Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Elephant In The Room - Let's Talk

I wasn't sure if I should blog about the results of the Trump vs Clinton election. After all, I'm an Aussie! What would I know about American politics? Why should I care? And was there really anything I could add to a conversation with '11,664,601 talking about this' on Facebook? Surely we’d all had a gutful!

But then I saw a video by Jonathan Pie, it echoed sentiments of what some of my favourite thinkers, Charles Eisenstein and Russell Brand are saying, and it urged me to speak up and be heard - it's time to talk.

Like many, I’ve been captivated by this election campaign and when the result was finalised, I was shocked - but not surprised. And along with a feeling of horror… This is the best human the United States could put forward for the job? No political experience! He said vile things against minorities, women, disabled people? He said Climate Change was a hoax invented by China?… Along with this feeling of horror I felt a strange relief. Like I’d witnessed a great spew, after months of nauseating twists and turns, now we were going to make some real progress, because it’s only when something is admitted to that there becomes the capacity for change.

A tweet from 2012 by Donald Trump, he has since retracted this statement, but not before it was retweeted 104,019 times.

I do believe this is a pivotal moment in history. I believe there was a fork in the road back when Al Gore was beaten in a controversially narrow margin by George W Bush in 2000, and I believe this is another. Obama has been an eloquent President but he's only scratched the surface in terms of real change. Hillary was a bandaid to keep the system running, sugar-coated to feel progressive because she could have been the first female President but as Susan Sarandon summed up in an interview,
 “I don’t vote with my vagina”, a sentiment echoed by many.

I'm sure my children and others will remember the day that 'Trump got in' because his win sparked such a tsunami of strong feelings around the world - on both sides. nathanmac87

Some votes for Trump were easy to explain, and some not so easy:

42% of women voted for him8% of black people voted for him and 29% of hispanic people voted for him [1]. And the more I talk about it the more I’m amazed by seemingly kind, intelligent people telling me that they would have voted for him too.

The big question is: Why?

The common thread seems to be that people liked that he was unafraid to speak his mind, they overlooked things he’d said that had appalled me, and it didn’t matter to them that he had no political experience, they liked that he was 'not a politician' and that was enough.

This is how urgently people want for change. That is how desperate people have become to hear TRUTH in whatever form it takes. People are fed up with 'fat cats' and a rigged system that benefits some and not others, they’re sick of politicians with hands tied behind their back by corporations with vested interests. They’re sick of the rhetoric and the meaningless arguments.

Would Bernie Sanders with his socialist bent have won against Trump? Personally I don’t think so. I don’t think we’ve advanced beyond the realm of self-interest, most of us are still focused on what we’ve got to lose over what we could gain. We've made marginal progress in equality of the sexes, gay marriage is still being debated, there are laws protecting the rights of corporations but next to none defending the environment nor the rights of animals.

Trump is a mirror to us all - a polluting, fearful, money-hungry, insatiable, ego-centric, semi-intelligent species who has stood upright for only a blip on Earth's 4.5 billion year timescale, a species who has become disconnected from the land, has become more interested in screens than in nature, more interested in headlines than facts.

In my opinion the world hasn't had to really discuss, let alone think about, anything too serious since the last World War. We’ve been fortunate for a long time. We’ve been busy building economic empires, making astounding leaps in science and health, created technology that would look like nothing short of magic to previous generations, and we’ve also created frivolous indulgences just because we could, it was fun and we had the luxury to, and like any child indulged with too many toys we’ve become entitled and spoilt.

Those of us with a fortunate lifestyle have been able to ignore any subject that makes us feel uncomfortable as easily as switching channels on our flatscreen TV. Anyone impassioned enough to rant publicly about a topic too hotly on Facebook can be muted. And so conversations about big subjects - subjects that are morally difficult or go against our consumerist way of life - are avoided and we go on living in blissful ignorance, until something really unavoidably awful happens - planes loaded with passengers crash into the Twin Towers, a truck drives into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, a Syrian child’s body is photographed washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach.

And then we appear shocked and horrified.

Governments respond by pledging to do more to crack down on illegal immigrants, ‘turn back the boats’ of refugees, fight harder against ‘the war on terror’ - we cannot beat terrorism because the terror is inside us.

Crying Statue of Liberty by NOK Crew

Real problems don’t go away. When they’re not talked about they’re left to fester, until finally someone less couth has the audacity to blurt it out. The irony is that only a few years ago I remember feeling shame that Australia was being labelled as a racist country by America because Pauline Hanson had declared we were being 'swamped by Asians’.

