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I'm Waleed Aly. Hi and welcome to Big Ideas, we've got the Perth Writers Festival, In today's Short Cuts at the Mardi Gras a conversation from Queer Thinking and All The Single Ladies, an article published in The Atlantic. a panel that's sprung out of by American writer Kate Bolick This was an article written a lot of women loved it, The article went viral, from men. but Bolick got a lot of angry emails George Megalogenis First up, Phillip Adams, at the Perth Writers Festival. Andrew Robb and Susan Mitchell The session is beautifully titled of Politics. The Endless Multiplying Banality

are dying in the streets In some parts of the world people to get the right to vote. And in great tracts of the Western democracies,

about it. no-one seems to give a stuff for this, What is the profound reason in your view, George? the mega reason for this, to the start of the last decade I think we need to rewind a bit and technology starts to change - the Internet rises, in people's estimation the opinion poll starts to rise and magic properties. of, you know, faith healing powers

And on both sides of politics, around the time of 2000, 2001 I think the GST, after John Howard has bedded down

just before the Tampa, just before September 11, of reform after many, many, many years government pushed firstly by the Hawke/Keating conclusion by the Howard government and then taken to their logical with the implementation of the GST. collectively woke up So I think both sides this big shift in the technology, at about the time there was

wondering what to do next. to short-term impulses And I think they started to submit as the society did because from around that time

gratification phase we were in that instant of a rather long boom. of a second decade started around that time. So the dumbing down, I think,

We know from around that time to get anything else done it was difficult an announcement because as soon as you made with various grievances 50 people would pile in would put the microphone and the media under the first person who said no. on reform, So, Howard sort of went a bit easy was tearing itself apart, the Labor Party with the '96 election defeat still hadn't come to terms did come under some pressure itself and the media, well, the media in question around the same time. 'cause the business model was all the various parts of this cosmos And I think between to short-term signals. we started to respond a little more for a couple of quarters, So, if someone was up in the polls we thought, 'That's it. New leader.' the revolving door started, So it's around that time after that 2001 election. with Simon Crean Labor, for the first time knifed a sitting opposition leader an election. who wasn't allowed to contest it happened a few years earlier On the Coalition side with Alexander Downer. into this rather weird situation And you were starting to get you had to have another one quickly where once you got rid of a leader because a Newspoll would tell you to and then you had to have a third. And we've had a bit of this lately around that time. but I think it began OK, extrapolate to the United States because we do see a similar malaise. is not only the same I guess the news cycle factor but more so. if you think it through, Yeah, but it's also, the Republican nomination process, what's been occurring in

for each of the candidates, you get these huge surges they get like 10 - 20-point spikes in its, in its, in its properties. and that's almost Latham-like

of nowhere, Remember when Latham came out to stop Beazley from coming back. after Crean ran into trouble. He was the third candidate

'Who is this guy?' And everyone was saying firstly, shiny object he's seen like this brand new and Andrew will testify to this - and he had approval ratings - most of the Coalition government around the start of 2004 in the second half of the year. were expecting to lose that election not after a series of gaffs - But then the first mistake -

troops out by Christmas, the very first mistake, moment early in 2004, if anyone remembers that particular down again, and that was it. suddenly the polls went from this - but the party vote plummeted His personal rating still held up was pretty much over at that point. and that election Now, that to me is an early warning are going through. of what the Republicans You know, there's a Romney surge, there's a Santorum surge. there's a Gingrich surge, an electorate Each time you're looking at confronting someone on the up, as they start to get to know them, and then a couple of weeks later they mark them down again. is that these people Now, what this tells you that they don't have a body of work, have turned up out of nowhere, they haven't been around, you know, to make mistakes. they haven't been allowed he came back the second time around, John Howard's numbers, once were pretty consistent. collapses in the first two terms There were a couple of events-led you knew what you were getting. but by 2003/2004 was popular for most of the time, Keating was always unpopular, Hawke public life for a good 20 years each but these people had been in before they became the leader

an election. or before they contested on the other side - I think the problem we've got in contemporary politics the problem we've got in the US, and certainly been replicated

are Johnny-come-latelies. is a lot of these characters

I don't think there's a malaise. I don't accept the thesis. Um, you know, I look at Obama - and turnout and - there was enormous enthusiasm Who came out of nowhere, in a sense. Well, he might've come out of - around the world. but there was a mood for change

That's when Howard got the bullet, in the developed world, I mean - it's when Helen Clark, every - Cameron in the UK, and there was this great expectation a whole new agenda. that we could move to And my sense is that in lots of elections if it is an apparent Tweedledee, Tweedledum you get the malaise

but if there's something serious happening or whether it's a period - Obama and Rudd etc - around the world

where people for whatever reason had this great hope about this is a good time for a change of agenda, people do engage.

