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You can’t un-follow this!

This article first appeared in The Australian on 30/3/20. It is below or if you are a subscriber to the Australian, you can read it HERE.To some in modern society, Covid-19 must be unfathomable. I don’t mean it defies an understanding of impact or consequence. Those are very clear.

Yet for Millennials, those born after 1980, the fact such a threat exists outside of Netflix science fiction must be mind-boggling. This generation, concierged by adults desperate to be more friend than parent, have been courted with policies to protect them from a reality with all its risks, hardships and failures. Boundaries have been few. Everything from deadlines to rules to gender has been fluid.

Our education system, driven by a well-intentioned ideology where failure isn’t possible, has been found lacking. Report cards avoid the hard truth. Entire university courses have been “lightened” to ensure enrollments, successful students, and of course — fees.

On Bondi Beach thousands of young people defied the Government instruction prohibiting groups over 500 people. This social distancing order aimed to inhibit the spread of a pathogen that will change the future of the world.

Some said the young folk were just ‘confused’. The reality is far more dire. Through the blindness of parents and educators, Millennials have grown up without the need for detail, depth and analysis.

Millennials are the group who speak in clipped sentences and get their news from Facebook, if at all. Their attention span is short – very short. To listen seriously to a 30-minute address from any politician or read the summary on a quality news site is, like, crazy. Accustomed to flexible rules, following the Bondi Beach order was, maybe , negotiable?

Many will never see real ‘news’, instead of what keeps them engaged on their AI-curated social media feed. This is designed not for thoughtful attention but to keep them scrolling, clicking  and seeing ads. Each ad is called an ‘impression’ and advertisers pay per impression. It’s not in the interests of Mr Zuckerberg to have a user settle in to read a long news article — or anything else that may pop their ever-positive social media bubble.

Some Bondi Beach-goers stated that only a week before, the Prime Minister was intent on going to the football. What had changed? In an emergency, a week is a long time. Things change by the minute. For Millennials though, urgency is not a word they see much on Facebook or Snap-chat.

When Millennials are shown the social media business model, they are amazed. I’ve taught students of Global Communication, insisting  they understand the Facebook imperative to keep them scrolling and addicted. Sadly, very few change their habit.

Yet it’s too easy to blame social media for creating this pseudo-positive alternate reality for Millennials. We’re all to blame. Parents have jumped on the Facebook treadmill too. Time-poor educators have delighted in rapid news without depth or analysis.

If covid-19 teaches us anything, it will be that our information must come from reputable sources. That social media is just that – a relationship platform devoid of vital information that may burst our ever-happy social bubble yet save our lives.

A pandemic crisis teaches us that boundaries exist, that rules must be respected, and some have authority over others. It emphasises the need for deadlines that aren’t negotiable or open to ‘special consideration’.

It highlights that the interest of the majority in a community overrides that of a minority. As a 64-year old, I know very well that I would be and should be without a ventilator if a younger person needs one. No amount of outrage on my behalf should change that.

To Millennials, the world is being revealed as it really is. It’s hard and unfair at times. It’s a place where the need for no-argument obedience is often required. To the many Millennials who already understand that, I honour you, your parents and your teachers. I apologise if you’ve taken offence, yet I bet you know some who fits the profile.

As for educators like me who have seen a decline in standards, we must now ensure students understand the distorting effects of social media and the importance of quality news reporting. We must insist rising generations are able to read, understand and analyse.

They must know how to write a sentence and have a solid grasp of English. We must reinforce academic integrity and truth in assessment.

Reality must replace ideology. We can start by advising suitable students to leave school at year 10 to pursue a well-paid and necessary trade rather than chase a doomed career via university. Unrealistic expectations entertained by fresh graduates from university must be smashed. Marketing must be replaced by truth.

We must refuse to pass the unpassable and be honest to parents about a student’s progress. Communication on learning and behaviour must be clear and not hide behind  well-meaning yet failing policy.

But most importantly, we as adults can stop blaming young people for their disobedience, distraction and disinterest.  It’s us who’ve fallen down the technological and ideological rabbit-hole. It’s us who’ve taken the easy path by being silent when we should have made noise.

We will face opposition from university deans, school education bureaucrats, parents and even our children, but it’s worth setting real-world standards for an uncertain future.

