SUNNI: Hi Shaun, and thanks for talking with me today. How are you?
SHAUN: I'm fine thank you, Sunni. It's nice to talk with you again.
SUNNI: Probably most people reading this will be familiar with you through my review of your book, Mallcity 14. And since I focused more on the book than you, that means they likely don't know much about you. What would you like them to know about Shaun Saunders?
SHAUN: First off, have you noticed all the places where your review -- or quotes from it -- has appeared? I even found it referred to on an English web site for nurses!
SUNNI: [laughing] Really?! That's kind of surprising -- but I'm glad to know it got spread beyond where I published it.
SHAUN: Yeah, and Amazon have some nice reviews, too, including a recent one by a Californian called Jason Gonella. But back to your question ... Well, like you, I'm a psychologist, and I know that people generally like to talk about themselves, but now that you've asked, I must admit to feeling a little stumped. I guess I'll take the usual route and mention some likes, dislikes and interests: I love science fiction, especially work from the Golden Age (that is, from the late thirties through the forties), as well as later work by Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke, to name just a few. Not surprisingly, I also like Star Trek, in most of its different reincarnations. I guess what attracts me to the earlier scifi writing is the authors' visions of the future, ones that, in many cases, haven't come to pass. And the ones that have come true -- the bleaker ones I feel, I wish we had avoided. Like Orwell's 1984. If I had a time machine, I'd love to go back to that golden age of scifi when the ideas were fresh and new, and the future possibilities were still open.
But in the interim, I love writing, and as you know I publish flash fiction on the web every month at Antipodean SF. Recently I won a writer's award from them, which is my most satisfying achievement to date. As for music, I like Blondie, Kate Bush, Beach Boys, Queen ... basically anything from the 60s and 70s and a little of the more modern stuff. And I love walking on the beach near my home at Newcastle, and trawling through secondhand bookshops for out-of-print bargains. And I like chocolate, and Milo (a chocolate milk drink). I dislike the commercial aspects of Christmas and Easter, and junk mail. And vegemite.
SUNNI: [laughing] An Australian who dislikes vegemite? I'd've thought that would have gotten you declared a treasonous wretch and booted off the continent!
SHAUN: Yeah, well, there are a few of us, but not many I must admit. And most Aussies are surprised when I say I don't like it!
SUNNI: We share several interests, but rather than get sidetracked at the very beginning, I'll push on with my questions. You and I met through our mutual interest in consumer privacy, via CASPIAN. How long have you been interested in those issues?
SHAUN: This has been an interest that has simply grown and grown over quite a few years. I guess one of the first times I began to worry was when my country tried to introduce an Australia card or something like a national ID card. You and I both know the potential -- and likely -- ramifications of that. I believe that now the powers that be are trying to introduce a similar card into the school system here. Of course, it's easy to make it all sound so very reasonable and logical, but if you just stop for a few moments and take it at more than just face value and bland assurances, most thinking people would be able to construct a mental shortlist of how this could be abused. And in these situations, "could" invariably becomes "would". It all comes back to the underlying agenda: who can/will profit from such a database of information, and in what way will it morph next? Get school kids used to it, and then when they grow up, they'll accept it as the natural thing. But of course, erosion of individuality can never be natural, or healthy.
SUNNI: It looks like the race may be on between our countries, then, because our so-called leaders just sneakily handed us a National ID. Pity, too; because it seems to me that Australia and the U.S. were the most rebellious of the British Empire's territories.
SHAUN: Yeah, well, perhaps that's a thing of the past. Nowadays, do you really think that there's that much difference between us? You have the haves, and those who want more, which covers most of the rest. I don't want to sound too down here, but really, I see modern society as just one big commercial that we're caught up in.
SUNNI: Not knowing a lot about Australia, and since all the news web sites I used to visit now require registration, I haven't been keeping up as much as I used to, so I don't think I can answer your question fairly. But it sure doesn't sound like there's that much difference. Speaking of rebels, though: do you consider yourself a libertarian? Or maybe I should ask if you're involved in things politically, and if so, with what group or groups do you identify ...
SHAUN: Free will, definitely. But no, I don't get involved in things politically. In fact, I see very little difference between those parties that actually have any real chance of getting into office. What concerns me is the money trail, and corporate interests that drive politics. The only interest group that I'm actually involved with is CASPIAN.
SUNNI: That stuff keeps you busy enough, I'm sure. My guess is that most pro-freedom individuals in this country, when they hear "Australia", think of the gun-control laws that were passed there, and more recently, reports of knife and sword regulation in various stages of the legislative process. Can you give me a better overall sense of what things are like down under?
SHAUN: Quite simply Sunni, it's a country in the process of being disarmed. To own a rifle (single-shot or bolt action repeater) or pistol, you have to be a member of a rifle or a pistol club such as target shooting or get a letter from a land owner saying that you shoot on a particular property. No pump action or automatic shotguns allowed. If someone were to break into my home, and threaten myself, my wife (and our dog), I'm only allowed to use reasonable force to stop that person. That is, only enough to thwart the attacker at each move they might make. So they actually decide what happens next!! In theory, anyway ...
SUNNI: Wow. Those limits certainly aren't what I'd call reasonable.
SHAUN: Not when you're the person whose family is being attacked, no ...
SUNNI: Here in the U.S., and probably to some degree around the world, Aussies are thought of as being a pretty rambunctious lot of individuals. But the fact that guns have been taken out of law-abiding individuals' hands goes counter to that notion. How did victim disarmament -- as many here refer to gun-control laws -- come about in your country?
SHAUN: It's been a gradual, and emotionally laden, sensationalized process, spurred on by a shooting incident at Port Arthur in the state of Tasmania a few years ago. This incident was seized upon by the media and elected officials, and used as a reason to push for tougher gun control. People were killed, which is tragic and should never be trivialized. But in the same vein, we shouldn't allow emotions to impede a proper investigation of what actually occurred there. Some who have taken the time to research the incident have produced some very conflicting reports as to what might actually have occurred there and who was actually responsible.
If you look at the numbers of people killed and injured as a result of medical mistakes, drunk drivers, and active and passive smoking, and then look at the few people involved in gun-related fatalities in Australia, then a different picture emerges. We haven't outlawed medicine or hospitals, alcohol is still available to anyone over eighteen, and the same can purchase tobacco products. Cars are still used. Others might refer to the role of firearms in suicides. As a human being, I'm very moved by the thought of someone who decides to take their own life, but we haven't banned balconies in high rise apartments, or rope or gas cooking.