So it's - and a lot of that malaise too is a function of partly what George is saying is the media saturation. It does your head in, 24/7 politics does your head in. I mean, I got sick of this thing that's going on at the moment, I mean, I've escaped to the west for two days and I'm very grateful to be here because - They do have radio here. (Laughter) No, but if I'm over there I'm in the middle of it. And I think there is a lot of endless trivia - that's banality - endless trivia, which is now 24/7 and that does make people immune but also, because of this constant, you know, endless news cycle

where you've got to have something to say every three hours different and there is much more probing, you can see it even with cricket or football, so many areas, people are now becoming very practiced at saying nothing.

This whole level of intrusion and, you know, attempts to identify issues has led to all of us being trained to give banal answers so that we don't get into trouble. And you listen to the footballers with 'one game at a time' and they've all got their lines that the whole spontaneity and, in a way, authenticity has been expunged from people. And you feel a great - at times you feel like breaking out. But if you do, you create a problem and then you're the media cycle for three days, all your colleagues are giving you bad looks and so, in a way, people sort of get sick of that but I can just say to you to finish that I still feel when there are real issues at stake for individual people, for their lives, they turn out, they focus, they look at who's best to do the job. This is LNL on RN and we're coming to you from Winthrop Hall. We're at the Perth Writers Festival and our theme is the Endless Multiplying Anality - sorry, Banality of Politics. Susan Mitchell, pick it up.

I think reality television also has a lot to do with it.

If you look at the kind of dumbing down of television that's occurred. Cheap television from Big Brother to celebrity dancing survival I mean, we are now engaging in a form of celebrity politics - the prime minister, who is going to be in, who is going to be out and the Internet provides a kind of instant 'I'm for this person, I'm for that person,'

there's any real thinking, I don't think people really analyse it. I think it's as quick as 'Here's the number. Vote. Are they in? Are they out?' And I think we can't ignore reality television as a very powerful force. OK, all of us attack 24/7 news cycles. Is there anything good about it, George? Is there anything good about the 24-hour news cycle? Yeah, has it done something to invigorate aspects of politics? I suspect what it's done, simply because of its availability, it's going to compel the media to think its way out of the digital storm. So, the resource itself has actually increased the amount of information that's out there and that in the long run is going to be a good thing, not a bad thing,

for public debate.

The fact that the thing is abused at the moment is, you know, a transitions thing, it's people getting used to the new technology. At the moment what I... Andrew's mentioned we're sort of liberated here in WA, we don't have to take all the calls we would if we were still on the eastern seaboard on this leadership thing. But you flick on the telly in the hotel room and you do get a snapshot of what the 24-hour cycle looks like. It looks like Kevin Rudd has just called another press conference, nup, it was the press conference he gave two days ago and it's on an endless loop. Now, I would say that that is a misuse of the technology and there's something else might happen, of course, because in the short-term we've been trying to fill that extra dead air

with just journos interviewing journos.

I think that's another misuse of the technology. Can't tell you what's happening now but it's all happening, that sort of stuff that you get. (Audience laughs) You've seen them when they're standing outside somebody's house or standing in front of a lectern but the lectern's empty because they haven't turned up yet. Um, these are problems, obviously, but problems you would think an audience would sooner or later address for the network, you know, people would start to tune out to these things. But given the technology, huge upside, I suspect, for public debate. Huge upside. And a huge upside for intelligent discussion because - Well, we've seen a huge upside in the revolutionary processes in the Middle East

where the new media facilitated or at least choreographed the uprisings. But at the same time we know that the great use of the Internet on this planet is pornography. And I've seen other very promising technologies soon debauch themselves, it wasn't so long ago that talkback or open line came into being and it was a wonderful idea.

Media was all one way, apart from letters to the editor, suddenly it was a dialogue.

And in the beginning it was a pluralist dialogue, one of the very first people to do a talkback program was Barry Jones, for example. OK, no-one got a word in edgeways but at least it didn't sort of rapidly sink into this tirade

of right wing populism. Yeah, 'cause the thing now, this has happened to every media organisation and it began with television, which affected the way print presented itself off the print journalists, we tried to colour up our products so we went from black and white very, very staid layouts to active colour layouts so our newspapers started to look more like magazines.

That was a visual prompt from TV. When talkback came along, it was interesting

so we got a whole lot of more voices, so you noticed we were using these picture stories based on Mr and Mrs Stringbag, you know, screaming because mortgage rates gone up 25 basis points and how will they pay off their very expensive home and beautiful harbour view. So you get a bit of that as well. But what also happens with the talkback, and this is where talkback has started to...

I wouldn't say it's corrupted but it's sort of coarsened the debate. The loudest voice wins so the shock jocks start to rise, so print columnists then start to put the cap locks on and start typing as if they're shouting.

So, there's a bit of that as well.

So this is where each new entrant, in a sense, changes the approach of the incumbent and I think we're all sort of not necessarily chasing down

but because there's so much extra information we feel like we have to be the loudest commentator on the park to be seen and heard. I remember a marvellous or fascinating moment in newspapers when we suddenly realised we couldn't deliver the news as quickly as broadcast media. So almost overnight the newspaper became a viewspaper and there was the rise of punditry and suddenly, instead of breaking news

there was page after page after page of members of the commentariat... (Mutters) ..explaining it. I have to suggest though, Andrew, that despite all these technological changes there is something going on, there is sort of a world weariness. Now, OK, you insist that it fires up, that it fizzles, but we went through a major crisis in this country

which nobody seemed to notice. Which was the global financial meltdown. We did but the... ..I mean, we were very well placed to deal with it because of the state of our economy, which our opponents inherited, seeing as there's a little bit of parochialism going on here. But we were better placed than anyone else

and also, if you look back,

we've got these automatic stabilisers.

