Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disability Education: A Response.

On Friday I read a rather concerning article in The Age newspaper: “Concern at treatment of disabled in schools”. What follows is my letter to the paper in response to this article — please read the article itself first for context, otherwise the following post will not make much sense.

The letter itself was published in the paper yesterday. I intended today’s post to be a commentary on the Victorian election result, but it appears we haven’t got one yet; given that the paper has already published the letter, I figured I ought to bump up this post.
I for the most part fail to see how the treatment of these children is unreasonable given the circumstances. Only the 90-minute bus ride to school seems unreasonable, and that's more the fault of a broken public transport system and the lack of specialist schools themselves. More of these schools are desperately needed in order to relieve the pressure on mainstream schools (and untrained mainstream teachers) to accommodate those whose disability prevents them from benefiting from a mainstream education.
If a student has the mental capacity of a three-year-old, regardless of his chronological age, an appropriate environment should be provided. If this resembles a child-care environment then this is neither degrading nor unreasonable.
What was Matthew's aide supposed to do when he was hitting other children? Calmly explain to him that he was being a naughty boy and hope to persuade him to stop? That doesn't even work on neurotypical adults if they get worked up. If a child poses a danger to his peers, it is a violation of the other children's human rights not to restrain or seclude him.
A more detailed, more general explanation of my position on this issue will follow; the paper limits letters to 200 words.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Victoria Votes.

This is the first time I’ve actually still been undecided on the night before an election. Not as to which party I’ll give my first preferences to, nor which to preference last, but as to which major party will get to be slightly higher on my list than the other. Given I’m in a very marginal seat this time around, that decision is also probably rather more influential than usual. I’m not going to bore you with much of the reasoning behind my final decision, partly because it could still change even between now and when I step into the booth. I will say that I am very glad that Greens candidate Damian Magner, the major proponent of their public transport plan that I squeed over a couple of weeks ago, looks likely to win the upper house seat he’s standing for. I don’t really have much else to say except to wish Fiona Patten and the Australian Sex Party the best of luck.

But I would like to share a letter from GetUp, whose very important pro-choice campaign “My Choice Is No Crime” is linked in my sidebar.

Today, millions of Victorians will go to the polls and determine the next government and future direction of Victoria. Yet many young Victorians could miss out. An incredible 20% of eligible voters aged between 18 and 25 aren't on the electoral roll, and many more have out-dated enrolment details.
New laws for this election mean you can vote even if you’re not enrolled yet. Simply turn up to a polling booth with your ID and enrol right there and then on Election Day. More information can be found by going to www.vec.vic.gov.au or calling the Electoral Commission's hotline on 131 832.
If you are already enrolled, can you pass this on to anyone you think might not be? It could be your son, daughter, friends from uni or co-workers. If you know anyone who turned 18 in the last year, who moved house, got married, became an Australian citizen or changed their name pop them a quick email to remind them they can still enrol on Election Day. It's as simple as turning up to a polling booth on Saturday with your ID — such as a drivers licence or learners permit, a rate notice in their name or an electricity bill.
More information can be found by going to www.vec.vic.gov.au or calling the Electoral Commission's hotline on 131 832.
From the High Court victory, protecting the enrolment of thousands of Australians, to the Federal Court decision allowing Sophie Trevitt to enrol online, GetUp members have fought hard to make sure that all Australians have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights. Let’s make sure that this Saturday, every Victorian gets a chance to determine the future of this state.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sorry for doing this again, but I’m afraid there’s no post today. Apart from this one. Which I suppose means there’s one post today, which is fairly normal given I normally schedule a post for Thursdays. But it’s not a normal post, which makes it not a normal day. Then again, what’s a normal day on WTA anyway?* Is there such a thing at all? I’ve only been doing this for... [checks archives] three months yesterday — I don’t think that’s quite enough data to say that there’s really a clear norm to what I’ve been doing here. I’ve ranted, theorised, snarked, on several topics from politics to fashion, and now apparently I’m doing book reviews as well.

Three months. Huh. Who’d have thunk it. It doesn’t really feel like that long. I got a message today from a good friend whom I unfortunately haven’t seen since early this year, saying she’d found this blog and was following it regularly. Hi, Erin! It’s always good to know I’m not just talking to the void.

