Doing Right by Sheep

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Australia exports about 2 million live sheep per year, 95% of them to the Middle East. Demand peaks before Eid-ul-Fitr, when devout Muslims slaughter animals in imitation of Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb in place of his son Ishmael (Quran: Surah 37, verses 99–109) or Isaac (Bible: Genesis 22, verses 1–2). It’s a gruesome story, so don’t read it if you’re at all squeamish; in fact, don’t even look at the picture below.

Transporting live animals across large expanses of ocean is a gruesome business too. Every so often the Australian public is shown evidence of extreme cruelty to animals, whereupon government agencies and lobbyists express outrage and give assurances that rules will be tightened, enforcement will be strengthened and it will never happen again. And then it does.

The latest shock-horror story is about a shipload of sheep bound for the Middle East. We are told that more than 2,000 of them died of heatstroke and thirst.

I will not lapse into a diatribe against archaic, barbaric and horrific practices in the name of religion, which might attract accusations of antisemitism and islamophobia. I will simply draw a parallel between the export of live animals in appalling conditions, just so that they can be killed somewhere else, and the slave trade.

An interviewee from the livestock industry conceded that there was inevitable cruelty in the raising, transporting and slaughter of animals people like to eat, but pointed out that many Australian jobs depend on this economic activity. I imagine that slave traders were making similar statements 200 years ago.

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Poor People Forced to Steal . . . ?

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There were two articles in the Advertiser this morning that made me especially stroppy. Here the headlines and opening paragraphs:

  • Families driven to steal fuel
    Desperate householders are resorting to drive-off fuel rip-offs [taking fuel at a self-service station and driving off without paying] to survive, the state’s peak welfare body says.
  • Parents tell fibs to save cash on family holidays
    Cash-strapped parents are lying about the age of their children and even sneaking them into their accommodation in a desperate bid to bring school holiday costs down. New analysis by travel website Wotif has examined the hacks parents confessed to.

I both cases the thieves and liars are said to be ‘desperate’. In the first, their very survival is said to depend on their dishonesty, and their poverty is evidenced by the relative prevalence of drive-offs in low-income suburbs.

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but in my world theft is theft, lying is lying and fraud is fraud. One’s financial circumstances are irrelevant. If you can’t afford to buy petrol, get a bike. If you can’t afford to go on a family holiday, stay at home.

Mistakes Were Made

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Ah yes, the ultimate confession that you make when you’re not making a confession: “Mistakes were made.” This usually means either:

  • “I broke the law;”
  • “I behaved immorally, unethically and disgracefully, but nobody can prove that what I did was actually illegal;” or, if a corporate spokesperson is speaking,
  • “We could have screwed our customers, our employees and/or the government almost as efficiently, and without all this hassle from the media, if we’d been a tad less greedy.”

The latest “mistake” to hit the Australian headlines has been ball-tampering. That’s cricket ball-tampering, by roughing up one side with sandpaper to make it swing more. Shining up the other side by rubbing it on your thigh is OK – it’s “cricket” in the old-fashioned sense of being fair and sportsmanlike – but roughing up by artificial means is definitely “not cricket.”

The roughing up took place in South Africa, where the Australian team were playing the home team and doing very badly. Ball-tampering was a desperate response to a dire situation. Losing a test match by a wide margin angers Australian fans, and even people who aren’t very interested in cricket but recognise the national cricket team as their personal representatives – gladiators, one might say, in the global arena. It’s also likely to reduce the number of zeroes on sponsors’ cheques.

Three players, including the Captain, confessed and were shipped home in disgrace. They fronted the cameras, broke down in tears, and admitted to … having made a mistake.

Stroppy 2019

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With nine months to run, we have our first a nomination for the Stroppy Git Award for Meaningless Drivel 2019.  Sorry for the slightly fuzzy reproduction:

It’s a strong contender, but what a pity they didn’t work in a reference to ‘empowerment’ and the words ‘going forward’! Without those simple improvements MYP cannot be considered a shoo-in for the coveted award.

You can make your own nomination at any time. Just email me at johnstandingford@hotmail.com

 

Martyrs

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Causes thrive on martyrs. Suicide bombers are described as ‘martyrs’ by their puppet masters. Interestingly, people who gain moral strength from their own martyrs rarely recognise that their enemies may gain equal moral strength from theirs.