One's the exchange rate, right? October 2008, the world is falling apart financially our dollar went down to 60 cents and in the first quarter of 2009 we had the greatest trade surplus in our history

because of the low dollar Actually, most households had more money in their pocket and by the time you got to July when things were starting to improve, we started as an economy to get back into action - Yeah, but my point is not so much for economic analysis but something that devastated the United States, much of Europe, the UK, passed here without really much political consequence. Because people... people were not feeling it like the rest of the world was. People didn't see their house values collapse. People had more money in their pockets

because of what happened to interest rates coming of 3.5 - you know, it's a huge fall. And business had money in their pockets because of the exchange rate so we were weatherproofed to some extent and unless there's... unless people in their own lives are feeling the impact of it, then you don't get the political consequence.

But, Andrew, I mean, given that we would say, OK, we were cashed up thanks to the previous government, seems to me there's never been any recognition that this government actually didn't stuff it up and they did get us through it. And that that was a huge thing and we don't very often hear that recognised.

OK, but I mean, we strongly supported the first stimulus. But the point we were talking about, really, was not who stuffed up and who didn't. It really was why was there no major political reaction.

That first stimulus, which I thought was quick, sensible and of great merit that played a part in us getting through it. But as a consequence we didn't have Australians feeling threatened like they were in other parts of the Western world. Look, enough. I'm much more interested in the feelings, the moods, the psychological responses to Australian politics and world politics. My guests are George Megalogenis, Susan Mitchell and Andrew Robb and by amazing coincidence I have here something that the aforementioned Barry Jones wrote, I think it was in one of the Fairfax papers yesterday. And I think he says what a lot of us are feeling. 'I've been heavily involved in politics all my adult life and the current national situation, both in government and in opposition

is a low point, the lowest I can recall, even the dark days of '95, '66 '75 and '96. It seems to get worse every week. The 2010 election was the worst in living memory

because there was no debate about ideas, simply an exchange of slogans and mantras. We observed an infantalisation of debate, for example, on refugees and climate change. Now, there is good reason to expect the 2013 election will be even more depressing. I have lost count of the number of exchanges

with voters in Melbourne streets where they express their dismay to me

about the state of politics on both sides. Some burst into tears.'

Now I don't think that's an exaggeration. I get a huge amount of mail and email and there is a sense of despair about our political scene but, as Barry says, we're not alone. The current political scene in the US, Canada, Italy, France, Greece is demoralising as well. This is not simple economics, George, is it? No, it's a bit more than economics. There is some economics that informs it though and that is the GFC and the GFC is a once-in-a-generation shock

to pretty much assumptions of what makes rich worlds tick. So in the run-up to the GFC we thought we'd uncovered this new golden code to perpetual growth which is you just borrow and then you spend and then the spending would drive up demand and then you borrow some more and then you spend some more. Now this GFC,and it's taken years to sort itself out, has coincided with a period of very, very long prosperity across the Western world and a couple of wars that the West conducted as wars of choice but on credit cards.

And the last time the developed world carried on this way was in the '60s and the early '70s and at that point we had a crack-up across Western societies. That was Phillip Adams and panel from the Perth Writers Festival. And you can find the whole session on our website. Next up, a conversation from Queer Thinking at this year's Mardi Gras.

Alyena Mohummadally is talking with Seknah Beckett The session was called I am a Queer Muslim

and Alyena talks very openly about reconciling her sexual identity with her religious identity.

For her, both identities are of equal importance. She was born in Pakistan and is lawyer and a mother. I am a queer Muslim. I'm in my mid-30s. I'm actually quite happy to say that because until maybe four or five years ago I still got carded and that used to upset me. (Laughter)

I'm also a mum. I should first say I'm a partner as well. I have a wonderful, wonderful wife. And we have a young son who's going to be two in April and, yep, he's a handful but very, very happy. I'm also a sister, a daughter, a lawyer, an activist, an ex-Sydneysider but very much a Melburnian now. And I'm also Pakistani. That's my ethnicity. I'm also Muslim. And I have asthma so that counts as a disability. So I tick all the boxes! (Laughter) So, I'd like to say as-salamu alaykum, sister. Wa'alaykum assalam. I'm interested in asking how you've reconciled your relationship with your queer Muslim identity, particularly when I know there is an invitation for us to relinquish our faith in order to express our diverse genders and sexualities. Well, that's -

that's the question that when I get I pause

because there is no quick answer to that and I think it's something that - it's a part of a journey which you can still be challenged on or you can still re-think or re-visit but I firmly say I am a queer Muslim because, to me, I cannot be queer and not Muslim and I cannot be Muslim and not queer -

there are two halves to my whole. And the reason why I say this is because years and years ago, I was about maybe 13, 14,

I first felt attracted to women and it was a German speed -

German figure skater at the Winter Olympics so anyone born in the '70s will know what I'm talking about. Anyone after the '70s thinks I'm a loser - that's alright. And I thought she was absolutely beautiful and I remember being quite young, early teens, and saying, 'Wow, I want to marry her.'