I started out apologising for the lack of a post, and wound up making a post about it. I didn’t think I’d be able to get anything coherent out through the horrible hayfever that’s been plaguing me like the plague. (From the looks of this post, I was right.) I intended just to link to The Little Quince’s post from yesterday, which I figured, given she’s on hiatus and it was an unexpected post, might make up for the lack of one from me. It no longer has to serve that purpose, but I still want to link to it because I think it’s one of her most important posts yet. Even though I know most of my readers read TLQ as well — anyone who doesn’t, do check it out when she comes back on December 1st — you probably aren’t checking it if you know there aren’t going to be regular posts for another week. I do, but then I’m marrying the girl so I’m guessing my situation probably isn’t going to resemble the general case.

So without any further anything, go read Quincy’s entry on ADHD: Not quite what you think it is. Or isn't.

*Oh dear, now I’m rhyming.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Brief Review: “On Bullshit”.

I’d like to do something a little different with today’s post. On Bullshit (Amazon link below) is quite a short book, but it does that rare thing which the philosopher always aims for: to find something worth saying that has not already been said six different ways.

What is bullshit? The instinct tells us it just means lies. Frankfurt contends that bullshitting is in fact something far more insidious than mere lying. The liar lies in reaction to the truth; he wishes to conceal a particular fact, or otherwise influence the beliefs of others, and he does this expressly by perpetrating falsehoods. The bullshitter’s aims, conversely, are utterly unconcerned with truth. A campaigning politician, or an advertising agency, doesn’t care what the truth of the matter really is. Nor do they even care about making you believe the truth of the matter is one way or another. The only goal of the bullshitter is to influence your behaviour long enough to get what they want out of you.

This sort of concept has been implicitly known all along, of course. The characters in Yes, Minister, for example, are entirely concerned with political or administrative goals, and say exactly what they think most likely to bring about their aims; the truth doesn’t enter into consideration at all. This resonates with us because this behaviour is so familiar; we have had a word for it for a long time, and before that word we had others like humbug.

But none, it seems, had formally analysed what bullshit really is. The nature of truth and falsity, and their interplay both formally and conversationally, has always been of interest to philosophy. Frankfurt’s book breathes some much-needed fresh air into the field, in a form as accessible as it is eye-catching. His conclusions are not all final, and are on some levels somewhat cynical and pessimistic; nevertheless, the bullshit is out there, and if we are informed and able to more readily recognise it, avoid it, and counter it, so much the better. In these respects, especially the last, On Bullshit is quite a useful little guide.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Words, words, words.

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
— attributed to Dante Alighieri. 
What I said on Thursday, regarding the difference between the cynical, populist parties and the more earnest, values-driven minor parties, goes for the general public at least as much. Indeed, the success of populism, tautological though it may appear to be in a democratic system, only exists because the hoi polloi are overly cynical about the process themselves. It is fashionable to view being committed to a particular ideal, let alone ideology, as both untenable and undesirable. Idealism is seen as simple naïveté, a denial of the deeply flawed world in which we find ourselves.

Yet if it were not for the flaws in the world, there would be no need for either ideal nor ideology. I am an idealist not because I insist that the world is not flawed, but because I can easily see that it is. Like the fatalist, I believe that a lot of things suck. Yet I am not a fatalist, because I believe that they don’t have to. Rather, I am an optimist, because I believe they can get better. Like the nihilist, I believe that nothing has inherent or intrinsic meaning; yet I am not a nihilist, because I don’t conclude from this that nothing has any meaning at all; rather, I am an existentialist, because I believe that what meaning we give things ourselves is supremely important. (Plenty of people forget this aspect of existentialism, and lump it in with nihilism; my dearest Quincy explains most excellently in the abovelinked entry exactly why this viewpoint is a load of bollocks.)

What do you believe in? We all believe in something. We might be wrong in a great many cases, but apathy is no better. The great horrors of history owe their existence to indifference as much as to malice. If you don’t care about anything, you are abdicating one of the most important privileges of being a part of society. But even belief itself is a lesser matter compared to the second question.

Do you act on your beliefs, and if not, in what sense can you honestly say you hold them? Do you go to church on Sunday and sing about caring for the poor, but lob a single bob into the charity tin and consider your obligations met? Do you want to see the rights of gays, or homeless communities, or children, upheld, yet still vote for whichever major party annoys you less (or promises you a bigger tax cut) and not bother considering the broader implications? Do you want more than anything to see the world, or own a house, or learn to cook, but can’t be bothered putting in the time and effort required, and wind up never leaving your own country, permanently renting, or stuck with bland staples and junk food?

