Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Anyone for Coffee?

Aboriginality, apparently, can be equated to a popular beverage.  

But the analogy currently doing the traps is disingenuous.  A lot of the rhetoric like this is, but if you dig a little deeper on most of what is spouted, you may find that rather that support the claims of the offended, they only illustrate the opposite.

So, let’s take one of my personal favourites on a spin.  The old ‘Cup of Coffee’ analogy.  It usually goes something like this:-

“You aren’t really Aboriginal, you look White?”

“I am too Aboriginal.  It’s like Coffee, you don’t stop calling it Coffee just because you put some Milk in it!”

Sounds dandy.  But it’s bullshit.  And here is why they use the analogy.  It is simple, short and invites you not to think.  A puzzling conundrum seemingly solved by a pearl of wisdom passed down over time should ring alarm bells to any thinking person, but in an age where we discourage enquiring and questioning minds, it seems such platitudes are happily accepted as intellectual fact without any scrutiny.

Does the Coffee analogy meet the standard?   No.  It lazily skips over current and past knowledge to achieve a result that was desired and forced from the outset.  It also fails the ‘word replacement’ test.   It is a test I made up myself, but anyone can use it. All you do is take the comment, place it in its full context and replace the words in question in the appropriate places to see if it makes as much sense once you’ve got all the facts.

I’ll do that now for the Coffee analogy:-
For tens of thousands of years, there was only Coffee on a large island.  A few hundred years ago, ships began arriving that contained Milk.  At first, the Milk did not want to mix with the Coffee, and in the early years after the arrival of Milk, at one point it was decided that the island should get rid of Coffee, and switch to Milk.  Milk became the preferred drink, and sanctions and punishments of all kinds were placed on Coffee for more than a hundred years.  Over time, however, attitudes toward Coffee began to slowly change.  Far from being inferior, perhaps Coffee was an equal beverage to Milk?  

Milk and Coffee mixing sanctions were removed, and in an effort to undo the harm that the previous sanctions had placed on Coffee – more than a hundred years labelled an inferior beverage has to stick – some preferential treatment was rolled out for Coffee.  Despite the removal of the sanctions against it, it was still struggling.  Sure, people in the cities were starting to have a little Coffee from time to time, but they seemed to overwhelmingly reject Coffee alone, opting instead to have a blend of the two, when allowed to choose for themselves.  Coffee became relegated mostly to the poor areas, and looked down upon despite no longer being legislated as a second class beverage.  

Some of the Milk decided to introduce pro-Coffee legislation, in an effort to help bring about equality between the lagging Coffee and the outperforming by comparison Milk.  Taxes that were dutifully collected from all were pooled and Billions allocated to address the problem.  The reforms were passed, and people were given money to drink more Coffee.  Coffee needed to be in Universities! Hospitals! Schools!  Having Coffee around had to be normalised, if equality could ever hope to be achieved.

At the same time, it was decided that a definition of what Coffee actually was would need to be decided upon.  It seemed an easy task, but there was an outcry from the city dwellers.  They were drinking Coffee, and although it was not without Milk, it contained Coffee, and this should count.   There was a history of Coffee and Milk mixing for some time, and the resultant combination was being just as hard done by as Coffee alone.   The pro-Coffee economic reforms needed to help mixed beverages as well, as they saw themselves as fundamentally no different from Coffee.   Arguments were put forth that some of the mixed beverages had a large amount of Coffee as opposed to Milk, and lived in poor areas where there was mostly just Coffee.  They also experienced discriminatory attitudes as some of the Milk saw them as ‘tainted’ by Coffee.  A vocal number of mixed beverages did not see themselves as a mixture of Coffee and Milk, but rather, Coffee alone.  Other mixed beverages did not see themselves as Coffee, but rather Milk, and did not want to be forced to identify as Coffee.  Complicating matters was the Billions of dollars in assistance for Coffee on the table, and the mixed beverages had support and numbers.  The mixed beverages, it was decided, would be considered Coffee, but only if they wanted to be.   

