State and federal governments have been decidedly ruthless in tackling
Australia’s illicit drug problem, but so far they’ve missed out on the
biggest piece of the puzzle – and that’s alcohol abuse, says Ross Fitzgerald in The Australian.
The demon drink, with its “massive
social, medical and economic impact”, is directly and indirectly
responsible for a large percentage of depression, suicide and a wide
range of injuries in young people. And governments are
“pathetically unresponsive”. $2.2bn on illicit drugs over eight years;
$50 million on alcohol abuse. Booze is the nation’s “main drug
of harm”, and it’s about time we started treating it that way.

Forget the reds under the bed, “the rise of Islam has become the world’s great cultural fault
line”, says Paul Sheehan in The Sydney Morning Herald.
The “end
of the Cold War has given way to a hot war between Islamic
jihadists and the unbelievers”, says Sheehan, and the recent cartoon
uprising in Denmark was not a
“spontaneous eruption”. “Al-Qaeda has evolved from a terrorist group
into an
ideology, a death cult”, and Australia – so far – has only had limited
exposure. “The vacuum caused by the fall of one expansionist absolutism
has been filled by another expansionist absolutism, one much older,
more enduring and more implacable.”

A small group of “conservative Gen Xers – members of an age cohort once all but written
off as stand-for-nothing underachievers – is the first set of American
policymakers truly at home in a unipolar world,” says Dafna Linzer in The Washington Post.
In this context, the US’s Middle East foray can be seen in an entirely
different light. Growing up in a period of unprecedented wealth, Gen
Xers have come to equate “capitalism as inescapably tied both to
freedom and democracy”.

“Fundamentalists have become no different than the ‘godless’
Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they
perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the
Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism,” says Slavoj Zizek in The New York Times.
Atheism, not religious fundamentalism is a “European legacy worth
fighting for, not least because it creates a safe public space for
believers”. And, in Europe, the only way to show a true respect for
Muslims is “to treat them as serious adults responsible for their
beliefs”. In other words to submit Islam “to a respectful, but for that reason no less
ruthless, critical analysis”.

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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