Increasing cultural and religious diversity does not and should not have a detrimental effect on social cohesion. Diversity should not be linked to a loss of a sense of collective action, but rather to a stronger community bonding and mutual trust. And under no circumstances, should cultural diversity be invoked to justify infringements on domestic laws and accepted norms of human rights. Indeed, cultural diversity should be employed as a key lever to engendering intercultural understanding in our increasingly multicultural society. Yet this is not always the case as recent events have shown.
Oscar-winning actress and self-styled lifestyle adviser Gwyneth Paltrow has featured in the press recently, coinciding with the launch of her second book It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes that Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. The book reportedly presents a range of healthy recipes from Gwyneth’s own kitchen, accompanied by salubrious photos of the actress. The impetus for book, the second by the actress, was a health scare and consequent reassessment of her lifestyle – including diet.
However, it is less the book itself – which I point out I am yet to read – but more the responses in which I am interested. Among these are comments that criticise its author for the diet she advocates, the ingredients, time and resources needed to prepare the food, and her general authority to speak on such matters as diet and lifestyle.
In response to a number of highly publicised events where people from minority religious, ethnic or other cultural backgrounds have been approached on public transport and subjected to a tirade of racist abuse in Melbourne, columnist Tim Soutphommasane wrote in The Age earlier this month that while racism cannot be entirely eradicated from society, it is time that onlookers confronted acts of public racism as a matter of civic responsibility.
It is staggering that with one albeit very serious case overseas, that of the Ben Zygier suicide, Ben Saul (The Age, 20/2/13) wants to turn back the clock of globalisation and multiculturalism. In so doing he demonstrates profound ignorance of the reality of the contemporary migrant experience and normative global legal practice around citizenship.
'We all still suffer from the life-draining, over-legislated madness called British Australia, which never seems to abate to the reason of sound voices or even democracy. Then they expect us to join in their triumphant dances over our ancestors' graves each January 26' (Phill Moncrieff, Aboriginal musician).
'Viral videos have indeed triggered a vigorous participatory culture' (Tasneem Dustagheer).
After a slight misunderstanding regarding the Mayan calendar, the world has not ended in 2012. Whether we anticipated the end of life as we know it or the dawn of a new year, 2013 is now upon us. As is customary at the start of a new year, we can take the opportunity to look back and reflect on the year that has passed. For many, 2012 meant viral images and movies, online activity and protest, parodies and political gaffes.
In an uninspired but necessary act of ‘me too-ism’, Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s announcement that Australia now formally recognises the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian state follows the US and around 100 other countries which also understand that the Assad regime’s days are numbered. The question now is not if, but when, how, whether Bashir al-Assad senior team will be granted asylum and, if so, where.
A regime bombing its own people, in Assad’s case with Scud missiles, phosphorous bombs, is a clear sign that it is on the edge of collapse. Anti-Assad forces control or hold significant sway over the north and east of the country, increasingly isolating Assad’s Alawite support base on the Mediterranean coast.