Helen Briton Wheeler

An Overview from Down Under - Helen is a retired journalist living in Sydney, Australia. She will be bringing the NFP readers regular comments on current social, environmental and political topics from an Aussie's perspective.

Friday, 11 June 2010 00:00 GFP Columnist - Helen Briton Wheeler

altMigration is a polarising argument, creating more heat than light among people with extreme views, both liberal and conservative. But is there a golden middle road we can follow to reasoned debate? We can only hope so.

In Australia, this is an election year and political epithets about immigration are flying like verbal paintballs. Certain conservative politicians are inciting fear and encouraging misconceptions for quick political gain.

Down Mexico way, protesters about the US state of Arizona’s new immigration law wore Ku Klux Klan outfits when they protested in front of the US Embassy. On two sides, illegal immigration claims have become the theatre of fear and insult.

This is no way to solve problems. Fairness and well-reasoned argument have become early casualties in an often-heated debate.

Sunday, 16 May 2010 00:00 GFP Columnist - Helen Briton Wheeler

altFor Thailand, and the many people who have been welcomed by Thais as generous hosts, these are troubled times. After years of sputtering protest and mass demonstrations by Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt opponents, a new, dangerous element has entered Thai politics. Violent extremism.

Red Shirt protesters in Bangkok are demanding the Prime Minister resign and doing all they can to provoke a government crackdown so that they can accuse the government of spilling innocent Thai blood. However, it’s Red Shirt extremist elements who are shedding the blood of innocent people.

On April 22, three explosions took place at Sala Daeng BTS Skytrain station in the city’s centre, and two devices exploded at Sala Daeng’s underground railway station. One commuter was killed and scores of city workers were wounded.

Sunday, 28 March 2010 00:00 GFP Columnist - Helen Briton Wheeler

President Barack Obama gives a fist-bump to a supporter after speaking on health insurance reform Thursday, April 1, 2010, at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine.How disappointing to read that a week after the passing of the historic US health care bill its opponents are still fomenting a backlash against the President and his brave Democrat supporters.

Here in Australia, the passage of this bill was widely reported and applauded. One headline in The Sydney Morning Herald, a prominent newspaper read: 'Triumph for President who dared to dream'.

Extending health care to 32 million Americans by 2019 is manifestly good. Every American should be proud of that achievement. My only comment is :What took you so long?

Maybe it’s the scare tag about 'socialised medicine' that has worried Americans over so many years. Health care is not Communism. It’s not 'reds under the bed'. It’s a human right, like education, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010 18:00 GFP Columnist - Helen Briton Wheeler

British scientist Richard Dawkins, author of the new bookIt took me a little time of reading Richard Dawkins famous book The God Delusion before the missing component in his conception came to me. But now that it’s standing out like a red cow in a green field, I’ll call this missing component The Lost Piece in the Jigsaw.

Seeing Richard Dawkins on Australian television this week confirmed my view of a Lost Piece and what it was. While Professor Dawkins continues to rely solely on logic, rationality and scientific analysis, God will continue to remain obscure to him because the Professor is not equipping himself with the correct tools. And of course if he can’t find God, then he can’t believe in him.

No one entering the hallowed halls of theology is required to check their brains in at the door. Far from it. Questioning, study and the pursuit of understanding are needed in the religious life. However, God is spirit and can be found when we open our own human spirits to seek him.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010 18:00 GFP Columnist - Helen Briton Wheeler

Manchester City's Wayne Bridge, (left, white shirt) ignores the outstretched hand of Chelsea's John Terry, (right, blue shirt) before their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Saturday Feb. 27, 2010.Football Manager Fights For Moral Standards. That’s not the kind of headline we’re used to seeing. What, football? Setting the new social standards?

On February 5 this year, it certainly looked that way, when England football manager Fabio Capello dismissed John Terry as captain of the England football squad. As the world soon learned, Terry was dismissed for off-field behaviour, accused of having an affair with his wife’s good friend Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-girlfriend of John Terry’s former team mate Wayne Bridge.

When allegations of the affair surfaced, people started deciding did that matter, and how much. Does it matter how we behave, or how the famous behave? Some people thought so. A number of English football fans booed John Terry off the field; some people called for his sacking. Others supported him and posted online comments that said personal behaviour was irrelevant, it’s how he played football that counted.

Thursday, 28 January 2010 18:00 GFP Columnist - Helen Briton Wheeler

Fans are pictured during India's Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman's free concert in Parramatta Park in Sydney's western suburbs January 16, 2010.Racism. It sounds nasty and it is. Racism is part of the soft underbelly of human reaction that flinches at the splinter of difference between human beings and shrugs off the telegraph pole of similarity.

We people are brothers and sisters in the one human family. We’re all capable of fine, noble behaviour from time to time, and long periods of moderately good behaviour. However, there are also some negative behaviours that we prefer to overlook.

Racism denies the self-evident reality of how much we all share as human beings.

Perhaps because of a fear of difference, insecurity, or a caveman tribalism, of the kind that drives kids to scuffle in a playground or teenage gangs to spoil for a fight.


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