Iranian culture.

“…well people have said to me that in Iranian culture, male rape or male sexual intercourse is more culturally acceptable… And also that it is a way of more mature males dominating young men. Is that in accordance to your understanding,” he asked.

When St George replied “But we are not in Iran”, Cornall said, “No, is it just Iranians or is it Middle Eastern?”. He then changed the topic.

As shocking as Cornall’s comments might be, perhaps we need to examine the idea  that some practices we might find repellant are better judged from within their cultural context.  Indeed, through the prism of ‘cultural relativism’ we can find parallels closer to home.

After all, I’ve been told that it’s commonplace for senior public servants operating at the behest of an Abbott government to receive ritualised reacharounds from department heads and other dominant figures. Although seemingly impromptu or random, these events are actually embedded within a rich context of cultural understandings, often expressed through codified practices, such as the ritual ‘stinging’ of stubble rash and hand sanitiser, or the complex regime of values associated with humourous coffee mugs and occasionally, vigorous anal rape.

Who are we to judge?

All you need to know about Australia’s economy…


…is right here. Ideally you’d like these charts to look pretty similar. You’ll note the discrepancy between mining exports and mining employment. That’s right, mining accounts for about 10% of economic activity in Australia, but comprises the lionshare of export earnings, which in turn drives the dollar up for other industries. You’ll note that in fact one of the largest employers is health and human services, only a small proportion of which is accounted for by the small army of workers gamely dabbing at the creases of your average mining magnate. 

What to do? Perhaps find some way for the export earnings to make their way back into Australia? (around 85% is foreign owned). Or maybe find some way to make mining more labour intensive: less trucks, more shovels?

Don’t panic. I’ve got a plan:  

Charlotte’s Law

dawsonWhen it comes to social change, there’s nothing more galvanising than an online petition. Change.Org is a citizen-sponsored, online platform for petitions, recently lauded as an effective agent for change. From shark culling to refugee rights, Change.Org has rallied thousands of supporters to causes they might otherwise have neglected to spend 8-12 seconds tabbing through an auto-filled form on.

So deep and abiding is my concern for the most vexing social, political and environmental issues of the day that I am on their mailing list. Change.Org has democratised public support for important causes.

For instance, today’s petition titled ‘Charlotte’s Law’ asks for restrictions on social media following the death of Sydneysider Charlotte Dawson. For those of you babbling away in a bobble-headed, gleeful existence bereft of death-grip social media, Charlotte Dawson was a vapid two bit show pony, who exuded the kind of grasping inadequacy that attracts the attention of wall-eyed mouth breathers who buy cosmetics off the television. Perhaps the most anodyne yet astute assessment of Dawson comes, quite rightly, from her loving fan base, a group of women just as sparky as Dawson herself. The introduction to the petition describes the deceased as a skillful socialite, someone “that could light up an empty room”. And yet despite this clear social advantage, Dawson struggled to break into the upper echelons of high society.

This is perhaps even more baffling when you consider that Dawson “worked hard to make the world a better place” (arguably taking things a teensy bit too far last Saturday night).

According to the petition, Dawson “campaigned so hard for something so simple – a better world.” Yes, it does seem rather simple doesn’t it? The cruel irony is that Dawson had only just started a clothing line with Aung San Suu Kyi, a collaboration that was to include a reality television show highlighting the tensions surrounding structural adjustment in the developing world, and women who are just a little too boxy (but with SUCH lovely spirits).

The reality is that Dawson represented the worst excesses of bargain bin celebrity, finding minor fame with her dull Anglo prettiness and nice teeth and the cheap attention that comes from blundering unreflexively through an endless stream of knocks like a blond sea anemone.

And of course, she was depressed, a condition whose first victim is perspective. I’m thinking of starting a petition on Change.Org to remove spurious, ill-considered knee jerk petitions whose first draft invariably begins with “So, it’s just like, really mean when….”.

Join me!