They’re wild animals, and in the wild they belong.

The controversial documentary “Blackfish” (2013), exposes a horrible truth behind the lives of Orca whales in captivity. Since the films release, Sea World Parks and Entertainment has seen profits plummet by 84% with an annual loss of 1 million consumers. As expected, backlash against the organisation continued through protests from animal rights activists as well as the general public who were visibly upset and angered by the treatment of these animals and the cruel history of removing them from the ocean. This documentary successfully reached a wide range of audiences in order to communicate an important and necessary message about animal cruelty, however it also highlighted another important aspect of wildlife in captivity. This important aspect relates to the emotional connection between humans and animals, with the belief that their behaviours and intelligence are a reflection of ours. But are they?

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In Blackfish, former trainers shared their experiences working with these killer whales. They reflected on the harmonious and exciting relationship they had with the Orcas. Trainers felt as if they were rewarded due to receiving a warm acceptance from the whales obeying their commands and body movements. There is no doubt that the Orcas intelligence and majestic appearance can overwhelm anyone. However within this ‘humanized’ relationship, ambitious trainers had clearly missed a dangerous point: It’s a wild animal that can display aggravated behaviour at any time. This fact was somewhat lost within the employees emotions and their connection to these Orcas. Blackfish had captured these feelings perfectly, as sadistic scenes caused audiences to show an emotional connection to the whales as if they were “just like us”.

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Since these Orcas had been taken from the ocean, Sea World’s management regularly instructed trainers to starve the ones who weren’t willing to cooperate until they performed during a show. Other cruel actions included drilling the whales teeth, separating calves from their mothers, and keeping them in enclosures barely large enough to hold them so they could rest.  It was actions like these that truly upset the Orca trainers, relating the behaviours of the whales to those that humans endure when they are experiencing a bad time in their life, including the incident of losing your own child. Unfortunately, there have been a large number of captive Orca attacks on human trainers in the past. One of the most recent attacks was in 2010 on experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World Orlando. Tilikum, the male Orca who killed Ms Brancheau and two others in the past, was labelled one of the friendliest and most harmless of all the Killer whales at Sea World Orlando. Did Tilikum attack Ms Brancheau because she mishandled him as Sea World stated, or was this attack nothing but a cry for help from a frustrated animal that has been deprived of it’s freedom?

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The treatment of these Orcas had genuinely caused them long-term psychological issues. Biologist Heini Hediger points out in his research, that “The captive animal does not cease to regard man as an enemy immediately after capture; this decisive change of significance only happens in the course of getting used to the new situation of becoming tame”. He also notes that cages, enclosures and other ‘human’ accessories are of “sinister significance to the animal, and it tries to escape from them because it wants to get away from something”. This can be reflected in the behaviours of the Orca whales having to adjust to an unnatural environment, which in turn places a great deal of stress on the animal. Evidently, Orcas at Sea World Orlando, like Tilikum, were physically and mentally run-down. These humanized emotions could also be seen through the whales collapsed dorsal fin and its loss of structure. Its as if this fin represents a depressed animal, and this only happens to Orcas in captivity. The Sea World Fact checker website claims that the collpased dorsal fin is definitely not related to genetics, but related to stress, reduced swimming (fitness issues), and chemicals used in the water.

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There was no reasoning behind capturing these creatures other than for human entertainment. We can say that their behaviours and emotions are “just like ours”, however the real reason for this behaviour is because the whales have failed to adapt safely into a new, small, man made enclosure which in turn causes many psychological issues for them. Orcas simply don’t belong in captivity. As former trainer Carol Ray stated in Blackfish, “The majority of the trainers had a great love and appreciation for the whales, but I am now able to see that it’s so misguided, to claim love for these animals and yet to support them being in confinement, it’s a great hypocrisy, really”.

More to come

– Kristina

References:

1. Archual S 2017, 5 realizations about Orca whales, the wrongfulness of seaworld, after watching the movie ‘Blackfish’, viewed 30th March 2017, <https://democraticvoices.com/2014/11/can-seaworld-justify-inhumane-animal-treatment/&gt;

2. Cronin M 2015, SeaWorld loses 1 million visitors as it clings to Orca captivity, viewed 30th March 2017, <https://www.thedodo.com/seaworld-stock-quarter-four-1012275533.html&gt;

3. Hediger, H 1950, ‘The Problem of confined space’, in G Sircom & E Hindle (eds.), Wild Animals in Captivity, Butterworth Scientific Publications, London, pp. 43-48.