And in the same breath thinking,

'What? You've been raised in a Muslim household, your parents are both Pakistani. What are you talking about? You're going to grow up and you're going to marry a man and have kids because that's what you do.

Why are you even thinking like this? is not uncommon to many people in this room. That instant realisation that I'm not like my sister not like my mum and dad and all my friends. And I tried to suppress that because to me I was raised in a Muslim household. Now I don't particularly like the word that's used a lot in Australia - progressive Muslim because I think that that's singling us out. We were just Muslim. And my curiosity is who are we being measured up against... Absolutely. ..in terms of progress. Absolutely. So for me I was raised in a Muslim household where it was very important for us to all get educated and to follow our dreams. We were always invited to challenge and ask questions. Mum and Dad didn't probably particularly like it when we'd be driving them nuts at the table going, 'Yeah, but why is two women's evidence equal to one man's? What nonsense is this?' And they probably got pretty sick of my sister and I constantly arguing everything

but we were never silenced

and we weren't the only ones. Our friends who were Muslim were in the same world. Like the people we knew, the community we were around were the same kind of people who believed that everything is up for discussion. Mm. But one thing that I had been told was - or not told - was that when it comes to the topic of homosexuality, no-go zone. Don't even think about it because I was told the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah

and I was told bad, evil people did bad, evil things and they'd all died so hence homosexuality equals bad. So thinking, then, that I was attracted to women

was extremely difficult then to reconcile.

And so I decided, 'Well, then, you know what? I won't be Muslim, goodbye, you know, because I want to explore this part of me.' And this was quite young as well. My early teens.

So I did that. I had lots of sleepovers with my cousins. Mm. It's not gross. You can marry cousins.

Um... (Laughter) OK, maybe it is a little bit gross. But what I did was, by denying my sexuality - sorry, denying my religion, I actually found that I wasn't happy because religion was very important to me

at that stage or point in my life and religion in the way I had been raised. Now, fast forward on a couple of years and I decided well, not happy doing the sexuality thing, going back to the religion thing. Let's go and date endless amount of boys. Parents should have known something was up because I went for the same kind of gentle, quiet man

who was never allowed to do anything beyond just first base but they should've known something was up there but they all thought, 'Great, she's gotten over that phase.' But obviously it wasn't a phase and the religion came back in a different form.

It came back to me in the form of spirituality. And to me spirituality is very different to religion. I mean I see religion as a set of rules, doctrines, you know, rules that you must follow. Mm. In Islam, for example, there are tenets - one says you must pray five times a day. Now I think the intention of that five times a day is actually to have a connection with your - with the spiritual side, with your maker.

I don't think it's important to say five prayers a day and then go out and kill someone or do something that the religion says not to do. So I went on this quest to read as much as I could about Islam,

try and get as much understanding as possible with not having any kind of religious background. I didn't study it at uni, I didn't have any - I didn't have anyone around me that I really trusted to ask as well. But it was very important to me to go on that journey to explore it. And so at this point I say I'm not a scholar,

I'm not a cleric, I'm not someone who claims to know the ins and outs of all the religious texts but I am someone who believes that you can be Muslim or call yourself Muslim, identify with Islam, because that is - the Islam that you have is a spiritual Islam.

And if people want to call it religion that's fine but for me it's my spirituality, it's my faith, so, moving on from there, I actually was living overseas at the time - I came back to Australia in 1997, started off at uni,

and to this day I get teased by girls at college who said that I went around saying, 'Hi, I'm Alyena and I'm bisexual.' The very first thing I said to people. Because I thought, 'I'm in Australia now. I can do anything I want.' Never mind that I was at

a conservative Catholic all-girls college,

But I thought, well, you know what, I'm going to know explore that side again, the sexuality, and now I'm older, I'm an adult now I can do this properly. But again I found that I was going through the same issues

that can you reconcile the two. Because I would have both Muslims and non-Muslims tell me, 'No. You can't.' The Muslims would be saying, 'No, it's a sin, it's wrong, evil, evil, evil.' Therefore you cannot be Muslim and GLBTIQ. The non-Muslims would be saying,

'Why would you even want to be identifying with such a horrible, horrible religion?' So again I was thrown into this world of what's actually important to me? Do I pick one? Do I ditch the other? And I had to go on another journey to get where I am today.

Alyena, I hear all these journeys that you've embarked upon to reconcile - I have a lot of frequent flyer points. Lots of frequent flyer points!

Halal ones, I guess.