Phil Dye has taught Communication and Science at several tertiary education institutions. He founded the company Mindz Brainplay, which use electroencephalographs (EEGs)  so students and teachers can learn about the brain. The company has lost all  its income due to covid-19 distancing.


2019: Sex crimes & Castration

This is an updated version of the piece that first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in August 2005. In 2019, nothing has changed and sex-crime perpetrators continue to re-offend.

In 2000, Bilal and Mohammed Skaf were sentenced to a total of 79 years jail for their leadership role in a horrifying series of gang rapes in Sydney’s western suburbs. Even with their collective 79 years imprisonment, Mohammed (the youngest of the Skaf brothers)  was nearly released in 2013. Thankfully rational law won out and his term was extended. He will be eligible for parole on the 1st July 2019.

The victims, who undoubtedly know their rapists’ possible release dates all too well, will be horrified.

In our search for a just and appropriate punishment for crimes such as domestic sexual assault, rape or child sexual abuse , we’ve opted to take the easy option. Our penal system is a system where ‘rehabilitation’ revolves around psychological counseling and where repeat offense is horribly common. The touchy-feely approach isn’t working.

Its time therefore to look at a different punishment and rehabilitation formula; one that will create a sense of security for the victims and a sense of security for a community obviously alert to the horror of sex crimes. We also need a formula that aims for a more tolerable after-prison experience for the perpetrators – not one dominated by public hate and lifelong humiliation.

Castration is currently the sex-crime punishment in several US states and is used as a treatment for repeat sex offenders in many European countries. The actual form of castration varies from chemical castration, where the perpetrator needs monthly injections, to surgical castration which involves removal of the testicles. In women, removal of the ovaries, uterus and possibly clitoris may be necessary.

Whatever the form, castration is a proven method of reducing not only the offender’s sexual urges, but the hormone influenced aggressive traits that produce the violent sex crimes we’ve increasingly seen in Australia. It’s clear from the statistics that violent sexual abuse is more likely committed by men.

A German study compared 100 surgically castrated sex offenders and 35 non-castrated sex offenders ten years after their release back into the community. The repeat sex-crime rate of castrated offenders was 3%, while the repeat crime rate for non-castrated offenders was an astonishing 46%. Other studies from Denmark and the Czech Republic  reveal similar results. The Danish study revealed that the few repeat sex-crimes by castrated offenders were all non-aggressive and non-violent.

In 2016 Alabama, legislation was debated where perpetrators of sex crimes that target children are surgically castrated.  In 2019, it is still being debated. According to The Huffington Post, “The punishment would apply to both male and female offenders who at the age of 21 or older sexually victimized children age 12 or younger.” While the final legislation is likely to be tempered, Alabama won’t stand alone in introducing surgical castration for both men and women who commit crimes against children.

There will no doubt be a cry from civil libertarians that castration in any form is barbaric and not a punishment suited to a civilized and democratic society like Australia. I would urge these individuals to also consider if giving the perpetrators a post-prison life of public hate, humiliation and harassment is civilised. In the USA, it isn’t uncommon for sex offenders to undergo voluntary castration, knowing that they are often at the mercy of urges that are virtually impossible to control. They also realise a life out of prison is far preferable to a life inside. Child-Sexual-Abuse-Lawyer-Attorney

A true civilized society sees the sociopathic behaviour of the rapist or child sexual abuser as a condition that must be dealt with on both psychological and physiological levels. Our current fixation with prison-based, touchy-feely psychological rehabilitation programs is not only costly, but clearly not providing either the victims, or the community with any sense of continued security.

A sense of security for the victims above all else is what we should be aiming for. Knowing that the perpetrator is unlikely to commit the same sort of crime on release, and be largely incapable of doing so, would give some degree of security to those who have surely suffered enough.

In 2019 we continue to hear of child sexual abuse occurring over years in church operated schools and institutions. We hear of dance studios, scouting groups and even defense organisations tolerating sexual abuse. As the number of repeat offenders grows, it’s time to look at a punishment that fits the crime. While it may be inhumane to some, castration will act as a deterrent and a punishment; a punishment that will create community security and give some sense of relief to the perpetrators of these crimes.