Being Seen and Being Ignored


Thursday, 30 October 2014

So you may have seen this video that's doing the rounds of a young woman walking the streets of New York City.  The director has a camera in his backpack, and as they record 10 hours of walking (wow, tired feet?), there are over 100 instances of her being spoken to by men on the street.  Or spoken at, it probably feels more like.

I tuned into the contradictory feelings and thoughts that welled up in me on watching this video.  One part of me was really pissed off that this woman not only couldn't walk the streets without feeling harassed.  She also couldn't walk the streets and be able to forget herself. Beautiful? Mindful of the narcissism that engenders in this beauty obsessed cultured?  Want to get out, walk, lose yourself in that beautiful way that creates a nice little dose of mental health? Well, don't expect any respite when you leave your door because you're not going to be able to forget it for long.  'Cause those curves of yours, they make you belong to everyone else, baby.

The contradictory and jealous part of me (she's a pretty girl and I'm getting older) is a little jealous of all that attention.

But then what comes after that?  What gets left for women AFTER this kind of thing STOPS is a silence. But it's not a nice silence. It's a heavy silence full of condemnation. Because while you might have hated the attention before, on one level it made you feel good (the level that wasn't intimidated and harassed) because it's exciting to be admired and to be found attractive.

The dead zone after that confusing space is a reminder, once again, that you are on the other side of the beauty barrel. It's a reminder, from the cradle to the grave, that you are always going to be judged on how attractive you are.  Whether you've got it or you ain't, you won't be able to forget that the outside of you is seen, or ignored, and that it will make it so much harder for you to bring forth what is inside because of that.

I think that's why some women who wear burqas claim that they give them a certain amount of freedom.  Seen from this perspective, you can understand a little of what they might be getting at.

Treat or Treat?


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dear young Aussie children of my street (or possibly one of your parents, even creepier),

Once, my uncle got an orange for Christmas.  That was it.  An orange.  Because they were poor.

Whereas you can get an orange on any old Thursday, and you would probably deem it punishment.  I understand that.  You're young, lollies are yummy, and it's impossible to understand lack when you are surrounded by abundance (that's why Australia has detention centres). 

My uncle was Scottish, just like the origins of the word "Halloween."  It is a shortening of the term "All Hallows Eve," which was, depending on who you listen to, either the evening before a holy day in the Christian calendar which paid tribute to the dead, or Samhain, the harvest festival celebration from the Celtic tradition, neither of which bear much resemblance to your door-knocking this Friday.  

I understand too that it's also impossible for you to know the value of community.  You have grown up in a culture that has forgotten how to talk to its neighbours (even though if there is ever a total societal collapse we will suddenly all be dependent on each other ... once we learn what each others' names are).

Great abundance and lack of community are understandable reasons for you to see me not as a person, but as a thing who might have something you want.  You learn without knowing what you learn from the fishpond in which you swim.  And yours has been full of neoliberalistic, globalised, monetised-to-the-shit water for as long as you've been swimming.  I just want to tell you that entire cultures have lived without this crap and its people have flourished and been very shiny, thanks very much. 

I'm sure you'd be flabbergasted at my slowly simmering irritation when my letterbox received your little home-printed note, with a lovely black cat and a weirdly-shaped pumpkin on it, ever so kindly reminding me that this Friday is the 31st October, and to not forget the treats.  Lighten up, you will say.  Learn my fucking name before you try to get something from me, I will retort.

I dream that one day you will see how you smell slightly of Veruka Salt.  I daydream about you, looking back from a reborn culture brimming with new-found richness that has woken up to life lived freer.  From that position, you will be embarrassed at the paltry quality of your childhood rituals because the ones your kids are having then are way wilder and more awesome - alive and creative.  But until then, you have to take the fun when you can get it, right?  And anyway, when you're young, you don't really question whether your cultural rituals are empty fluff masquerading as a thing.

Well, I do.  I thirst for way better than this shitty dying paradigm and I believe the phoenix will rise if we are willing to be brave.  So what may seem snarky to you, just a grouchy old lady with hairs growing from her chin, is really thirst.  I have, my young dears, just about drowned in cultural meaninglessness.  It hurts me in my bones.  You may think my irritation comes from not wanting you to have any fun, but you would have it entirely the wrong way round.  I want you to have fun, just way more awesome and grouse fun that isn't two thirds of nothing.  We need to come up with a ritual that is better than this shite.  Something that is culturally appropriate (because pumpkins ain't in fucking season).  Something that's fun, that we can all dress up to, that brings us together to get to know each others' names, something which actually means 17% more than fuck all.  If that happens, I guarantee I will be so excited, I'll even get specially designed bags with ghouls on them to give you your lollies in.  I'll be out there myself, playing on the road with you.