It's important to note that in our Muslim communities we're not a homogenous group but there's diversity within diversity. And admittedly, in the context that I work as a psychologist, I meeting with quite extreme circumstances. What would you say to the voices that might argue that your journey is reflective of Western constructs of negotiating sexuality? And what I mean is, for example,

someone might have been able to leave home, meet a girlfriend, but when the parents come home all the remnants of the girlfriend have to disappear,

the photos come down and the girlfriend waits in the park

or we hear things like - of marriages of convenience.

because I did that. Mm-hm. My current partner and I have been together for seven years. So that's my final partner - in fact, she'll kill me for saying 'current' even. (Laughter) Can we delete that? (Laughter) Oops.

Oh, no, I am really scared now. My partner and I - my partner's non-Muslim. And it was interesting when we met

because straight up I was very open about I wear a prayer every day, I only take it off at certain times. And I was very clear about my faith, my spirituality is very important to me. And we had conversations about what if we have kids and I said, 'Well, I want to raise her or him Muslim,' and she went and explored Islam because she doesn't have any religion and she was worried - what is that going to actually mean for the child and for her. And she liked when she realised my family and how we live but before we even got to that point of having a child and we'd moved in together

I had told my parents - by then I was well and truly out. I told my parents that we were together and they were like, 'Alright, fine, but we don't want to talk about it

so it doesn't actually exist if we don't talk about it.'

And when my uncle, who lives overseas, came for a yearly family holiday and she wasn't invited to that family holiday I realised OK, we've got a problem here because we've been together for three years now

and I've told my parents kind of we're together but I'm not going to force it down your throats so if you're not comfortable with her and me in the same room, that's OK, we'll sleep in separate bedrooms. I tried to do everything to please my family because I love my family and I don't know if I would've done that today - well, I can't do that today because I have a son. I must raise him to be proud of his mums. But at that time I thought this is what you do because a good Muslim girl very much puts her family first.

And never mind if she's planning to build a family with someone else - she's still a daughter and a sister.

And so for me I did exactly that. I didn't send her off to the park. She would've killed me for that. But I kind of didn't - I kept the bedroom door closed or I made things sort of awkward so that I'd say, 'We're together but we're not actually together.' And then when my uncle came and the usual family holiday in the country

and she wasn't invited I then realised, well, you know what? I'm creating issues in my relationship. I actually have to do something that, yes, in many ways is that Western construct, the Western notion of you must come out, you must go and scream it down the street, which I never wanted to do to my parents.

I'd already done it by being queer and doing lots of uni things and all that, in activist world. But I didn't want to do that with my parents. I wanted to have the best of both worlds. I wanted to come in with my parents which is a word that we should talk about. Which you - That's another talk. Let's see! But I wanted to come out with the rest of the world. And living that dual life was very difficult so I think that - and yet the walls came tumbling down and it all crashed and I had to have tears from Mother and tears from my partner and tears from myself and tears from everybody before everybody said, 'Alright, we actually have to do something public So... And look, Catherine and I went one step further and we had a wedding, you know? A few years ago we had a big - she was pregnant at the time so it was a dry wedding

which my father was very happy about. I wasn't wasn't but he was and it was high tea and it was a day event but it was respectfully done. I will say kissing her in front of my father was the most awkward moment I've ever had. To this day the photo - Tiny little peck, the one that your grandmother gives you. It was horrible, horrible. OK, maybe not on your mouth, you know?

So - So, yeah, I think there is that issue of the Western belief that you've got to be out but unfortunately, in my case, until I actually did come out out, my parents weren't able to accept it. And this is the irony because I was trying to be the good Pakistani girl and not ram it down their throats, for want of a better word, not scream about being queer. But they actually needed the wedding. They needed to see all - What did that make possible? The fact that, well, you know, it's not a phase anymore.

OK. Let's get over that one.

But more than that, this is a life that Alyena has chosen. One of the saddest moments when I came out - I came out a million times to my mother, then denied, then went back in, came out again, denied it, went back in, and I did this again and again and again. And one of those moments where we were sitting and crying about it my mother said something to me that I've never forgotten and I take with me every day because I do and I don't believe it. She said, 'I'm crying because your life now will be so much harder than it could've been.' Now, of course, I look at my life and I go I have a wonderful partner, a wonderful son, wonderful house in Melbourne, all that, yada, yada, yada. My life is not hard. And then I think, hold on, my life has been hard, you know. Mm. Little things. I started a new job -

I had to out myself on day one because I hate that hetero assumption - when I mention my child, of course I must be straight, instantly. So I mention Catherine's name right away.

When I walk into the tea room I have to do that again. When I meet someone new - I am the person who has to ram it down everyone's throat at work

because I don't want that awkward moment because we work in this hetero privileged world, you know, which, unfortunately, does think that we're all straight. And so I go, 'Well, it does make your life harder,' because heteros don't have to think about well, every day I need to now announce

about my straight this and my straight life which they do anyway. But they don't have to experience that. So my mother was right there. But I'm not going to say that that would've changed who I am or where I am today. That was Alyena Mohummadally in conversation with Sekneh Beckett. You can find the extended talk on our website. And last up in Big Ideas today is a an extract from a panel discussion on FORA.tv with Kate Bolick, Hanna Rosin and Garance Franke-Ruta on the joys of being single and female. Bolick wrote a cover for The Atlantic called All The Single Ladies, analysing the choices for a woman who's got marriage in mind. She figured it was time to embrace some new ideas about family and romance when her choice of male was narrowed down

to either deadbeats or playboys. How does one - like, when does one think of oneself as single? Like, is the definition I gave earlier - 'just not married' - is that the psychic definition of being single?