I admit that I do struggle with this sort of thing myself; and when I try to do justice to my words I can overdo it and burn myself out. Moderation, and above all recognition of your limitations, remains crucial; at the end of the day, you can’t have everything. But even then, deciding how much you can afford to do, rather than just doing as you have always done because it’s made life bearable so far, is the biggest individual step in the right direction.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Big Picture.

Why does policy get made? Why, with an election on the cards, does a party make a particular promise when another makes the opposite one?

Because they think it will get them elected, of course. This is the cynical way to play the game, and unfortunately it is a very successful way; but it is not the only way, and it is not a particularly democratic way. It’s undemocratic because it results in a “rush to the centre”; the result over the last few decades is that the two major parties in this country now have policies so similar it’s very difficult to distinguish between them. Their platform is populism. Their policies are determined not by ideology, or economic goals, or even a simple desire for consistency (consistency, after all, means there are certain votes you will never get); their policies are determined by focus groups, according only to what they think will be most popular.

This is why I have so much more respect for the more minor parties. Even the Christian parties, whose existence I deplore on the grounds of separation of church and state (I know we don’t have it in this country, despite being far more secular than the USA; I just wish we did), stand for something. The Greens stand for sustainability, social justice and public projects; the Sex Party stands for social libertarianism and free speech; Family First stand for the erosion of women’s rights and general conservatism. The only things that the Liberals and Labor value, at the end of election day, is power itself.

The more ideological minor parties offer us a genuine choice between platforms. They look at the big picture, have genuine values beyond the desire to be elected or re-elected, and want to remake the country according to what they believe is good. They may not be right about what actually is good, and they run the danger of being overly dogmatic, but there’s at least a level of earnestness — I won’t say honesty; they’re still politicians, after all — to what they say.

This is why I would like to divorce (not entirely, but enough to remedy this particular systemic ill) the process of democracy from the direct process of policymaking. Democracy has a rôle in a truly responsible government, but that rôle should be one of review, not of leadership. A Parliament elected by the people to represent their economic interests, their particular values and their stake in their own country, cannot act in these capacities if loyalty to the Party comes first. Relieving it of the responsibility for making policy, and remaking it as a place of democratic review for the policies of a technocratic Cabinet, would leave it freër to act in the genuine interests of the people. It would limit the abilities of parties to promise more than fidelity to their platform: a party can promise to allow a certain sort of policy through, or to reject a certain sort of policy; but if the party is stripped of the ability to actually make said policy, populist tactics will be of much less avail to it.

Part II coming on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Apologies for missing yesterday’s post. I’ll aim to make up for it tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Transport Priorities.

I was glad to read in the Monash Memo (the weekly newsletter of Monash University, where I work) that in campaigning for the forthcoming State election, the Labor Party has pledged an upgrade of Huntingdale station, which is the closest station to the uni (coming from Melbourne). In addition, they’ve promised a 3–4-minute frequency bus service from the station to Monash. Now, this won’t normally directly affect me at present, but it’s welcome news for the university nonetheless.

I was not so glad to read in the Monash Memo, however, precisely nothing about the Green Party’s plans for the same station. This is quite odd, because the Greens’ promises include an actual branch line from the station to the university, with train services direct from the city centre to Monash and on to Rowville. This would be a far greater boon for the university. The argument might be made that the Greens are unlikely to win the election, but they’re set to gain at least a few lower house seats on the back of their success in the Federal election earlier this year, which could well give them the balance of power and enable them to implement at least some of their policies. The argument might also be made that they’re unlikely to win in part because people don’t realise that they have any policies other than “be nice to trees”, and that giving their actual policies news space might help change this misconception.

The Liberals have promised to “plan for” the Doncaster rail line, which was first proposed in 1890. That’s not a typo. This line was planned for more than a century ago. It’s been planned for many times since then. It has been planned for enough that construction was begun in 1972, only to be abandoned and shelved almost immediately. Sure, the times have changed, but its necessity has only increased, as the Doncaster area remains the largest part of Melbourne served neither by trains nor by trams. And when it comes to political promises, I’m savvy enough to read “We will do X” as meaning X is the most we will do. The Greens, once again, are on the ball: they will fund the construction of the line, as well as the Monash-Rowville branch and other upgrades and extensions, with the savings from cancelling the government’s planned freeway tunnel from Bulleen to Greensborough. I made a similar proposal in a report at Monash a couple of years ago.