There is only one way forward, it's not enough to come from a position of privilege and take the moral high ground then ostracise others for not sharing our views - we must come down from our ivory towers and engage the debate.

As Jonathan Pie argued in his video, Clinton calling Trump supporters a “basketful of deplorables” was badly wrong - at the time I thought it was less awful than the things Trump was saying so I overlooked it - but I shouldn’t have because as Pie rightly points out "when has anyone ever been persuaded by being insulted or labeled?”

There is no longer a choice to sit by passively and hope for a better future. The time has come to speak up from our HEART and it’s time to listen to each other and stop living in fear. And here’s why - we’re coming to the pointy bit of human existence, and there are some subjects that need to be talked about, sooner rather than later. And we're fortunate to have free speech and the internet - the ability is at our fingertips for all of us to speak our mind.

Whether you believe in Climate Change or not, there's no way to escape the fact that the population of humans on Earth continues to exponentially bloom past 7.5 BILLION
 [2]That's a fuck load of humans putting an ever increasing load on resources.

If you do believe in Climate Change no doubt you will have thought through the alarming consequences - rising sea levels displacing millions of people, extreme weather conditions creating more problems on a bigger scale - hurricanes, droughts, bushfires, floods and heatwaves, and all these things putting even more pressure on resources essential to our survival - access to fresh unpolluted water, arable land and food sources.

And that’s before even mentioning truly catastrophic possibilities such as the additional atmospheric carbon being absorbed into the ocean turning it acidic, dissolving the shells of crustaceans such as krill which is a keystone species, causing the collapse of entire ecosystems including whales, seals and penguins.[3]

We are coming to a crucial moment in our history - our intelligence is about to be put to the test. We cannot stick our head in the sand because this is what the gift of being human is all about - our consciousness comes with a conscience.

Nele Azevedo, Melting Man, Berlin

The discussion starts with simple things and gets stickier. 

For instance, do we let migrants into our countries? We’ve done it in the past, we’ve even encouraged it - the wealth of nations was built on the sweat of immigrants - whether they came willingly seeking a better life, or in chains. So why is it a different story now? And what entitles us to our claim when it was our forebears that displaced indigenous peoples?

What about war torn countries and people fleeing persecution? Are we to be like the passengers of the Titanic who ignored the calls of drowning souls for fear of upsetting their own life rafts?

Do we let everyone in? Do we let no one in? What about people who arrive uninvited anyway - do we send them away? Where do we send them? Is it right to keep children in detention?

What about the people already living in a country? Can we learn to get along? Should we give ultimatums to have them conform to our ways of living? What religions should they be allowed to observe, can they dress how they like? How many children should they be allowed to have? Where does it end?

As Sir David Attenborough said in a post Brexit interview, “It’s very easy… to be very tolerant of minorities until they become majorities and you find yourself a minority.” [4]

What about people who arrived illegally a decade ago or more who have integrated into society and proved they want only to work hard and contribute? Do we grant them amnesty? What about their relatives?

There are no easy answers to these questions, as President Francois Hollande discovered to his peril in 2013 when the French government cracked down on the deportation of illegal Roma immigrants. 
Following the rejection of her family’s application for asylum, police picked up 15 year old Leonarda Dibrani from a school excursion and deported her to Kosovo. Unsurprisingly, there was public outcry.

President Hollande 
responded by making a special public announcement on live television saying he would make a one-off allowance for Leonarda to return to finish her studies, but denied reentry to her five siblings and parents. Television networks ‘went live’ to Kosovo to capture Leonarda's response - she called the president “heartless” to the cameras, told him she was "not a female dog" and his approval rating went from bad to worse.

So what about people's families? And will we ever start thinking of the world's population as one big family?

This is just one line of questioning surrounding immigration and racism, and the truth is, I would never have even thought to ask most of them had Trump not been elected. Had he not won we could have swept them back under the carpet a while longer, but he did win, and now our greatest hope lies in the fact that he has engaged so many in the debate, and with it will come the opportunity to make real and lasting change. 

At the root of all these questions however is one that dwarfs them all. How do we solve the problem that the people with the most money (and usually the most self-interest) are given the loudest voices? When the wealthiest corporations oil the gears of the establishment to become the most powerful and the vitality of a politician is directly transfused to the health of his or her government’s economy?

