The trouble with group labels. Because.

So Australia’s long-term accepted refugee detainees on Manus and Nauru will not be able to migrate to the US, if they come from a country that’s on Trump’s list.  So anyone from a particular set of countries is classified as bad.  Because Muslim.

paper boatFundamentally of course, these fellow humans should not be detained at all. They have been accepted as genuine refugees by the Australian immigration department.  Their only “crime”, which is not actually a crime by either Australian or International law, was to arrive by boat.  They are now, as a group, abused as deterrent marketing material.  Anyone coming by boat to Australia is classified as bad.  Because boat (although stats actually indicate that it might correlate better with skin colour).

My grandfather, a surgeon at a Berlin hospital, lost his job on the same day that Hitler was elected.  Since not even decrees move that quickly and the exclusion of jews from  particular professions happened gradually over the 1930s, we can only assume that the hospital management contained some overzealous individuals, who took initiatives that they thought would be looked on favourably by their new superiors. Because Jew.

The Berlin events are a neat example of how a hostile atmosphere enables certain behaviour – of course, if you’d asked the superiors, they didn’t order any such thing and it had nothing to do with them. Sound familiar?

Via jiggly paths, my family came to the UK.  Initially interned.  Because German.

My grandfather, whom as I mentioned was an accomplished surgeon, had to re-do all his medical education in Britain – during that period he was separated from his wife and two young daughters (Scotland vs the south of England – a long way in the 1930s).  Because [the qualifications and experience] not British.  Possibly also Because German.

Hassles with running a practice, and being allowed a car.  Because German.

Then allowed those things.  Because Useful.  He was still a German Jew though….

I mentioned this, because other refugees at the time would have had the same rules applied, but my grandfather had the advantage of his profession and thus being regarded as useful.  Others would not have had that benefit.  This means that people were being judged “worthy” merely based on their immediate usefulness to the local politics of the day, not for being a fellow human being in need, or any other such consideration.

Group Labels and Value Judgements

Any time we classify some group as more or less worthy than another group or set of groups, trouble will follow – both directly, and indirectly.  Every single time.  And the trouble will affect everybody, it’s not selective to some group(s).  Also every time.  Historically verifiable.

brown eyes - blue eyesPopulists simplify, for political gain.  Weak leaders pander to extreme elements, in the hope that it will keep them in power.

The method of defining groups doesn’t matter, nor does one need to add specific “instructions”. The “Blue Eye experiment” proved this. The nasties are initiated merely through a “simple” value judgement of one group vs another.  That’s all that’s required, and the bad consequences are all implied and in a way predetermined.  Trouble will follow, and it’s not going to end well.


It’s fine to identify as a member of a particular group, or more  likely multiple groups as many factors overlap.  That is part of our identity.  But that’s is not the same as passing a judgement on the relative value of one of those groups vs another group.

  • Brown vs blue eyes
  • Muslim vs Christian vs Jew
  • White vs black “race”
  • One football club vs another

human skullIt really doesn’t matter.  Many of these groupings are entirely arbitrary.  The concept of “race” has no scientific basis, we humans are verifiably a single species.

You can make up any arbitrary classification.  It won’t make a difference.  It doesn’t matter.  The outcomes will be the same.

Given what we know about these dynamics, anyone making such value judgements is culpable.  If they’re in a leadership position, I’d suggest that any utterances in that realm indicate either incompetence or criminal intent. Don’t do that.

Don’t accept it.  Don’t ignore it.  Don’t pander to it.  Don’t vote for it.

Speak up and out against it.  For everybody’s sake.  Because I assure you, every single example in history shows that it comes back to bite everyone.  So even if you don’t really feel a connection with people you don’t know, it’ll come and bite you and yours, too.

It’s rearing its ugly head, again, and if we ignore it it will bite us. Badly. Just like any previous time in history.  Guaranteed.

Google’s “Olympic Charter” Logo Stands Up To Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation

The Rise and Fall of Australia’s $44 Billion Broadband Project – IEEE Spectrum

The Tampa children reflect on their rescue 12 years on | Herald Sun

The Tampa Children - From scared youngsters to smiling adultsThey and their families were en route to Christmas Island. They were rescued by the Norwegian container ship the Tampa. Lawyers fought for them in the Australian court. Politicians argued to keep them out of the country.

Two weeks after their rescue, as planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, these faceless, nameless boat-people turned from troublesome “queue jumpers” into potential terrorists.

But New Zealand took the children and their families when Australia would not.

The Tampa affair was the start of Australia’s debate over asylum seekers arriving by boat.

For 12 years, the argument has grumbled with each new batch of boats, getting louder again as another federal election looms.

Full story at

Map correctness and its consequences

I’ve had a globe for years and prefer it when looking up countries with my kids, as obviously it provides us with the most accurate perspective on our world (Google Earth too now, of course). There is no shape/size filter or projection involved.

But on paper, we are used to looking at the world in Mercator projection. It’s what on most atlas pages.

World map in Mercator projection

The Mercator projection originates in the 16th century, and is really useful when navigating the world’s oceans by boat. However, it does very little for giving you even a remotely adequate idea of what the world really looks like – specifically, proportions.

Sure, we know and can see that since earth is roughly a sphere, in order to do this projection we need to stretch the world horizontally the closer we get to the poles. But what you may not usually spot is that the equator is located about two thirds down the page. Hmm….

Below is our world in Peters projection:

Peter's Map

One of its main features (at least to me) is that it puts the equator in the middle.

You can further mess with your brain by putting Australia in the centre, and/or turning the whole map up-side-down. All that still amounts to the same earth, it’s just a matter of perspective. And perspective matters. It matters a great deal.

Generally speaking, larger is regarded as more important, and by convention things at the top of a page similarly so. What proper proportions (and positions) teach is a better sense of where we (you and I individually, and our respective countries) are in the world in relation to everything else.

This clip from The West Wing TV series covers the topic awesomely well:

See for some more maps and info on true relative size.

A case can easily be made that these days, map projection amounts to politics. Your projection will define how you view the world and your own relative position (and size) in it. Interesting, isn’t it?