4. Sea World Fact Check 2017, Is the shape of a dorsal fin related to genetics?, viewed 31st March 2017, <http://www.seaworldfactcheck.com/dorsalfin.htm&gt;

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Is there a harsh reality in Poverty Porn?

Poverty porn can be defined as “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed”, which exploits the poor’s living conditions in order to generate sympathetic attitudes from the privileged and encourage donations. In turn, poverty porn also causes outrage due to the fact that nothing really changes in the lives of those in poverty, only making those who don’t live in poverty feel better about themselves. An example of this can be seen through the SBS documentary “Struggle Street” , which features the lives of people living in Mt. Druitt, NSW.

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Ironically, SBS is also home to the TV Show “Housos”, a complete mockery of these communities in NSW.

The documentary has received criticism not only from the Mt. Druitt residents themselves, but from the local council as well. Blacktown’s Mayor Stephen Bali mentioned in a debate with the Head of SBS, “What I saw wasn’t a documentary, it was simply publicly funded poverty porn”. He continued to add,”With all the funding cuts in the local area to domestic violence and the whole heap of great education facilities that are losing funding, to spend $1 million dollars on this crap…It shouldn’t happen”. Mr. Bali makes a valid point about poverty porn, but lets hear it from the less privileged.

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Mt.Druitt residents Peta & Ashley Kennedy with their family on the set of Struggle Street.

Mother of 10, Ms Kennedy, told the daily telegraph, “When we signed up for it, we thought it was supposed to be about peoples struggles and going through their problems and getting back on their feet, but this is awful”. The residents of Mt. Druitt are clearly appalled by how they’ve been portrayed. After watching some parts of this documentary in the BCM310 tutorial, many of these people were stuck in a difficult situation. Most are living in government-funded housing, some experienced the death of a loved one whilst battling a drug addiction. Others like Mr. Kennedy were unable to work due to poor health and injury. Is the death of a loved one a valid excuse for being unemployed for the rest of your life? Other parts of the documentary away from the Kennedy family showed people of a younger age caught up in drugs, crime and unemployment. “Because we are from Mt. Druitt”, was their excuse. Some scenes showed young men loitering around all day and doing burnouts in old commodores, other scenes showed young women sitting in a park talking about how no one employs them because they are from Mt. Druitt. The excuses just kept coming along throughout the episodes.

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Deng Thiak Adut, once a child soldier from Sudan turned to refugee Lawyer in Sydney.

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Comedian Jack Black brought to tears after meeting Homeless Ugandan boy Felix, who just wants to go to school and get an education.

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Dr. Al Muderis, fled the brutal Sadam regime in Iraq, came to Australia and now saving lives daily.

Here is an ambitious Ugandan boy who wants an education, he doesn’t have the opportunity to go to school, nor does he have a roof over his head. Here are two amazing refugees who came from nothing, had nothing, but were given the opportunity to become something. Just because you’re from Mt. Druitt, doesn’t mean that you should use the area as an excuse to call a centrelink building your daily hangout. Teenagers from Mt. Druitt have the opportunity to go to high school and thats clearly taken for granted. Who do they look up to ? Who’s there to tell them that ending up on the pension and doing burnouts all day isn’t going to help their situation?

Poverty porn might outrage many people, but it highlights another problem about poverty in Australia. Unfortunately, the person who just bought a $3 million dollar apartment at Cremorne Point overlooking Sydney Harbour isn’t going to help you. How can we restore faith into the lives of youths growing up in such areas? How can we let them know that not all hope is lost for their future? Poverty porn is certainly not the answer to this. Poverty porn only increases the sadistic attitude of feeling sorry for yourself, whilst others who are more privileged than you are made to feel better about their life.