People have asked for change and they will get it - sooner or later. Will Trump, tweeting from his Midas penthouse apartment be the instrument, or will things have to get so invariably bad that the majority finally realises that money is not the bottom line? That endless economic growth is impossible within a finite planet? And that we're all in this together. 

I would LOVE to hear your views. 
Please no hate comments - let's have a constructive conversation!

Photo credits. Main image - David Blackwell, Earth - John Voo
1. BBC News - Reality Check: Who Voted for Donald Trump?
2. Check out the World Population Clock here
3. How Acid Oceans Could Kill Krill - Colin Cummings
4. ’Sir David Attenborough says “it’s very easy to be tolerant of minorities… until they’re the majority”’ Mark Jefferies

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Flying Solo

If you see a woman running in the street it’s probably me. 

There’s always somewhere I’m supposed to be, usually ten minutes ago, and I’m always in a rush to get there. Looking on the bright side, I think: It’s good that I’m always running TO somewhere, rather than running AWAY. 

A woman I know who lives in my neighbourhood, she has six children and she’s always running too. She says it’s a fitness thing, (unlike me she has activewear on), but every time I see her I can’t help thinking that she’s running AWAY. As fast as she can. 

Perhaps that's what happens when you reach the critical mass of too many children and responsibilities - when you realise there’s just no possible way you can meet every deadline, obligation or expectation - you just start running and keep running, and don’t stop.
It’s usually when my husband goes away that crazy things happen - I find nits in the kid’s hair, Tom lands a job with a 5am call time, the dog escapes, my car gets stolen, my toddler comes out in spots, my father falls over, I get asked onto television, or the hospital phones to tell me they want to take Charlotte’s tonsils out - tomorrow.

Before you know it, I’m running. Hauling the recycling bin up the driveway before dawn, carrying a warm sleeping child to the car after dark, running up and down the stairs in between turning schnitzels and managing print jobs. Thanking neighbours and friends for the help they give me every time I think that life surely can’t get any crazier.

I run, and I keep on running until I wear holes in my shoes and there’s no time to think about the holes until it rains and my feet get wet.

I run, and I keep on running until I’m forced to sit still and be amazed. My youngest is counting out loud along with me as we read a bedtime story, his addition to the family still comes as a surprise. My eldest is lit up on the stage of the Opera House, filling my heart with so much pride I think it might burst. My daughter is so pale and beautiful, honey coloured hair sprawled across the white hospital sheets, fingers stained with ink from drawing. My father’s feeble attempts to stand and reach his wheelchair, simple things like running, forever out of reach.

Would love to hear in the comments if you feel like you're running to something, or away. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Shattering the Glass Slipper at My Fair Lady

Do I really want to take my 9 year old daughter to see a musical about human trafficking? That's what it boils down to. 

The lavish 60th Anniversary Production of My Fair Lady, directed by Dame Julie Andrews is stunning - the costumes are amazing, the sets like a pop-up story book, each more incredible than the last, the singing and choreography will knock your socks off! 

When Professor Henry Higgins takes Eliza Doolittle to the horse races at Ascot I'm blown away - the cast are all dressed in a black and white kaleidoscope of M.C. Esher-esque couture, topped off with a milliners fantasy of hats in all shapes and sizes. Instantly, I think of my daughter, the little girl who sits up in bed at night drawing ream after ream of fashion plates - Oh! I can't wait to bring her to see this fabulous show, I think!

But, from the minute I start thinking of Charlotte, the glass slipper bubble of Disney delight is shattered. How can I possibly bring her to see a musical which is, undeniably, about human trafficking? Whether or not Eliza Doolittle is a willing participant, the exchange of £5, the Victorian equivalent of a year's rent, has my feminist antenna erupting like a radio active Geiger counter. 

Poor Eliza, for all her bravado in 'Just You Wait', singing:
"When you yell you're going to drown, I'll get dressed and go to town!"
By the time she sings 'I Could Have Danced All Night' with that doe-eyed look on her face - she's doomed! She's gone and bloody fallen in love with Professor Henry Higgins, it's like watching Princess Leia fall in love with Jabba The Hutt!

Still, the romantic in me longs for the fairytale ending - surely the Professor will sweep her off her feet and carry her into the sunset? Love conquers all!

