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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Black gold ... and sex ed 

Just to show that we're not just about sport over here at Bloggingitreal (though thanks for the link, Public Address!) I thought I'd point in the direction of some of the great writing done by Bluebeardnz on Soju, South Korea's national drink, and by George Manibot over at the Guardian.

In his most recent post, he notes that something in the American psyche rebels viscerally against the prospect of car-pooling and riding bicyles to work (and come to think of it, Hunter S. Thompson's "savage journey to the heart of the American dream" was propelled by great big convertibles, among other things...). The simple fact is that oil is a finite resource, and this has some interesting ramifications for politics:

The price of oil has been rising because demand for a finite resource is growing faster than supply. Holding the price down means that this resource will be depleted more quickly, with the result that the dreadful prospect of men sharing cars and riding bicycles comes ever closer. Perhaps the presidential candidates will start campaigning next against the passage of time.

But a high oil price means recession and unemployment, which in turn means political failure for the man in charge. The attempt to blame the other man for finity will be one of the defining themes of the politics of the next few decades.

Canadians are whining heartily as gas prices hover around the $1 per litre mark (NZ$1.19/l), but I see most of them are quite happy to pay $4 for a 300ml latte at Starbucks. Still, it's sobering for someone who is thinking about owning a car again, for the first time in 5 years.

Monbiot's previous post makes the important point that the abstitence-based (non)-sex education so loved by neo-cons is, in fact, producing exactly the sorts of things (teenage pregnancy, the spread of STDs) that they attribute to "sexual liberation" and genuine efforts at educating young people.

The prevalence of both teenage pregnancy and venereal disease in this country and the US is generally blamed on lax morals and a permissive welfare state. Teenagers are in trouble today, the conservatives who dominate this debate insist, because of the sexual liberation of the 60s and 70s and the willingness of the state to support single mothers.

Were we to accept the conservatives' version, we would expect the nations in which sex education and access to contraception are most widespread to be those that suffer most from teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. The truth is the other way around.

The United States, which under George W. Bush spends a vast fortune on "virginity training", has an appalling teenage pregnancy rate of 53 births per 1,000 teenagers - a record worse than those of India, the Philippines and Rwanda. Monbiot continues:

The UK comes next with 20. The nations the conservatives would place at the top of the list are clumped at the bottom. Germany and Norway produce 11 babies per 1,000 teenagers, Finland eight, Sweden and Denmark seven and the Netherlands five.

Take that, moral conservatives. Speaking of which, I'd like to add a few cents to Russell Brown's recent criticism of the morons from the Maxim Institute.

Defending something because it is "a tradition" is one of the weakest ways of defending something. It's merely saying that it's been commonly done in the past. All kinds of things are traditions: slavery, archaic rape laws, eating with chopsticks, eating with forks, using the Roman alphabet, using the Cyrillic alphabet, playing poker, beating your wife and kids, using evidence and logic in argument, beating someone up instead of arguing with them, eating cheese... (thanks to IDM for making some of these points).

The list goes on and on. Some traditions are worth saving, others not. Some things that are radical today will be traditions tomorrow. Get a life.

Finally, well done to the Mullet for another good first innings performance (117), and a brick bat for McMillan who has scored the grand total of 6 runs in 3 test innings.

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