The opponents of fanatical Islamism, which is fuelled by the blood of ‘martyrs’, have gained a new martyr of their own: Colonel Arnaud Beltrame (pictured). He was the police officer who exchanged himself for a hostage at the Super U supermarket in Trèbes.

Not only did he expose himself to the most extreme danger. He kept his mobile ’phone with him and connected to fellow police officers, allowing them to hear what was going on inside.

Arnaud Beltrame died a hero’s death. His heroism and his name will be remembered when the ‘martyrs’ of Daesh, Al Shabab, Boko Haram and their like are at the bottom of the rubbish heap of history.

Teachers With Guns

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It’s funny how little things bring to mind old memories. When President Trump floated the idea of arming teachers to protect children, I vividly remembered my first day at high school in the north of England. All the new boys were herded into a lecture theatre and briefed by the teacher whose duties also included running the Lost Property Office.

We were told that the teachers were Masters and we were to address them as ‘Sir’. We would be addressed by our surnames, followed by our initials where there were two of more boys with the same surname, and we were not to fasten any but the middle buttons of our blazers: top and bottom buttons were only for show. Oh, and while in uniform outside the school grounds we were always to wear our caps.

There was to be no walking on the grass, and the path that offered a short-cut on the way to the cricket pavilion was out of bounds to all boys except sixth-formers. On reaching that pinnacle we would also be allowed to wear brown shoes instead of black and, in the summer months anyway, exchange our regulation caps for boaters.

At frequent intervals we were reminded how lucky we were to be admitted to such a good school.

All in all it sounded like a declaration of war. I can’t help thinking that, if our Masters had been armed, the boundary between corporal punishment and capital punishment would have got blurred pretty quickly.

Sevangi of Bangalore

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It is not often that I am moved to poetry by a session with a call centre, but it happened today . . .

My heart has an open door
For Sevangi of Bangalore;
When my mouse wouldn’t work
She discovered a lurk*
That made my spirits soar!

On Friday my USB optical mouse stopped working. “Oh well,” I thought, “it’s quite old, I’ll buy a new one for A$4 at Officeworks.” I did, and that didn’t work either. So I did the things that any mildly tech-savvy layman does in such circumstance – turning my laptop on and off, shouting “#&$@” at the screen, smashing my forefinger down on random keys – to no avail.

I complained to the manufacturer’s website of course. Then, when I discovered that the old and new mice both worked perfectly when plugged into my old computer, I turned my wrath on Hewlett Packard.

My first live-chat session with HP Tech Support ended in my PIN being invalidated, leaving me unable to access my own computer until a secret code had been emailed to my wife. My second and third ended when the people at the other end found out I was in Australia. “We only support customers in USA and Canada,” they said as they flicked me lint-like off their sleeves.

Today I ’phoned a local HP retailer in hope of help, only to find that the call went through to an office in another state and, anyway, they just sell stuff. So in desperation I gave HP Tech Support another go. I groaned as I went through the same rigmarole with the same robot and waited to hear a human voice.

To cut a long, long story short, after two false starts which ended with line drop-outs I found Sevangi. She instructed me, encouraged me and tried all sorts of tricks that I would not have thought of. After two hours she concluded that the problem lay in the operating system, and the only remedy would be to download it afresh. That would mean wiping all my programs and files off the hard-drive, so I’d better start backing them up. She promised to ’phone tomorrow to see if I’m ready for the operation.

It felt like being told I had cancer. That sounds silly, but it did. On my way to the gym I thought about all the programs I’d have to recover somehow: MS Office, Outlook, Norton, PDF995… how many more?!

Soon after I got home the ’phone rang. It was Sevangi. “I spoke to my superior,” she said, “and there may be another option that won’t mean losing all your files and apps.” She then guided me through a process using the DOS command prompt (ah, nostalgia!) and a long string of code… and it worked!

“I’ll ’phone you tomorrow anyway,” said Sevangi, confirming her place at the top of my list of favourite people, “to make sure everything is still working.”

So you’ll understand why I was moved to honour Sevangi in verse; and why, whenever I hear a negative comment about Indian call centres, I shall recount this story. I’ll probably buy another HP one day too.

* In Australian/NZ idiom a ‘lurk’ is clever scheme or dodge.