Or is it something else? I think that - I do feel that there is a very big difference between me and my married friends. And so we have very independent-minded married friends. And I remember one saying to me, 'Oh, I'm just like you, except I'm married.' And I think, 'You're not like me at all.' You know? (Laughter) At the end of a hard work day I go home by myself and when I have a huge thing, a big decision to make I am my own advisor, or I'm calling my dad or my brother, or something. But to have - to go through adult life as a single person rather than a married person is a very different thing. And as far as an expiration date is on when it's weird to no longer - that's playing out right now. It'll be very interesting to see what happens with this generation.

So, I'm 39. How long will I remain being single for? I don't know yet. I don't know how weird or not weird it will become. But if you have a boyfriend during this time are you psychically still a single person? I think it depends, right?

On what the relationship is like and how serious it is. Shall we get into that now? (Laughter) Just kidding. Do you have different views on that? One of the things I'm most intrigued about with your story is this idea a lot of people have that marriage somehow will take care of itself. And that if it doesn't happen in your 20s it will happen in your 30s. And then, I think there is a point in time where a lot of people thought that was the case. You know, I mean, we've all had colleagues where, like - when we were younger and we were like, 'Well, is she ever going to get married? Is this ever going to happen for her?' And then, you know, it just doesn't. And then, I don't think people expected that to be the case. But then it didn't. Right. Yeah. God, your saying that just reminded me of two instances how all growing up or through my 20s I didn't think of myself as being actively against marriage, but I do remember once going running with a boyfriend and a woman was also jogging by and she was with one of those strollers with kids in it. He said, 'Look - there's you some day,' and I was like, 'Oh, my God, no! Never!' That was me, actually. (Laughter) That woman was me. But there are a lot of ideas about what it means to be married. I think that's also changing too. So, for me I did grow up with this idea - even though I wasn't very conscious of it -

that marriage being a limiting, narrowing kind of arrangement that wasn't appealing to me and that was what was so surprising to me, the older I got, was that I kept thinking I would get married because that's what I was supposed to do, but kept choosing not to, and that was increasingly confusing. That's very interesting. That's what I mean about singleness being a state of mind, that at some point - there was an interesting Modern Love in the last six months or so

by a woman who said that when she was single she kept trying to accept it as a state of mind and sort of, you know, go on retreats and think about it and think about all the wonderful things she was doing, but ultimately when she decided to get married it was like erasing that whole period for her. And so, I just wonder - are there some people for whom that period becomes a positive rather than something you're faking yourself into or trying to avoid something else, but it becomes something you actively embrace? Well, that's what happened to me, much to my surprise, without my knowing it or trying to do it.

But then suddenly there I was feeling OK, and also realising that this WAS who I was. If I removed the expectation, that was the only thing that was making me unhappy. And then I started to realise that a lot of my closest friends, stretching back to childhood, were also unmarried, male or female, and there was a kind of state of mind or an orientation towards the world that we all had in common. And even my high school friends - I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and everyone got married, you know, right after high school, right after college - and a lot of those people are divorced now. But, you know, the very last one to get married was just two years ago

and she was one of the ones I felt the most akin with. That's very interesting. So let's talk about the men. So, there's a long period where people remain single. You know, people have sex, there's not that many limitations, nobody's really expecting to get married for years and years and years, let's say, if you're in college

or at the end of college. So in the situation where men really have no incentive to get married, what happens to them? How does that change the dynamics between men and women? There's a great field called 'sexual economics' which talks a lot about this - Yes. And I think you outlined this to a certain extent in your piece as well. I think the dynamic - a lot of people have observed being that when women are young, they're, sort of... they have... ..they can date younger, they can date older, they can date much older, and so on. I think when men are young they have many fewer opportunities. They can usually only date younger. You know, a 21-year-old man is not usually a great catch for anyone except a 21-year-old woman or maybe a 22-year-old woman. (Audience laughter) Unless he has the right teacher! Or maybe a 23-year-old woman, or maybe a 19-year-old woman. But, you know, a 21-year-old woman basically can pick what she wants. And I think the same probably continues through most of women's 20s and really their early 30s as well. And then I think the dynamic starts to shift. You know, there is this vast wave especially for people who do go to college, there's a vast wave of marriages that happen right out of college. We've all experienced this, I'm sure. You know, I think the colleges in many ways replaced the home town as the place you're kind of 'psychically from', which is one of the reasons, I think, in DC it's so hard for people to get married it's because we're all sort of jumbled up here and from so many different places, you know, looking for someone who's kind of from our hometown spiritually, who feels like home. And then, when women get older, things shift. I mean, a 35-year-old man can date anyone from 23 to 45. And I think it is harder for a 35-year-old woman because there's a lot of pressure against them from men. And I think it shifts again once women turn 40 because then everyone's like, 'Ah, well. You know,' Right. It's no longer the crisis period where the marriage and kids thing are completely intertwined with each other.