NO! What am I thinking?? My conscience backhand slaps these irrational thoughts and reprimands me sternly - how on earth can I wish this intelligent, hard-working, enterprising girl to end up with this spoilt, chauvinistic scoundrel? What sort of moral compass am I demonstrating for my daughter, pursuing such mawkish thought bubbles?

And what of Eliza's role models? The sponging alcoholic father who recommends giving her the strap if she doesn't do as she's told, the absent controlling step-mother? Poor Eliza, she wouldn't even have been able to cast a vote into a ballot box, let alone strike out alone, she was a woman living in a time with limited choices...

Yes, the production is stunning - all of it! - but most of all, the ending. 

I wonder if Dame Julie Andrews was just a teeny tiny bit tempted to change the ending? I wonder if she secretly contemplated a new millennial twist to the Pygmalion plot? 

But no, I doubt that crossed her mind, she is after all a Dame Commander of the British Empire, one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II BFFs. She is a battleship of established society, faithful to old guard and the stiff upper lipAs polished and poised as the remodelled Eliza Doolittle herself.

I've decided I can't wait to take my daughter to see My Fair Lady, and I'm going to take my son too, and then I'm going to sit down and have a jolly good discussion with them afterwards, perhaps over cucumber sandwiches and Twinings earl grey tea with lemon. There's a lot to talk about.

The 60th Anniversary production of My Fair Lady is playing at the Sydney Opera House until 5th November. Starring Alex Jennings, Anna O'Byrne, Reg Livermore, Robin Nevin, Tony Llwellyn-Jones & Mark Vincent.

I'd love to know, what production have you taken your children to see, or are looking forward to sharing with them?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

My father looks a bit like Owen Wilson in this picture, don't you think? It was taken in 1976 when I was just two years old. The weird thing is I do actually remember the photo being taken - and that's because I was given the WORST TOY EVER to hold for the picture, the photographer picked it out for me to hold because it was a monkey that had a yellow waistcoat on that matched Mum's jumpsuit. 

I was terrified of that toy, I totally hated it, but Mum told me to "Just pretend you like it for the photo!". Mum was always doing stuff like that, she never wanted to put anyone out. 

So before I could protest the monkey was plonked in between my legs and Mum said "Taa Daa!" trying to get us all to smile while the flash went off - POP! POP! POP! - you know those cool 1970s camera flashes that looked like an ice cube tray of burnt out bulbs?

Of course Mum was the only one in the family with the photogenic gene so she always looked fabulous when the magazine came out, Dad and I on the other hand usually looked like stunned nocturnal animals about to be shot between the eyes. 

So... Happy Father's Day Dad! A brief happy snap of our Little family - before I looked down and saw the EVIL MONKEY staring at me...


Question: Did you have a toy you were scared of when you were little? 

Photo credit: Jason Scragz

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Premenstrual Mindfulness

I need to meditate, like right NOW. Meditating in my house is called ‘hiding from the family’. They’re like sniffer dogs, they always find me. Sitting in the garden and having a smoke used to work well in the past but now I have two building sites on either side of my house - the plants are covered in plaster dust and the citrus trees are covered in stink bugs. So the garden is out.

I need a new place to mediate… I’ve been fantastising about a cave, or a bunker... a special Meditation Bunker bored into the sandstone where I can escape to defrag my brain. It would also come in handy for the zombie apocalypse, or for when global warming melts the ice caps and the oceans turn acidic and the supermarket shelves are suddenly empty like they are in Russia and hungry people start hunting possums…

I don’t have a bunker yet so instead I just went to bed really early. I turned the light out and hoped that I’d wake up early before my family when the house is dark and silent. I had lots of dreams, one where I was in an elevator that kept getting smaller and I didn’t know how to get out of it, and then another where I was kissing my husband for a long time until I woke up gasping for air because the doona was over my face.

But as soon as I was awake all this shit started piling into my head - bits of broken ‘to do’ lists and things coming up in the calendar that I hadn’t written down yet, my brain started saying I should do yoga or walk the dogs to clear my head, then I started feeling guilty about not walking the dogs... Then I remembered I hadn’t bought soy milk so I’d have to use cow’s milk and maybe that was better for the environment anyway because cow’s milk doesn’t come in tetra packs which are supposed to be really bad for the environment, but worse for the cow of course…

And then I PANICKED because I remembered my period was 6 DAYS LATE!! Did that mean the unthinkable… and that I was going to be taught a lesson for always secretly believing that people who said they were using condoms when they fell pregnant were liars, or did that mean that I was approaching menopause which was also shit because then I’d have to worry about my hair thinning and bones turning into sawdust like in those Egyptian mummy movies…