There is one thing I do like about your little note.  I'm regularly accosted by Irish and Indian backpackers at my door trying to sign me up to yet another energy company.  By phone calls from various companies whose poorly paid and bored telemarketers must pretend that if they ask me nicely to jump through their hoop, then we will both pretend there isn't hidden two point type at the bottom of the contract designed to shaft me.   Some days, the only people I speak to directly are people who are all trying to get money from me I don't have.

And so I do appreciate the transparency of your particular marketing campaign - there's no floss on it.  You're not smothering it in chocolate and saying there's something in it for me.  There are no tricks up your sleeves ~ it's straight up all about the treats.

I hope you have a ball on Friday, in your light-heartedness that doesn't think too much about everything, but I'm not playin'.  I apologise if that makes me a curmudgeon, but you get enough stuff already.

See you on the other side of the revolution.

The crotchety crone at number 60

Dreaming the Future

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Monday, 27 October 2014

We talk a lot about freedom.  But what exactly do we mean when we say that word?  Do we mean primarily freedom from something – like freedom from being enslaved as a cog in a system that makes life ugly and tedious?  But what about the other half of the picture, freedom to something?  What is it that we want?

Say the way we live suddenly changed so that your talents and abilities and the things you were passionate about were able to be freely used in the world and in return you had safety and security.  What would you do?  Imagine if suddenly money rained down from the sky and we were all rich (theories aside about how that would cause inflation and then we all wouldn’t be able to afford anything anyway).  Or imagine that we developed a system of split barter or some other way of doing money well, or we even did away with it entirely. 

Whatever the system was, imagine that it helped you to be more free than you are now.  Imagine that it was wonderfully designed, as functional as a Bahaus chair but handmade from beautiful wood and that it made your heart sing when you sat on it.  A way of doing things that actually fit us well and – imagine this –brought out the best in us, not the worst.  That helped us be more, not less, no matter how rich we were.  A system that protected us from the worst excesses of our own human nature – the disastrous decay that happens when we get greedy and we try to get more of what we have.  A system of energy exchange (which is really what money is when you think about it deeply) that served us, instead of us serving it.

It would probably take you weeks and months to acclimatise to this sort of freedom.  You would maybe feel a little like a child who’s grown up in a dysfunctional and violent family and learned not to share or develop their best and their most beautiful, those things being most vulnerable and needful of security and safety to flourish.  You maybe wouldn’t even know what those things were or even believe that you had any of those sorts of talents on your insides. 

But then imagine seeing the woman down the street, who was an admin assistant in the cog, and she starts baking bread and breeding chickens out of a pure enjoyment of doing these things.  And then she is able in this new system to exchange her bread and chickens for a painting done by an artist down the road.  The artist is happy now;  though he was earning good money as a physiotherapist in the cog, he hated it.  Meanwhile, the admin assistant’s next-door neighbour is starting to study physiotherapy because she’s just worked out after taking a long breather doing nothing (and enjoying the space knowing she’s not a naughty slacker for doing such a thing) that this is what she really wants to do.

You would start getting thirsty, seeing what other people were doing.  And that would get you thinking and you’d start experimenting and then you’d end up realising that what you actually wanted to do was stay home and dig in your garden and grow vegetables and write shitty poetry and that’s about it, that’s what you want to do to be content.  Because you’re not a cog anymore, right, and this isn’t tied to having to produce for production’s sake and to prove your own worth to live on the planet.  And yes, I understand while you’re reading this that you may be thinking this is dumb and idealistic, and other inefficient things, and I’m not even offering you any evidence as to how this system could come about to boot (I’m not an economist though – but there are lots of good theories out there by those who are). 

In this system, of course, idealism would once again become perfectly acceptable.  It would actually probably become fashionable, once the levels of despair and helplessness diminished somewhat from people relieved of the necessity of being grey cubicle cogs feathering someone else’s nest. 

So I’m just getting in early.

Because I don’t actually think this is so far an extreme that it can’t happen.  It feels that way to us because we have been born into this system and we feel helpless to know how to put an end to the way things are. 

Perhaps ultimately what brings about real freedom is not just people who are not sick on their own power, but who are simply empowered to do things differently.  People who remember they’re the majority, who have learned how to quell their significant fear, who have gone beyond daring to believe that their hopes and desires are not fairytales but are a reflection of sanity. 