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More To Come

– Kristina

References:

1. Fife-Yeomans J 2015, We’re not bogans! Mt Druitt fury at SBS struggle street series described as ‘publicly funded poverty porn’, viewed 19th March 2017, <www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/were-not-bogans-mt-druitt-fury-at-sbs-struggle-street-series-described-as-publicly-funded-poverty-porn/news-story/aced8475335c73fbc7d64dc69227810c>

2. Kerin L & Ong T 2015, Struggle Street: Mount Druitt community up in arms over ‘poverty porn’ documentary series on SBS, viewed 18 March 2017, <www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-05/sbs-struggle-street-series-poverty-porn-says-mt-druitt-mayor/6446648>

3. Wikipedia 2017, Poverty Porn, viewed 17 March 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_porn&gt;

Selfies: Are you a self-obsessed narcissist?

Reflect on some of the selfies you’ve posted on social media. What were the motives behind posting those selfies? Did you express your political beliefs, wearing an anti-Trump t-shirt perhaps? Maybe you aspired to empower certain audiences; did you jump on the
‘love your curves’ bandwagon? Or was it just another case of vanity?  Well, whatever the reason, there’s no denying that there are links between Selfies, narcissism and mental health.

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The infamous pout, a.k.a ‘duck face’.

Professor Gwendolyn Seidman’s article in Psychology Today  examined the different behaviours of both genders and this global phenomenon. The study surveyed a total of 1,296 adults from Poland, measuring how many selfies people posted on their social media accounts as well as messaged to others. The study found that women post more selfies than men, falling into the behavioural category of “Admiration demand”,  where solo selfies and selfies with a romantic partner were most evident. It can be argued that there are links to narcissism, with another study by graduates at Penn State University suggesting that women take selfies to increase their self-esteem from receiving likes and compliments in the comments section. Even though its inconclusive to call all regular selfie takers narcissists, the mental health effects on people who are obsessed with this activity can be enormous.

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Empowering for women?  More like Selfie Queen Kim Kardashian in a lavish mansion reminding us of how poor we are…

The Penn State University study showed that people who lurk a lot on social media had lower self-esteem than others who don’t on a regular basis. From 255 survey responses the graduates also found that frequent selfie viewing behaviour may trigger one’s jealousy so as to decrease one’s self-esteem and life satisfaction. Surely we all know somebody who’s posted a selfie with a new romantic partner to get back at their Ex, right? Or maybe a friend just posted a photo of themselves in their new Ferrari, and now you feel sad about your crappy Toyota or Hyundai. This can then be linked to the mental health effects of ‘likes’. In a 2014 survey of Facebook users, it was concluded that 16% of males and 29% of females felt that the only reason why they had a use for Facebook was because of the feedback received through likes and comments on their photos. It can also be seen that people with a low number of likes or feedback were more likely to endure feelings of low self-esteem and take negative comments to heart.

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Artwork by Banksy: A child with a mobile phone, visibly upset by zero likes.

In another article from Psychology Today,  a survey of 300 adults examined selfies, likes and a sense of purpose. Do people brand their social media accounts? What is their sense of purpose for posting selfies? Are they promoting a product or place? Interestingly, some people who took part in this survey indicated that they didn’t care about the number of likes because they had purpose in life and “lots of reasons for living”. On the other hand, people who claimed they had less purpose in life cared a little too much about the amount of likes they received, and that likes made them feel better about themselves. This survey showed that there is a link between narcissism and selfies as people with lower purpose and esteem crave the attention through likes in order to feel positive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like in Banksy’s artwork, what happens when likes start to decrease? What sort of psychological toll would a low number of likes take on a person who thought they looked really good in their selfie?

 

More to come !

– Kristina

References:

  1. Pequenino K, 2016, Selfies hurt self esteem. No they help. Scientists can’t make up their minds, viewed 12 March 2017, <edition.cnn.com/2016/10/24/health/selfie-self-esteem-trend/>
  2. Seidman G 2016, Do Facebook “Likes” affect psychological well-being, viewed 12 March 2017, <www.psychologytoday.com/blog/close-encounters/201610/do-facebook-likes-affect-psychological-well-being>
  3. Seidman G 2015, What is the real link between selfies and narcissism, viewed 11 March, 2017, <www.psychologytoday.com/blog/close-encounters/201508/what-is-the-real-link-between-selfies-and-narcisissm>
  4. Smith A 2014, 6 new facts about facebook, viewed 12 March 2017, <www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/03/6-new-facts-about-facebook/>