And then I told myself I was thinking too much and that I was really just a bag of hormones and all my problems - the crazy dreams and overthinking and the feeling like I wanted to punch through sheets of Gyprock karate style - just boiled down to PMT. And that maybe when the sun came up I’d go to the park and just lie down in the middle of the grass and think about all the living creatures underneath and around me and the magic of the plants capturing the sun’s energy with chlorophyll in a way that human’s were nowhere near doing yet and how tiny and insignificant I really am, just a minuscule multi-celled creature no better than bacteria in a blip of time space lying on the face of a huge rock spinning around a star.

Do you have a Meditation Bunker or secret place you go to escape? 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cockadoodledoo! Richie Strahan & the Man Flu

I confess, I’ve started watching The Bachelor.

But first, let me tell you how this came to be... 

Last week Tim picked Hunter up from preschool, ‘Give me some skin brother!’ he said. Our three year old looked alarmed. If vampires take blood and zombies take brains… what sort of monster takes skin?

Tim hastily demonstrated the special handshake and then, because he’s a Dad he took it one step further and taught Hunter how to spit on his hand to ‘seal’ a handshake.

Tim started showing symptoms of ‘man flu’ within 6hrs of the ‘special handshake’ demonstration. Within 24hrs it had spread through the household - the toxic toddler saliva, plastered into the petri dish of germs on each small sweaty palm had produced an explosion of virulent microbial life. Tom came down with a fever, Charlotte started complaining of stomach cramps, Hunter’s chest sounded like an emphysema ward.

I worried that it would be a repeat of the great stomach flu of 2015, the highlight of which was hosing vomit off bedsheets on the driveway at 2am. Luckily, the epidemic didn’t turn out to be that memorable, but it did result in an awful lot of TV watching - the trashier the better.

And so this is how I came to find The Bachelor on my screen…

“What’s that garbage you’re watching Kate?” Tim asks scornfully. He’s better now, all recovered from the man flu, it’s only me who’s left on the couch, clutching the last remaining box of tissues.

“I’m doing research, for my blog,” I mumble, my head so blocked up I sound like I’m speaking through a gas mask.

I’ve channel swapped my way to The Bachelor by a process of elimination - no cooking shows, no renovating, definitely no weight loss shows… and yet, even without these staple television formats I’m surprised to find that The Bachelor is still a competition. A competition of love!

Suddenly I was transported back to my primary school years when boys made their first bleep on the radar... Dusty memories resurfaced - the time I clumsily let the cake knife touch the bottom and was forced to deliver an awkward kiss to a younger brother amidst a gloating circle of carnivorous girls. Another memory... a bottle spinning on carpet and the resulting wet claustrophobic embrace, shut in a cupboard with a boy, who happened to be the only boy at the party - he spent a lot of time in the cupboard.

That day I found out by a convoluted chain of Chinese whispers that a boy liked me. 
“Do you like him?” I shrugged, giggles and whispers made their way back to the boy - we were going out by morning tea, by lunch time we’d split up. 

A little older and things became more serious, the girls, as cunning as velociraptors, began to hunt in packs, marking out their kill and threatening to scratch the eyes out of anyone that came within a ten foot radius of their prize.

Mesmerised by the television, I watched the show unfold. Ten stunningly beautiful women, each sacrificing their dignity and self respect, blithely throwing candles to the wind of the feminist movement with every utterance of “Will you accept this rose?”.

By the time I was over the flu my romance with the show was waning. I was feeling better, starting to shout and throw things at the television, fed up with the flimsy conversations and formulaic saliva swapping. “Ask each other some REAL questions for fuck’s sake!” I shouted.

The truth is, now I’m well, I’d like to be able to stop watching the show, but I can’t. It’s so awful I can’t tear my eyes away. I’m hooked - line and sinker. I just wish they’d ask each other some REAL QUESTIONS!!

For example…

Ask him if he irons his own shirts!

Ask her what she looks like without make up!

Ask him to recite his times tables!

Ask her if she’s on medication!

Ask him if he
 can name all the parts of the female anatomy!

Ask her if she voted for One Nation!

Ask him what he thinks of off-shore detention!

Ask her if she shoplifts!

Ask him if he’s circumcised!

What questions would you have them ask?

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