About a month ago, I joined four other Australians travelling to
Indonesia on a leadership exchange program organised by the Australia Indonesia
Institute and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The purpose of
the trip was for us to see first-hand just how much variety there is among
Muslims in Indonesia, says Irfan Yusuf in The Courier-Mail. It was also a chance for Indonesians to see just how diverse
Aussie Muslims are. If there was one lesson I learnt on the trip, it was this – “don’t
generalise about anyone.” Anyone who knows anything about Aussie Muslims knows we certainly “aren’t one
cultural monolith.”
Muslims in Australia come from more than 60 different countries. Religion
is just one source of their identity.

Has there been a more disgusting public spectacle in modern
Australian life than the Packer memorial service? asks Cameron Horn in The Age


Like the city of New Orleans, post-Katrina Carnival has become
whiter, says Carol Flake Chapman in The New Republic. The news media’s focus has been on seeing this year’s
Carnival as a “sign of resilience.” But missing in that story is the more desperate one of
the black community trying, through Carnival, to “keep a foothold in their
city.” By the time Katrina hit, Carnival had become an economic engine
driving the city’s tourism industry, one of the few industries left in town. It pumped some $1 billion into the city,
directly and indirectly, each year. After Katrina, the
economic argument for Carnival “doesn’t really hold water, so to speak.” This
year, the city is expecting far fewer tourists, and no-one seems quite sure how
the city will pay the $2.7 million it’s going to have to spend on police
overtime and other expenses. But, perhaps because Carnival has less of an economic purpose this
year, its “symbolic one is heightened.”

Professor Martin Seligman, one of the top psychologists in the US, says America and all the rich countries are facing an
“epidemic of depression”. The question that interests me, however,
is: why? writes Ross Gittins in the SMH. “What’s causing this deterioration in the quality of our
lives? Is it happening because of, or in spite of, our obsession
with economic growth?” Certainly,
economists can’t be blamed for the self-esteem movement or
victimology.
But economic rationalism venerates and promotes individualism,
working to dismantle communitarian arrangements as “inefficient”.
And much of the growth in the production of goods and services we
strive for comes from ever-increasing sales of short cuts to
happiness, “not to mention all the lawyers making a buck by
encouraging us to sue people who could be held liable for our
misfortunes.”

As I type this sentence, there are,
according to technorati.com, 27.2 million blogs. By the time you read
this sentence, there surely will be many more, says Trevor Butterworth in The Financial Times.
Still, blogging would have been “little more than a recipe for even
more internet tedium” if it had not been seized upon in the US as a
direct threat to the mainstream media and the conventions by which they
control news. When, just before the presidential election in 2004,
blogging had its Battleship Potemkin moment when it sank CBS’s Dan
Rather, it proved one of blogging’s biggest selling points – that the
collective intelligence of the media’s audience was greater than the
collective intelligence of any news programme or newspaper. It also
showed that power was shifting
from the gatekeepers of the traditional media to a more open, fluid
information society that would have “gladdened the heart of the
philosopher Karl Popper.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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