 

 

 

 

 

A Desire To Find Out The Unknown

What drives us to want to learn more about a certain person, a place, an object, or anything for that matter? Curiosity clearly influences our desire to learn and greatly enhances our memory, as found in a study of the brain conducted by a team of Neuroscientists from the University of California. After reading about this study, it was obvious that some of the participants were more likely to remember the questions and images given to them after they portrayed a certain curiosity about what the question was asking or what the image was showing. What I also understood from this was, they were driven to learn more about the images and questions that they found interesting.

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This made me think about my own learning experiences that stemmed from being curious. I do love art and other creative practices, however the one thing that I was very curious about and became really obsessed with didn’t have anything to do with art at all. In fact, it surprisingly has to do with animals, however not your mainstream household pet like a dog or a cat, but instead the feathered kind, known as exotic parrots. Every other child probably wanted a dog or a cat…but I was a little different.

Later on in the age of Google and Macbook Pro’s, I was amazed to learn about out how intelligent these creatures are, with many larger species like Macaws, Eclectus, Amazons and Cockatoos possessing the brain capacity of a 6-year-old child as well as having the ability to mimic human speech and interpret many different sounds. What I was also curious about researching was trying to find out how something that looks so prehistoric, colourless and totally ugly after hatching at birth can grow into something so beautiful only after a couple of months.

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I became obsessed with this particular species above known as the Eclectus parrot, the only sexually dimorphic species in the world meaning that the Female has a different colouration to the Male (Green). I was so curious to find out why this species was completely different to every other typical parrot in the world, how they came to be so intelligent, what characteristics they possess and how they can possibly live from 45 to 75 years in the wild. I had so many curious questions and thanks to Google I amounted to countless hours of research and every time I was wanting to learn more and more about them and their amazing existence, to the point where even Google wasn’t enough and I purchased some books on them.

After learning so much, I eventually bought my own Female Eclectus, a very friendly household pet who hilariously talks like another human. Even still I am always interested in finding out something new about these beautiful creatures, and everything I wrote here is all from memory thanks to just being curious!

More To Come

– Kristina

References:

Yuhas, D, 2014, Curiosity prepares the brain for better learning, available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/curiosity-prepares-the-brain-for-better-learning/, (3rd March 2016)

 

 

 

Internationalising Education: Indian Students In Australia

The growing economy and population crises in India has accounted for millions of people to be categorised as middle class citizens, allowing opportunity for Indian students to study abroad and achieve a higher education. As it is stated that a number of Indian Universities have low quality courses that offer no workplace skills, a large number of students are motivated to study overseas, most preferably in Australia.

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For Indian students as well as others, choosing to study in Australia can be an overwhelming and difficult process. Professor Simon Marginson from the University of Melbourne states that ‘Australians are often too parochial, trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world’ (2012) and that ‘International education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be’ (2012). In other words, Marginson has argued that most Australian students posses no interest in interculturalism and the recognition of International students as there is a lack of Cultural competence. Cultural competence is defined as the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds (Wikipedia, 2015), thus there is little communication between local and International students.

There is a significant need for a greater understanding of diversity and Cultural competence throughout Australian Universities, as ‘most international students want closer interaction with local students and are prepared to take risks to achieve this, and most local students are not interested’ (Marginson, 2012). There is a great need for this concept as International education is Australia’s fourth largest export with an industry value of $15 billion, with India contributing to 17.8% in 2009 of total International student enrolments in Australia. As stated by Marginson, it is evident that there is little cultural interest and understanding of International students studying throughout Australian Universities, impacting overall on the Intercultural experiences of these students and potentially, the Australian education system’s global image for a second time around since the events that unfolded in 2009 and 2010 involving Indian students being targeted and attacked.