It might seem pointless or even painful to ask these sorts of idealistic questions.  We come out of the reverie of imagining how it would be living in a world that encouraged beauty and sanity and how that would help a certain clenched part of us start to unfurl like a fern frond and then we’re back here again in our strange world of excess that makes everything somehow worth nothing.  Our weird world where there is no good candlelight to counteract the LED and the shit steaming out of the TV, where there’s always dead light because we’re always on.  A world where nobody in Europe is able to see an ink black night sky teeming with stars the way their ancestors could for a couple of million previous years.
But the stars are still there.  And so are the people who still harbour the hope that a more beautiful way of doing this thing is not pie in the sky.  It seems to me that many of those people who retain a desire for the beautiful have maintained a connection to the earth upon which we depend.

There is a certain wastefulness to nature that is easy for us to miss in our days of regulation.  Nature produces so excessively and wantonly, in the right conditions, we could be tempted to slut-shame her.  We don’t easily notice this wanton excess of production because we have moved away from its rhythms.  Flamingoes could shag in a corner and have it over and done with quick smart.  Efficient, like.  But they don’t.  Their courtship is an elaborate dance.  Snails take hours to mate, and their pre-mating courtship is revolting, slimy, but somehow quite beautiful.  Sensual and wasteful.

You and your species are closer to that excessive beauty and wastefulness than you are to any of the small spaces the culture asks you to shove yourself into.  You're bigger than whatever numbers the FTSE is registering.  Bigger than your cubicle.

In Australia and around the Western world we’ve been assuaged for decades by neoliberal attempts to take away some of the freedoms that were fought for long and hard last century.  Freedoms to be more than cogs in a wheel that’s attached to a global mill, with the majority of us millworkers and the very few the owners who pull our puppet strings.  The corporatocracy’s vision is suspect, their treatment of the one earth obscene.

It’s only by thinking idealistically that we can begin to understand what we’re missing in the here and now.  And freedom in our current version of doing things is most certainly not about being free to do what is right.  If it was, there wouldn’t be discrepancies like Joe Hockey, who with his merchant banker wife has a housing portfolio worth quite a few million dollars, telling people who are sick and disabled and struggling to find jobs that are not there that they are behaving with a sense of entitlement. 

If money really is just an exchange of our own energies, it explains why the richest of the rich hang on so tightly to the status quo.  Perhaps they fear what the majority would be if we were brimming and upright and creative and returned to rhythm. Easier to stick to the status quo though it ruins the earth we all depend upon.

Idealism is not a naivety.  It is just painful to hold, because it must be done carefully, like eggshell in your hands, knowing how fragile it is, while at the same time also holding heavy dread and despair and a great and deep sense of futility at being able to turn this thing around.  Seen in that light, idealism becomes something more like courage.  It is a vision of how things really can be when those who are in power are the ones who have morally and ethically and heartily earned the right to be there.

Imagine that. 

This is a thing I know to the depths of my gut and I will not let it go – humanity is worth fighting for, no matter how many images have been relentlessly served up to us over the years, via the media and our television sets, showing us the very worst of human nature. 

That is only half of the story.

Creative commons 2.0 (attribution - ie, linkback) pic by Jesus Solana

Flogging The Neocon Horse


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

It's all a little 2003 here in the United States of Australia, isn't it?  Tony Abbott and his gang of neocon sociopaths are flogging a horse that by any standards should be dead, if we, the paddock inhabitants, were to learn from recent history.

If it's incomprehensible to you how such a shoddy first-draft piece of crap story could be the one we are forced to live in, just follow follow the money.  If you dare.  It is easy to call conspiracy theory that which we are terrified of, and I can think of no more terrifying story than the mass majority of people being controlled by a very small wheel of rather rich ones.  Easy to call that story a conspiracy because doesn't it just stomp all over your carefully crafted visions of your own freedom?  Best not look.  That seems to be the going approach to this sort of thing.  If we don't look, it won't be happening.  Better to post a lovely graphic on Facebook about how we are all exactly where we need to be at this particular time.

Well, it is happening despite that.  And being on the bottom of the socioeconomic scale for quite some time now, I can tell you that it's having an effect for the worse.  If you wish to close your doors and surround yourself with your beautifully-smelling just-bathed children, that's understandable.  Just-bathed children are one of life's delights.  However, if you choose to believe that you yourself can keep those children safe from the rigours of the outside world, best hope that your child grows up without any form of mental illness, and as one of the lucky ones with a fine, good job.  But good luck with that, because you'll need a hefty dose of it.  Fine, good jobs are drying up under fabricated conditions.  This globalisation beast is still chewing up the earth with its jagged steel jaws, and it's still pushing us all into small spaces that have been designed to do just that.  If all of us stood up to this ridiculous fabrication that keeps us enslaved into jobs we hate and from doing the work we love it would be over.