Big companies began to commit to drinking a certain percentage of Coffee every day, and so did the Government, Hospitals and Universities.  But things still just weren’t going well for a large percentage of the Coffee, despite all the investment and legislation and money spent.  Coffee when mixed with Milk had found a real niche, and found a far greater acceptance among the Milk.  So accepted in fact, that the numbers of Coffee that were mixed with Milk outnumbered the Coffee almost 5 to 1, and were almost commonplace by the turn of the last century.  Much of the Coffee noticed this, but the mixed beverages had more power and sway than them, and had lobbied to be included and thought of as Coffee the same as them years ago.  Most were fond of mixed beverages, so speaking in a way construed negative to them was something they avoided.  So the Coffee sat and suffered in silence instead, for a few more years.  

Around the same time, a new concept emerged called “Coffee Snobbery”.  Used to describe the oppression and poor treatment historically and ongoing towards Coffee, very little of the Milk doubted that Coffee Snobbery did exist. A documented history of Coffee being seen as inferior on the island supported that fact, together with horrific examples of injustices done to Coffee over the years, coupled with the ongoing poor conditions for the Coffee in remote areas where they were largely grouped and dumped away from the mixed beverage and Milk areas back in the unenlightened days all supported this notion.  Coffee Snobbery was both officially and unofficially declared a crime.  

A trend began to emerge among the mixed beverage population.  More and more they claimed to be the victims of Coffee Snobs, and what constituted Coffee Snobbery became harder and harder to define.  This all went largely unnoticed, until some Milk questioned why Coffee statistics were so poor, and so little money ended up going to help the Coffee it was supposed to.  After doing a little research, the renegade Milk noticed that Coffee assistance was continually going to mixed beverages in an extremely uneven flow.  The Milk began to question whether the pro-Coffee reforms were benefitting Coffee at all, and made mention of several instances of pro-Coffee assistance going to mixed beverages that were indistinguishable from Milk.

This enraged some of the mixed beverages, whose actions had been largely, up until that point, unnoticed.  They felt that the Milk in question had committed a crime against them, and the Milk was in fact nothing more than a Coffee Snob who was trying to skirt the laws.  They were allowed to be classed as Coffee, and although they begrudgingly accepted they contained Milk, they identified themselves as Coffee and should be allowed to benefit from pro-Coffee reforms.  When the Milk continued to question the laws surrounding Coffee definitions, things began to get ugly.  Anyone who made any mention of the content of Milk in a mixed beverage was threatened with punishment under the law, and it didn’t take long for a case to be brought before the courts.

It ended up being one of the most divisive cases for the island in some time.  The accused maintained that he was not a Coffee Snob, but was agitating for change to a system that was leaving large portions of Coffee without any assistance.  A proponent of the “We’re all Beverages, why can’t we get along” camp, he didn’t deny the problems facing Coffee, but he just didn’t think they were being helped by the policy of defining mixed beverages and Coffee as the same.  It was helping mixed beverages, but was overwhelmingly unhelpful towards Coffee, who didn’t have the same access to the benefits of positive reforms as many mixed beverages did.   The Coffee reforms were doing little to help Coffee, it had become an undisputed fact often lamented about in the media, but a fact few ever wanted to find a solution for.  It was too touchy a subject to go near in any depth, because to do so meant you had to discuss the mixed beverage issue, and that was clearly off-limits.  At least for now. 

I wonder if I will ever hear the word ‘Latte’ again and not have a little chuckle inside after this effort. 

People are free to use whatever analogy they wish to simplify their circumstances and belittle the point of another.  I believe, at least for the time being, I am free to continue to call bullshit when they do so.


  1. Dallas, as usual you out things in a proper perspective. It's a pity more of your brethren don't see things the same way. Unfortunately the business of being offended has become big time these days and there are too many people being offended about something.

  2. Dallas, you are a true wordsmith craftsman. IN this age of illogical and unreasonable conclusions, you shine like a lighthouse in the fog. While we should be grateful for your blog, you really deserve to be published to a much wider audience.

    1. Gosh; are you suggesting Dallas is a light in the dark?

  3. Hi Dallas, it's one of my favourite analogies. Whenever I have heard the comment about milk and coffee, my immediate thought has been, if you add enough milk the drink becomes milk. When barista's take an order for a latte, they add a set amount of straight coffee to the cup, before adding the milk. Imagine the outcry if they presented a drink to the customer that had no visible or detectable coffee in it.
    There are industry standards that determin the amount off coffee that needs to be present in a latte. In other countries this amount is dictated by law to prevent misrepresentation of coffee types. Would that our coffee industry had the same standards.