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These attacks on Indian students in Melbourne significantly damaged Australia’s International image and it’s respected position in India, after widespread coverage of the protests were broadcast throughout the continent. The racially fuelled violence also greatly impacted on Australia’s tourism and trade as the message that Australia is ‘not safe’ for Indian students was presented through the racist attacks. It has been stated that most Australians don’t comprehend the extent of the public discussion about the attacks in India from mid-2009 to 2010. This can also be seen through the violent attacks on two Chinese students on a Sydney train also sparking widespread discussion in China about the safety of Chinese students studying abroad (Sydney Morning Herald, Repairing the road to Oz, 2012).

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It can be seen that there is a great need for Cultural competence and Interculturalism throughout Australian Universities as argued by Marginson in order for local students to gain a more thorough understanding of diverse cultures and positively impact on the intercultural experiences of International students, which in turn will build a strong and reputable International image for the future of Australian education.

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 References:

ABC News, 2015, Number of Indian students applying to Australian universities more than doubles, available from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-12/an-indian-students-rising-hold/5242504 (2nd September 2015)

Go8, 2014, International students in higher education and their role in the Australian economy, available from https://go8.edu.au/publication/international-students-higher-education-and-their-role-australian-economy (3rd September 2015)

Marginson, S (2012) ‘International education as self-formation: Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience’, Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012, http://focusonteaching.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@cedir/documents/doc/uow119828.pdf (2nd September 2015)

Sydney Morning Herald 2015, Rosenburg and Wade, Repairing the road to Oz, available from http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/repairing-the-road-to-oz-20120729-2365d.html (3rd September 2015)

Globalisation: Local Production & Labour On The Decline

Globalisation has greatly altered the modern-day production of goods, allowing global corporations to manufacture products in third-world and Asian nations like India and China as an efficient and cost-effective strategy. Even though this economic aspect of Globalisation benefits multinational corporations like Apple Inc, there has been a large destruction of local employment and production in wealthier countries like the United States and Australia.

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Globalisation expert Arjun Appaduri combines the suffix ‘scape’ into five concepts associated with global cultural flows. These concepts are known as Ethnoscapes, Mediascapes, Technoscapes, Financescapes and Ideoscapes which influence all types of global cultures from technology through to ethnicity as well as finance, politics and the media. In terms of global production and labour, the Financescape concept can be used to address the issues concerned with local production and local employment decline as a result of powerful multinational corporations benefiting from Globalisation.

An example of this can be seen through Apple Inc’s decision to outsource their manufacturing operations to Chinese factories owned by Foxconn in 2011. As a result of outsourcing their operations, Apple has created around 700,000 foreign held jobs in comparison to 43,000 in the United States. These statistics clearly demonstrate a huge difference between Apple’s domestic employment compared to it’s international employment. Even though 700,000 foreign employees sounds like a ‘good’ thing, the labour conditions that Chinese factory workers face are harshly sweat-shop-like. As a result, Apple greatly benefit from this low wage labour and highly efficient production line, as it’s products are then rapidly distributed across the globe leading to profit maximisation.

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Another example of Globalisation impacting on local production and local employment can be seen through the abolishment of the Australian car manufacturing industry, as foreign-made vehicles have dominated the competitive market. Recently, three of Australia’s largest car manufacturing corporations, Ford, Holden and Toyota have announced that they will no longer be manufacturing vehicles in Australia as of 2016 with plans of shutting down their factories and taking their operations overseas where production costs will be significantly lower. In terms of employment, Holden will leave behind over 13,000 people without jobs and cost the South Australian economy $1.24 billion. Toyota will also make 2,500 people redundant and Ford will leave around 1,200 people unemployed.

Globalisation has impacted on these Australian industries as developing skilled-labour countries like Brazil, China and India have recently seen a large increase in demand for vehicles, as the amount of vehicle owners in these countries has greatly increased and their industry has become very competitive. In comparison to Australia, the cost of living in at least one of these countries is significantly lower and with the influence of technology the selling of foreign vehicles at a lower price has increased wealth in these new economies, especially with the idea of buying and selling over the internet, leaving Australian made vehicles out of the question.

It is highly evident that Globalisation is a contributing factor for the decline of local production and local labour in the United States and in Australia due to lower manufacturing costs and lower labour costs offered throughout developing skilled-labour countries like China, India and Brazil. This financial and economic aspect of Globalisation will benefit multinational corporations however greatly impact on the local economy and on local employment, leaving thousands of people without jobs.

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