Just like that.

Once, one person was able to feed, clothe and house an entire family.

So following the money, you've got Gina and Rupert and Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott and other incredibly rich and/or powerful people who are the puppets for those above them throughout the world.  Yes, it's terribly conspiracy theory, isn't it?  All rather easily documentable, as well.  These are the real entitled ones.  They refuse to pay their taxes but use the drip tactic to try and convince you that the problem lies with you.

Over and over again, until you start maybe feeling yourself weaken, feeling maybe down in your shame centre, where the powerful prod, that maybe they're right and it really IS simply all your fault because you're not trying hard enough.  You really CAN be as rich as you should be - you're just not MANIFESTING in the right way!!!  Because it really is all about earning what you deserve, don't you know?

While there is a massive element of personal responsibility for healing and reducing shame-based beliefs that keep us constrained, don't believe that crap for a minute that it's all your fault.  You're not an island; you live on one.  The last 100 years have seen the money dry up for the majority.  It's trickled up into the coffers of the richest who care little enough about you that they'll fleece you at every turn.  And they're maybe a little scared of you too, you outnumbering them by a considerable margin, and so they'll do their best to keep you down as well, take that pension off you.  They know a leaner when they see it. 

The richest 1% in Australian own as much as the bottom 60%.

And I am seriously considering moving to Cambodia.  Get away from this rapidly-spoiling place.  Away from the constraints of a system and an economy that has me by the throat.  To get well, I need to rest.  How do I do that in such an expensive country, where it costs so much to pay for the privilege of living on a piece of ground once squandered from others?  Maybe Cambodia.  Or Turkey.  Or Kazakhstan.  Somewhere away from these prying Five Eyes and their rich counterparts (hello, Mrs Saxo-Coburg-Gotha) and their continuing tyranny on the populace, one so beige if your skin is white that it's so very easy to switch off while you are immersed in it like frog water, right up to your neck.

Leonard Cohen's Crack


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

I keep seeing pictures of cone shapes when I close my eyes.  Mountains, witch's hats.  I just closed my eyes to imagine my perfect holiday and what I saw first was a Tibetan mountain, with thin ribbons of cloud flowing eastwards near its apex.

Then the mountain moved toward me until it was suffocatingly close, towering.  Just as the claustrophobia set in, the mountain changed, and became a large witch's or wizard's hat* standing upright on the earth.  As I watched, about 10 or so little people appeared from under its brim.  They positioned themselves around the hat's edges and carried it off westwards.

Who says daydreaming is time-wasting?  Mysterious and obscure, requiring exploration, image-making is powerful.  It is yourself speaking to yourself, showing yourself the way, showing yourself the door, a path, a way, some crumbs.

You go waaaaaaay deeper than you think.  For an economic consumer, you sure have giant lumps of deep loam under your nails.  You may say you are only a cashier, or an arborist, or a leaner, or a transplanter, but unless you are lucky, that is just your job.  Sometimes, your best work goes on right under your nose, or under your lids while you're sleeping, or under your heavy head, held up by your hand, held up by your elbow, your shoulder with the weight of the world on it, your body leaning sideways like the Tower of Pisa under the heavy rush of seven billion people trying to remember who they are.

I was once seated with my eyes closed, carving out a piece of expensive silence with my own mind's knife.  Before me, there was another mountain, again tall, forbidding, imposing against a steel grey sky.  The mountain had a large crack through it, as if a flash of lightning had sliced through almost to its middle.  Still it stood, though a portion of it tilted ever so slightly sideways, almost imperceptible but still dangerous, like a flap of skin after you've struck your bare foot to a jagged piece of beach glass.

As I watched this picture my mind had presented me as a Thursday 10.34am gift for simply breathing and noticinig, a stream of gold poured into the crack, filling it up like a Japanese teacup, making its cracks honourable, acceptable, dignified.

~ ~

* Actually, it was closer to a soft felt hat.  I did some research after writing this up, and the phrygian cap seems to fit better.  As happens so often with this kind of space where I have to research the images I see (hello, Mr Jung's collective consciousness) I almost always get surprised by how what I find fits.  I love that the phrygian cap is a symbol of emancipation and freedom. Rock on.

Pic by Cessna 206 (creative commons attribution licence)