Monday, June 29, 2009

Kids in Cars

Its not often i write about depressing issues such as death, and the road toll, but last weekend, a group of teenagers got into a car and they never managed to get out. It was reported in the newspapers that speed played a significant part in their demise. A day before that horrific crash, a21 year old was luckily pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by a whopping 131 kmph.

A radio broadcaster was discussing these events this morning, seeking answers to questions such as "why do young drivers speed?" , "why aren't the TAC's messages(Drink and drive our a bloody idiot/arrive-alive/speed-kills) making a noticable difference to the road toll" , "what can we do to lower the road toll?" etc.

He sought far and wide for reasons, explanations and answers, but amongst his callers, i don't think he ever asked a driver between the ages of 16-25. Although it would seem quite pertinant to ask the so called "target group" for answers to the aforementioned questions, the general consensous amongst the so-called "older and wiser" is that they know what's best, and that they know what/when and why youngsters behave as they do. "I was once your age" they'd claim, but surely things have changed over the years, man-kind has progressed, Darwin called it evolution, some might call it regression(the fact that we are killing ourselves by abusing machines we created is ironic, like a plot-line out of the Matrix??)

Call it what you may, but the cold fact is that youngs drivers are putting themselves, and their passenger friends in dangerous, life threatening situations by driving under the influence of alcohol and /or drugs, and driving at excessive speeds. The preceeding situations that young adults find themselves in have hardly changed in over 50 years. Alcohol has always been an instrument of social cohesion and celebration. Responsible consumption of alcohol has always been a problem for modern western society. Thousands of people across many age groups have struggled to limit their alcohol intake to that which is considered a safe and responsible level.

Public figures have been shamed in the media for acting irresposibly after having more than one too many drinks. The problem is alomost endemic, and reversing the nations' drinking culture will no doubt help reduce the number of deaths related to alcohol abuse.

The "speeding culture" of many young Australian's is with out doubt an age related problem. Anyone who says otherwise is talking nonsense. It's not generational, its not a sign of the times, its prely age-related. History shows that ever since cars where affordable, the number of deaths amongst young adults where higher than the rest of the population. Young adults are by nature impatient, hurried and have more demands on their time than ever before. Driving fast is without doubt the simplest solution to getting to their destination faster.

While i don't condone such behaviour, i undersand it, and those seeking to have a positive impact upon the problem must do so quickly , or else risk missing the problem completely. Why young adults are driven ( forgive the pun) to speed from one destination to another is another underlying "fault" of the human condition. Its well known that young-adults think of themselves as invincable, reckless levels of over-confidence, mis-placed faith in their own abilities, both to drive and to consume alcohol turn a self reliant, self-confident, headstrong young adult into a dangerous liability on the roads.

A few years back, a spate of high-school shootings and classroom violence sparked an international debate over how absorbant children and young-adults are to violent video-games, music, tv-programming and the coverage of violent incidents by journalistsin the news-media.
Strangely, the interconnected issue of how absorbent young adults are to car racing games such as Gran Turesmo, Need for Speed etc etc, and movies such as Fast and the Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds etc etc .

In my humble opinion, the number of young adults, boys in particular, who are attracted to enourmously powerful cars, with exorbitantly priced customizations, which they showcase proudly to their friends at illegal, impromtu meetings has increased ever since the turn of the century. No coincedence I think, since 2001s premier of The Fast and the Furious , more and more action movies premised around street-racing have enjoyed box-office success.

Such cultures have to be firmly, but gently removed from the mainstream media, because driving them "underground" will only lead to the mess experienced overseas, a situation no well-wishing policy maker wants.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Problems with Australian News-Media

The Australian news media love a good tale. Not unlike other news services, the australian New stations like a story that captures and engages their target audience. But how often do they actually report the news that matters.
The last month has seen some big news around the world. The furore over alleged voting irregularities in Iran, the upcoming elections in Afganistan, the continuing wars in Afganistan and Iraq, the world-wide spread of Swine-flu, the response to the Global Financial Crisis, and of course the seemingly out-of sight,out-of-mind human rights abuse in Dafur.
In Australia, the government has been making news with its attempts to get an Emmisions Trading scheme through both houses of Parliament, coupled with an equally controversial Clean/Solar Energy Bill. Indian students have been making their presence left over the last few weeks, after being a string of allegedly racially motivated assaults in Victoria and New South Wales.

But the news media, on TV, radio and the interent don't ever do any real analysis of the underlying issues. Why bother when you can lift a piece for a news scource like Reuters or AAP, and make bold headlines that attract attention without accurately representing the story. I'll give you an example. On Friday, the reported under its breaking news header,"Australia's First Swine-Flu Death". Without a doubt, it grabbed my attention, i was pretty relaxed about swine flu, as all the reports i had read from Mexico and the USA said that the people who had died from Swine Flu had died because of other illnesses and that the strain of influenza known as Swine Flu was virulent but had mild symptoms and was overall, not very dangerous. The story took some time unfolding on the Age's website, and after 10 or so minutes, it revealed that the person who had died, had Swine Flu as one of many other chronic illnesses, which caused complications leading to his demise. IN summary, a poor bloke living out in the middle of desert in Western Australia, miles away from any decent health care, had died from complications to his various chronic ailments, and he so happened to be diagnosed with a disease that's currently a buzz-word for news paper editors!

Another grievance i have with Australian News outlets is their lack of detailed analysis of the GFC, and what the world's governments are doing to try and reduce the severity, longevity and impact of Recession. Last night, World News Australia(SBS) ran a story on how the American Senate are complaining that Barack Obama is trying to "make a grab for power". They included a short clip of a senator addressing the House, using a strange analogy to question why Obama either needed the power to pass those reforms, without actually mentioning what those reforms are, why they are needed nor why Obama needs executive power to get those reformns passed.
Do they think the Australian public don't care? Or are we simply not smart enough to understand the complicated world of politics, finance and economics?
Isn't it the media's duty to make the complex understandable? To inform the population as to what is being done by governments to make the world a better place?

If the media can't do their job, how are the people of the nation going to inform themselves of the issues that matter. Especially in a year that may end up being an election year, after Rudd and Co's inability to bow to the overwhelming tide of logical arguement presented by the Coalition and the greens in against their "packaged" Emmisions trading scheme, the media should be presenting all sides of these highly politized stories. Portraying either side of politics in a negative light is wrong, and clouds the judgment of the population, who must be kept aware of the dealings of the Government, immaterial of the nature of the story. Developments should be analysed by correspondents, giving the viewer the neccesary background information to contextualize the incidents, and in time form their own opinions.

The current media coverage of politics in Australia is playing into the LAbor government's hands, the media is potraying the Turnbull and his Liberals in a bad light, and although they are demanding what is right for the country, the propaganda machine that is Kevin Ruddis spinning a great yarn to the media to cast himself as the victim. Watching the news, it seems like he's getting away with daylight robbery, and the population are none the wiser.