Right. But I also feel like there's a huge wave of marrying especially for professional women between 35 and 40. And I know a lot of my friends who basically skated right in there with the one kid at 41, you know. (Audience laughter)

So it happens, but I think, after 40, It's like, after 40. I had such a - I closely interviewed this friend of mine who used to live in DC and had a girlfriend for a long time so was effectively married. He'd been with her longer than I'd been with my husband. Then they broke up and moved to New York and so he'd been out of the dating market since he was in his early 20s and then back in the dating market in his mid 30s and he said it was astonishing, the difference, that basically in his mid-20s

he'd been the equivalent of the pimpled braces guy in high school, like, total loser, couldn't get a girl. In his mid-30s he was, like, the king. The king of every dating site. (Audience laughter) And he was like, 'How did I get to be the - I am such an undeserved king.' If anyone watches Parks and Rec, which I do religiously,

the guy running for office against Leslie - he's that guy. Oh, my! I think that is one of the terrors of dating in New York City is that the nerds are suddenly on top of the world - so, it's all these guys who couldn't get a date in high school and now they can get anyone they want and they are just drunk with it. Right. (Audience laughter)

Right. That's what he said. And also completely distracted by it - I think in a way that's not necessarily good for them, long term, either.

If someone is 47 years old and finally just losing his hair and he actually wants a wife and be married but he can't, in some ways, feel at home with a 26-year-old woman even if she'd date him, which she totally would... ..based on...observation. Because there is a real difference in terms of phase of life with somebody who's almost 50. And so, I think there's a real consequence of men also of the extended period of not marrying and never marrying. many of them, not all of them some live at a very high level - but some of them, it's like, you know, you went to the best law school in America, and work at a firm, and, like, you don't even have curtains. Right. There's nothing. And so, it's fascinating to sort of see this long period in which men are self-neglecting. And I wonder what kind of consequences that has long term, once they do settle down. I do too. And I think of my brother as being an interesting example of this because he met his now-wife when he was 24. He was a wild guy. I didn't think he would ever settle down. But he fell in love with her, and they married, I think, when he was 30. And he really transformed. But he's a perfect example of how marriage can be very civilising for men... (Audience laughter) ..and not necessarily in a different way, and - He eats with cutlery now. I think my aunt and uncle might be here. He was a feral person. And he's now so considerate, he writes thank you notes. And he has two children, and he loves fatherhood. And it really changed him. But, there is something going on, where - something about our own female accomplishments. It means that we - so what this is all about in a larger way

is that entering adulthood has become less clear. There's no road map, the way that there once was. But for women - I think because maybe to some degree it can feel novel - like 'I'm getting a Masters degree.' That's so great. And that's my marker of adulthood. Or I'm getting my own apartment for the first time. And I think for men it's more confusing. They don't - those kinds of things, getting jobs, doing all of that - those external markers in the marketplace - have been expected of them for so long. So they need that romantic marker. I'm always confused in my own head about, you know, the 'is it good or is it bad' question, I mean, both for women, I mean, I feel like we've talked about that, like they have a lot more liberation, but whether you want a man or need a man, it's sort of confusing. And for men, you know, there is one school of people, like my old psychology professor who is very famous, Philip Zimbardo, is developing this theory that men spend so much time on their own that they basically have developed a syndrome called, like, social insensitivity syndrome, where they play so many video games and watch so much porn that they're incapable of actually dealing with live females of equal status. That's the psychological speak. I'm not even kidding. This is true. This is a theory that he is developing. And then Michael Kimmel, who is the great poet of manhood, did a book about college boys which was so depressing. Like, it was so 'bros before hoes', and like, so - they were so sad to behold, these men, both in the way that they treated women but also in their lostness, so that you couldn't merely just chastise them for being, you know, evil frat boys, but, also for, you know, you felt for them for being little boys

just because there are no markers of manhood. But the other side of that is, I know that's a sort of a fun stereotype we have right now about men sort of being the eternal frat boy, but I think there's also a whole generation of young men who can cook extremely well, who are, you know, perfectly happy to arrange their house in a way that it looks like it could be in a design magazine. And they need women less for those other things, also.

I mean, so, both sides, there's less of a needing for the mundane existence parts of things, and, you know, marriage is many different things, but one of them is a contract for the joint management of mundane existence. (Audience laughter) And if you take that part of it out of the equation -

and then also there's the question of, you know, do people grow together or do they come together as finished beings? And I think sometimes there's so much emphasis on people coming together - developing themselves, becoming fully recognised, successful human beings, and then finding a partner and settling down. Whereas, I think an older model was, basically, you just find someone you like, and you grow together,

and you figure it out over time, together.

And it's harder once people are set in their preferences, I think,

because there's more opportunities for things to clash. But that's the trick with model two,

like, I'm such a bad planner, in general,

that I'm glad that I didn't sort of go for model two, because I'm just not good at it. But that way of endlessly planning until things are perfect is, I think, hard. Like, when are things ever perfect? Like, when is the - I mean, often now, at my stage in life, people come to me, young career girls, about when they should have kids, and I never have a good answer to that question.