  4. I wonder how far the argument would go if you interchanged the words.

    “You aren’t really White, you look slightly dark?”
    “I am too White. It’s like Milk, you don’t stop calling it Milk just because you put some Coffee in it!”

    1. You have made me thirsty for an Iced Coffee Malcolm...

  5. A brilliantly irreverent way to call a spade a spade. The most important point here, of course, is indeed that " we're all beverages" However , (and this is what you so astutely nail with this allegory) simply pointing out that a latte is lighter than a ristretto should not instantly constitute a hate-crime ( as it so often does )
    This is especially true when you are not using the comparison to offend, belittle, humiliate etc.etc. but rather to illustrate how the latte somehow always seems to get the cookie, while the ristretto keeps getting stale crumbs. A pleasure to read, thank you.

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  7. “I am too Aboriginal. It’s like Coffee, you don’t stop calling it Coffee just because you put some Milk in it!”

    Equals =

    "Rather than be judged as an individual with my own faults and virtues, I demand that I be judged as a representative of a collective, one which assumes the identity of having been historically victimized. Further, I demand that you too cease to be an individual, and stand as a representative of a different collective. One in which you are cast in the morally inferior role as victimizer. It matters not one whit that you as an individual may be a wonderful, charitable fellow who has never sought to victimize another human being in your life. Anymore that I personally have never suffered any real victimization. I stand as a representative of victims. If you don't acknowledge this, I will call you heartless and a racist."

    "Some of the Milk decided to introduce pro-Coffee legislation, in an effort to help bring about equality between the lagging Coffee and the outperforming by comparison Milk. Taxes that were dutifully collected from all were pooled and Billions allocated to address the problem."

    Ah taxes, whereby a Gov states give us money, or we will send men with guns to your house to drag you away in chains. Fight those men, and we will send you to the morgue. That's the beginning. Now, given how this money is collected, you would think that it would be spent with the greatest sense of duty and accountability. But no, for when you spend of other peoples money on other people you will be guaranteed the greatest waste and corruption. And so we see...
    "This all went largely unnoticed, until some Milk questioned why Coffee statistics were so poor, and so little money ended up going to help the Coffee it was supposed to."

    "Anyone who made any mention of the content of Milk in a mixed beverage was threatened with punishment under the law," = Men with guns.

    "The accused maintained that he was not a Coffee Snob, but was agitating for change to a system that was leaving large portions of Coffee without any assistance."

    Rule: Any representative of the collective that are cast as victimizers, are morally inferior, and any disagreement they have with the collective that self-represents victims will be deemed evil/racist/sexist/phobic etc.

    In this case those who self-claim to represent the coffee collective disagreed with a member of the milk collective as to his assertion that a number of blends were clearly benefiting with money and power even though they suffered little, if any disadvantage themselves. While there was a lot of coffee that was living in outright destitution that should shame us all. To show this member of the milk collective just how wrong he was in his beliefs, members of the coffee collective secured a court ruling which stated that if that member of the milk collective dared communicate those ideas again, men with guns would come to his house and drag him away to a cage, because that is "law". This, stated members of the coffee collective showed this milk individual just how wrong he was as to beliefs about the grab for money and power when it came a number of blends. And quite amazingly, none of the coffee collective involved in this case choked to death upon irony that day.

  8. Dallas, you are a very naughty boy............

    Love your work!!

  9. Wonderful read and still having a chuckle, thank you Mr, Scott.

  10. You are such a great writer you had me laughing to myself the whole way through. Thank you :)

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  13. Lucid Dreaming: what is it & why you should learn to do it

    Yet there are several dreams that are nothing like that. Lucid dreams are dreams by which you know at that time that you are fantasizing. That they are not the same as ordinary dreams is obvious once you have one. The experience is something similar to waking up in your own dreams. It is as if you "come to" in order to find you are dreaming.

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  14. Hi Dallas,
    My name is Milena Dambelli, I work at SBS Insight. We had you on our show a few years ago and I was hoping to pick your brain about another show we are currently working on!

    I tried calling you but perhaps the number we have is outdated.

    Would you please email me at milena.dambelli@sbs.com.au or call 02 9430 3688 - it would be great to speak with you!!

    All the best and looking forward to hearing from you.


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