When it comes to public transport, the policy of both major parties seems to add up to “more of the same”; sure, they’ll continue adding bus services piecemeal, and they’ll slap Metro on the wrist if more than 20% of the trains are more than five minutes late, and they might reopen a closed station or two, and if the stars are right myki might be ready for primetime this side of the Apocalypse. But we haven’t seen any major suburban rail projects since 1930, and I won’t trust them to bring in the planned new underground line from Footscray to Caulfield until I see the line actually in operation.

I don’t mean to sound like a shill for the Greens, but on the other hand I rarely find myself agreeing so wholeheartedly with a political party. If I want to be honest, I’ll probably end up sounding like a shill in this case, because I’ll promote any political party whose goals are in line with what I want to see — that’s democracy. I don’t like all of the Greens’ policies — their fundamental opposition to nuclear power, for example, baffles and frustrates me — and I handed out flyers for the Secular Party at the federal election. I’m still likely to put the Sex Party first on my ballot paper for the State election (I’m given to understand that the Secular Party, whose policies are mostly the same as the Sex Party’s, aren’t running). But on the issue of transport — and here, as I’ll elaborate on elsewhere, I’d really like to see parties elected on a policy-by-policy basis rather than all-or-nothing — I’m siding quite emphatically and unashamedly with the Greens, and I urge all three of my readers to investigate their policies (and those of the other parties) and make the comparison for themselves.

P.S. (Post Snark): The party websites I used for references are very poorly designed. I’ve seen better English in a printer manual than greeted me on the Liberals’ website, and Labor’s took about a minute to load a page.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Racism.

Apparently there’s a proposal for a constitutional amendment specifically to recognise Aboriginal people. Didn’t we already adequately do this in 1967 when we removed the (deplorable) clauses that excluded them from voting and being counted in censuses? What more recognition do they need than to be treated as equals? And don’t start on the whole “they were here first” issue. Their ancestors were here before my ancestors: it’s not the same thing. Whether my great-to-the-nth-power grandfather lived in Bendigo or Birmingham has no bearing on my nature today, and to grant me special recognition or status based on it is absurd. I have no obligation to be ashamed of, or resentful of, something that was done 200 years before I was even born.

What is this amendment supposed to achieve? As long as we set aside specific clauses to recognise a subset of the population, we imply that they otherwise don’t count. As long as we attempt to counter racist discrimination with affirmative action, we fail to recognise the relevant equality we’re supposed to share.

The statistics show that people of Aboriginal descent have a shorter life expectancy than others, that their education level is likely to be lower, and so on. There are serious social problems in outback communities. But none of these problems will be solved with words. And they will not be solved by setting aside special facilities and services for people based on their race. This is not what is meant by civil rights. It is a perversion; it is pandering to special-interest lobbyists who have no more in common with rural communities or disadvantaged socio-economic groups than I do; and it demonstrably doesn’t work. To offer special concessions to a racial group is to imply they need special concessions because of their ethnicity, which we know is not the case.

To be sure, plenty of Aboriginals do need government help (don’t we all at some point); but they don’t need help because being Aboriginal is itself a disadvantage. They need help because they’re poor, or because they live in a community which lacks certain services, or because they live in a dysfunctional family situation — and these problems are neither caused by being Aboriginal nor exclusive to those who are. If the existing welfare arrangements and so on aren’t enough (and let me be among the first to say they aren’t), then they should be expanded so as to be available to all who need them, black or white or anywhere in between. If two people go to the same school, get the same results, and apply for the same scholarship, the decision as to who should get it should not come down to the colour of their skin. If I interview for a position, I want to get it on my own merits, not because the employer is afraid I’ll sue him for “discrimination” if I don’t.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Benefit of the Doubt.

I want to discuss the advantages — and pitfalls — of assuming the reasonable best of people.

Most people are mostly good, most of the time. That’s a thrice-qualified statement. Nobody’s perfect, although as I like to say, that’s no excuse not to try.