It's like, now - fine, it's always bad, it's always good, you know, there's no better or worse time than any other time. So, planning is, you know, it's hard to plan... perfectly. And to the point of needing, and needing each other less. I just ran across, for the first time, this way of phrasing it, that the old model of marriage being between production efficiencies... Have you seen this? Mm-hm ..versus consumption complementaries. So, you know, in the more elite classes that because these production efficiencies are so taken care of, that it really is about your interests and leisure pursuits together. And, so, you said a few minutes ago, something about feeling at home - it feels like home. Yeah, that's a very nice thing you brought up in emails, yeah. Yeah, and I've reading this book by Simon May, this British philosophy instructor or something. And it's called - it's a cultural history of love. And he's trying to put forth a definition of love in this time, you know, on the premise that love changes with culture, and that we always have different ideas about what love is, not that love itself is ever non-existent, we just relate to it in different ways. And so, his definition is 'a sense of ontological rootedness.' That we fall in love with a person or a thing that makes us feel at home in the world. And, I really like that. I mean, we start thinking about love like that, because another part of this whole conversation is that now that we're single longer, and dating, it's so complicated. And, why do we need each other, or not need each other? What is love? What are our emotional lives about? And also the pathologising of choices, and if you're in a bad relationship with a bad guy, and like, 'What kind of idiot are you? You know, I'm too smart to be hung up on someone who isn't good for me.' I mean, there's all that language and confusion, and, so, it's one reason I'm really liking this idea of ontological rootedness. Like, 'Yeah, that guy was kind of a jerk. But - ' not that he was bad to me or something, but, 'He provided me with a sense of home that was really compelling.' And that doesn't mean that I was going for him for the wrong reasons, but there was something right hidden in there. It's interesting. You can find the extended discussion of female singledom on our website. Where you'll also find a host of other talks and panel discussions. That's all for short cuts today. I'm Waleed Aly. See you next time. Closed Captions by CSI The picture-perfect spot. But building parks and homes right on the water comes at a price. Seawalls are necessary to protect our property but spare a thought for the marine life we're evicting from their natural homes. Places like Australia, Asia, America and Europe - more than 50% of shoreline has actually been replaced by this artificial seawalls. (Foghorn) Dr Mark Browne has been studying the impact of humans on marine animals and their habitats for the last ten years. Replacing natural shorelines with this artificial seawalls has huge ecological impacts. You're replacing this sort of natural area with a seawall that is basically vertical. Right. It has... it's very featureless and because of its vertical surface, it actually restricts the amount of area that is available. Right. And critical habitats such as these rock pools here, which have specialist fauna in them, aren't actually present on the seawalls. Therefore, there are huge impacts associated with the seawalls themselves. We're looking in these types of habitats and we're seeing important species of snails, amphipods, limpets. Yeah! They're packed. There's just so many little critters here. And... is this a starfish? It is. So I'm trying to conserve this species and actually have them living on the seawalls themselves. These seawalls will always be here and more will be built. So how can we make them more marine-friendly? The answer is... ..flowerpots! But not the garden variety. These are built to mimic natural rock pools. The aim of our project is really to add an important microhabitat that's not normally found on a seawall, to a seawall. And I think we can use flowerpots. Here they are. And what's holding them on? The flowerpots are simply held onto the wall, using a galvanised metal bracket, which is then held on with four bolts. Alright. Simple! There are two different heights. Is there a reason for that? They're at two different heights so that we can get organisms that normally grow on the bottom of the wall, they don't normally grow at the top. Right, so you're extending their range in a way. We are. We're trying to make these walls more habitable and get more organisms on them. When the tide retreats, water's left inside the pots. That then forms a rock pool, the organisms then like to live in that rock pool and, therefore, during the immersion time when the tide's out, we have a nice home for the organisms. In six months, they actually improve the levels of biodiversity on the seawall up to five times.

What have we got in here? We've got unique species of red, green and brown algae. We've got species of snail, limpets, arthropods, crabs and starfish. These are things that we don't normally find on the seawall but are finding in these pots. Mark's happy with the result so far and if you'd like to help out our marine neighbours, take onboard Mark's advice. There are two approaches to improving biodiversity. One is when you're actually building new seawalls to have artificial rock pools built in but if you've got existing seawalls, we're saying to people you're able to do something practical about biodiversity by just attaching these flower pots onto existing walls. It might take a little while for these creatures to adapt to their new penthouse apartment by the sea but it's home. Closed Captions by CSI

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Good morning,

everyone. Labor's newest

standard bearer gets to

Canberra and takes immediate

aim. Tony Abbott is like a

cheap skate hypnotist in a run

down circus. You're saying to

the electorate look into my

eyes, you're growing weaker. Is

this the base for covert SAS

operations into Africa? Australians would expect

expect that from time to time

the SAS, together with ASIS,

together with DFAT will be

doing the necessary work to

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interests and Australian

individuals overseas are

protected. Not so convenient,

new charges being added to some