Rachel Croucher was born in a small Australian country town and left at the age of 18 to live in Germany for one year as a Rotary exchange student, before returning to Melbourne to complete her secondary education. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Melbourne, during which time she spent one year on exchange at the University of Vilnius, Lithuania. Rachel had hoped to work overseas as an English and German teacher after her degree, but a spinal cord injury, rendering her an incomplete quadriplegic, put an end to that dream. Nevertheless, after spending the last three years in and out of hospital, she is now working as a translator and researcher at Melbourne's Holocaust Museum, and she will be returning to study next year to undertake combined Honours in German and Political Science as well as classes in Hebrew. Rachel blogs at Legless in perpetuum.
Why do you blog? > I started blogging as a way to keep in touch with all of the friends I have made during my time overseas, as well as Aussie friends travelling, and then all of a sudden random people started commenting and I was hooked. I haven't exactly been in the best of health in the last two years either so it was a great way to keep my mind occupied when I've been stuck at home. The idea of one-on-one chat rooms really creeps me out - I guess I've heard too many horror stories - but blogging is a fun way to exchange ideas with like-minded people, and to have a good argument!
What has been your best blogging experience? > I would have to say the best thing about blogging has been making some absolutely amazing friends. Some people turn their noses up at the idea of making friends on the Internet but I never actually intended to do that, it just kind of happened. And while at first I was wary of meeting all these 'people in my computer' some of them are now in my small circle of very close friends.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > If they want people to come back and comment, then it's best to engage with them in the comment section rather than just put up a post and ignore it. One of my friends was complaining to me once that no one read his blog, and then I told him that you need to engage with people in the comment section as well as leave comments on other people's sites. He followed my advice and now people comment there all the time.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > On a local level one of my former lecturers, Robert Horvath, has been consistent in his defence of human rights, no matter what the status quo might dictate; whereas on a grander scale I would have to name the likes of Czeslaw Milosz and Shirin Ebadi, for sure.
What are you reading at the moment? > I am doing research for a project at work about the Holocaust in Italy and have just started reading Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews as well as Susan Zuccotti on the Holocaust in Italy. I am also in the middle of The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz and I've just begun reading Baruch Kimmerling's book on the Palestinians. To relax, when the other books I have on the go weigh me down, I read poetry - Akhmatova, Venclova, Milosz, Heine, Yevtushenko.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Israeli bus drivers. It might not sound like the right answer to this question but just think about it.
Who is your favourite composer? > Now that's a hard one because I have approximately 200-250 classical music CDs at home, but the first one that springs to mind is Lithuanian composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Absolutely mind-bogglingly breathtaking compositions.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Easy - Israel's right to exist. I used to think that Israel was one great big nasty monolith picking on the poor little Palestinians, and then as I got older and started doing further research I realized that there really are two sides to this story, and the plight of the Palestinians is not Israel's 'fault', that there is a long and complex background to the whole issue and that certain Palestinian characters and authorities have a lot to answer for.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > I don't really think along those lines - as long as people are willing to keep an open mind and are not too bloody minded to change their mind the world would be a better place. Libertarianism, maybe?
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Communism. End of story. I thought it sounded like a great idea when I was younger but then I grew out of it and, well, spending close to a year and a half in a post-Soviet country confirmed my distaste for the stupid thing.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews and How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulic.
Who are your political heroes? > Vytautas Landsbergis, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ehud Barak, Bronislaw Geremek, Angela Merkel, Vaiva Vebra.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > To give gays and lesbians the right to commit to each other in a legally binding civil union. It's patently absurd for religious notions to dictate the policies of a secular democracy.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > John Safran.
What would you do with the UN? > Flush it down the toilet.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Communism, anti-Semitism and Islamism. Oh, and reality TV.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I really don't know. Probably not, but then again as long as the person was a true humanitarian I'm sure politics could be worked around.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Conscientious shortsightedness and an unwillingness to change one's mind even when presented with compelling fact.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save a life, or to save someone's feelings if knowing the truth is not an imperative.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Stupid people annoy me. However, I don't believe that education is an indication of whether or not someone is stupid. I know highly educated people who are the dumbest pricks on earth, as well as people who haven't finished high school who know what's going down.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Shopping. I might be a girl but I absolutely deplore shopping.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Obviously my health is my first big worry, but otherwise, anti-Semitism freaks me out, as does the idea of Iran with the bomb. Bigotry of any kind really gives me the chills because working where I do teaches you where unchecked bigotry can lead.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I don't really like thinking about life like that, but if I had to choose I guess I would have stayed home on New Year's Day 2004. That being the day I copped my spinal cord injury. But then again, I have done some amazing things since then and when you have something as severe as a spinal cord injury you can't afford to look back and think about what you would change, for it would send you insane.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Realistically, I don't know, but ideally my favourite actresses are Helena Bonham Carter and Angelina Jolie so I'd give either of them the job. Probably Helena though, because she's more crazy.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > In a rustic dacha somewhere on the Baltic Sea, or in a fairy castle on the Rhine River.
What is your most treasured possession? > My books, all 3,000 plus of them. Books are sacred to me. I don't like lending them and I could never give one away. There are bushfires ravaging southern Australia at the moment so that is all over the media, and I had a nightmare the other night that our house burned down and my books went with it. It was awful.
What talent would you most like to have? > To learn when to shut my mouth. Sometimes I think I might be a little too passionate.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I love what I'm doing at the moment but my ideal job would be writer - of non-fiction political/historical treatises and poetry anthologies.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > I couldn't possibly choose a favourite from John Safran, Lenny Bruce and Sarah Silverman. I love offensive humour - love, love, love it. You should hear my wheelchair jokes.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To stay out of hospital. I have spent the majority of the last three years in hospital and I just want to move forward with my life. I've now got a fascinating and rewarding job and Uni starts in March; I don't want that to be marred by illness.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > To finish my tertiary education to a PhD level at various interesting institutions all over the world. Maybe do a masters degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a PhD in somewhere like Hungary or Russia. Then I would buy houses in Europe and Australia and travel the world teaching and writing books, with the occasional holiday on a tropical island.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > I would love to see Robert Horvath take on Karl Marx and Yasser Arafat. That would be awesome.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]