Some people are scum. Some are selfish beyond belief; some are actually sadistic. There’s always hope for redemption, but it rarely happens. These, however, are a tiny majority. Far more harm has been done by ignorance than by genuine evil. Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice, and it is usually the simpler explanation. It’s also practically easier to deal with. While the ignorant may be stubborn, this stubbornness is born not out of conviction itself but out of simple conservatism. If you assume that someone is ignorant rather than malicious, on evidence which could support either conclusion, you’re simply more likely to be right.

Even the smartest and noblest people make mistakes. Even then, it is seldom harmful, or risky, to assume their best intentions.

And what’s the cure for ignorance? Information. Only if the person concerned either genuinely doesn’t give a damn, or is too proud to accept information, will this sort of help fail completely; and even then it won’t make things worse, but will rather give you more information yourself and justify you in condemning the behaviour or opinions in question.

If someone’s acting like an ass, they probably don’t know it. If you thought you were acting like an ass, you would want to change. Those who genuinely wouldn’t care are small in number indeed. Even if they do know it, if nobody speaks up, they’ll assume that nobody really has much of a problem with it. This goes out to the people who called me on my overconfidence when it was getting out of hand and making me seem arrogant — I couldn’t see it from this side of my eyes, but I hope that hearing it has helped me turn it down. The reason they called me on it was because they assumed that I wasn’t being a git for its own sake, or because I genuinely felt superior or thought their opinions worthless, but rather that I simply didn’t realise how I came across. If they hadn’t assumed the reasonable best of me, everyone concerned would be worse off. Even if they had been mistaken in that assumption, nobody would have been worse off for their making it. That kind of went off in a more introspective direction than I expected, but the example stands.

Cultists and fundies, for the most part, aren’t evil, although they do vile things; a cultist is more likely to be brainwashed than truly malevolent. Exceptions can be made for those who stand to make money off said brainwashing — Scientology, of course, being the most notorious offender here — and those who recognise the damage done and do nothing to avert it. And of course, just because they’re brainwashed doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be stopped from abusing children with threats of hellfire and ostracism, but it does mean they should be treated with sympathy. This is why we now look at criminal sentencing with an eye to rehabilitation, as well as the old (and still justified) motives of vengeance and security.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Does Your City Say About You?

Which of these things is not like the others?


It’s not that we can’t design pretty things any more. It’s not that we can’t afford to make them. So why would we prefer post-modern engineered ugliness, or deliberately random shapes, or even bald utilitarian design, when we can have instead something that is both functional and pleasant?

I have a more detailed post coming on the subject; think of this one as a teaser. I’m savvy enough by now not to promise it for Tuesday, though I’ll aim to have it ready some time this week.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Preying on Ignorance: It Works.

The Herald Sun at the weekend involved itself in a smear campaign against State Greens candidate Brian Walters. The campaign relies on the general public’s ignorance of an important principle of legal practice: that because everyone is entitled to legal representation, a barrister must not turn down a case if it is in his area of expertise. Brian Walters has represented the coal industry. He’s also represented a Nazi in his extradition case — does that make him a sympathiser or an anti-Semite? Well, yes, says the Labor government, the significant number of qualified lawyers in its ranks inexplicably failing to speak up and correct this misconception.

Whether you like this principle or not — hey, lawyers have always had a reputation for being spineless, but it does make sense if you value the right to representation — Labor and the Sun are banking on public ignorance and emotional reactions to be a more powerful force than the desire to actually be informed. And they’re right, from a cynical standpoint. More people will be turned away from Walters by his supposed hypocrisy than will be turned in his favour by the facts of the case. Even though both the newspapers are now exposing the facts* — I’m as amazed at this as anyone, by the way — it’s still quite possible that the Greens will have lost this one in the eyes of a lot of casual swinging voters. The Greens’ core electorate is statistically better educated and more inclined to think for itself, but unfortunately such people are a distinct minority, probably still in the seats they look like potentially winning. Their supporters are also more idealistic than many, and mightn’t take too kindly to Walters following the rules.

Whether this piece of gutter politics will be enough to keep Walters or the Green Party as a whole out of our State Parliament for four more years is yet to be seen, of course — but I’d bet money that four years is the most it will buy the government. If Labor wants to still be the dominant left-wing party a decade or two down the track, it’s going to have to actually have some distinctive left-wing policies, like the Greens do, rather than campaigning on a platform of “the Liberals suck”, as it has done for as long as I can remember. (It can get away with that, of course, because the Libs’ platform has mostly been “Labor sucks”.)

We live in interesting times. Personally, I’d like to see policy back in politics.

*Not all the facts, of course. The Sun is careful to forget to mention its own part in the smear campaign, painting it solely as an ALP job, despite the fact that Walters was vilified in its own editorial.

UPDATED 6:22 PM. REASON: I wrote this first thing this morning, and parts were a bit rushed or unclear.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fashions on the Field.

It’s Melbourne Cup Day today, so I thought I’d share my observations of fashion and particularly formal fashion.

What you tend to see around this time of year in Melbourne are what I like to call “louts in snobs’ clothing”. Put a bogan* in a suit and tie, and he still sticks out as a bogan. Not everyone who goes to the races is one, of course, and they all get dressed up in suits and dresses, but you can still spot who’s in his nice clothes and who’s in costume. I’ll mostly describe men’s clothing here, because I know more about it.

Type 1: Gangster chic.
Will this be formalwear in 100 years?
Historically, there are only two kinds of people who wear expensive clothes badly: gangsters and servants. Servants used to wear formal clothes in improper combinations as a reminder of their lower status. Valets and footmen still stick to the old combinations. Prohibition-era gangsters wore zoot suits with dark shirts and lurid ties as a means of conspicuous consumption that set them apart from old (or legitimate new) money. (It’s the same with gangsters these days, only rather than booze they push hard drugs, and rather than exaggerated suits they now tend to wear exaggerated sports clothes and deliberately tasteless jewellery, this being an even less “conventional” form of conspicuous consumption.) Still today, wearing a dark shirt with a brightly-coloured tie makes you look like a gangster. It’s certainly retro, but it’s also certainly informal. It’s not an outfit, it’s a costume.

You want to wear what, sir?
Type 2: Mix-&-match/servant costume. Same goes for people who figure you can slap together a tailcoat, a frilly shirt, a long tweedy waistcoat and a skinny tie and, because the elements are more fancy than normal clothes, decide that you’re dressed formally. No, no, no, no, no. Tails shouldn’t be seen at the races at all — they’re evening wear, like the tuxedo, and for the same good reason: when worn properly, they create a high-contrast look, which is fine indoors under lights, but looks garish in the daylight.

Which part would you rather look?
The only person who wears evening tails during the day is a butler. Similarly, if you wear a pale jacket and a bow tie before six, you’ll look like a waiter. Tweed? It’s for the country, and is even less formal than an ordinary suit. The only character I know of who wears a wing-collar shirt with a long tie is Jeeves. If you’re going with the wing collar, go with an ascot tie or a bow tie. Mismatched waistcoat? Fine, it might be cheaper than a three-piece suit, but unless you’ve gone all the way and are wearing a morning coat and striped pants, it’s also less formal.

Type 3: the Rule Abiding Rebel. The sort who looks like he was ordered to dress up by his mother, or his headmaster, but expressed his resentment by putting on a poorly-fitting or frayed suit, untucking his shirt, loosening his tie, and not bothering to shave or brush his hair. It doesn’t make you look rebellious or cool. It makes you look washed-up, hung-over and half-baked.

Type 4: Obviously Rented Clothes. This is more a problem at weddings than the races, but I have seen it crop up. You know the type. Their satin waistcoat, tie, fancily-folded pocket square, and maybe even their hatband are all the exact same shade of pastel purple. Their polyester suit has been drycleaned and ironed to within an inch of its life. They don’t look at home in the outfit at all. Again, they’re wearing a costume. They’d have done much better spending a quarter as much on a nice second-hand suit and maybe a tie at their local op shop. Unless you’re unusually small or large, there will probably be something to suit you at the Salvos, or St Vinnie’s, or Savers.

When it comes to women I have less to say, partly because looking boganish is more a matter of behaviour than of the specifics of what you wear. The main rule is that you can have quite a low-cut neckline, or you can show a lot of leg, and still look very classy, but if you show both, class is essentially impossible. If your legs are your preferred asset, know how to pick things up. Your mates might appreciate the view, but you have knees for a reason.

*bogan, n. redneck, yobbo, chav, seljak, bumpkin. Doesn’t exactly match any of these words, but you get the idea.