Showing posts with label Social. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social. Show all posts

Monday, March 05, 2012

Bear starts school, and everything suddenly....

Exit bankerworld. It started tugging at my sleeve during transition, and has crystalised during the first few weeks of school. The difference.

The difference undermines your settled sense of balance. Sure, it bites that we can't be there more often, leaving the kids with others several days a week, but hey look everyone else's folks are in the same boat.

Except they're not.

Our mostly professional friends, the members of Beloved's mother's group, and importantly most of those other parents at our lovely, supportive, arty, just-right childcare centre all seemed to share the struggle. It was life, inevitable, we were just part of the flow. And compared to many fellow travellers we had things on a reasonable keel. I had my 4 day week for ages, generally I'm home before bed time, we both do some work at home, but if you're comparing with barristers, bankers and businessy whatnots who hang out for rare quality time when court is cancelled or the deal is done early, and otherwise bond by 'taking the child to swimming classes' on Saturday, it looks fine. Enough. (ignoring that nagging voice in the deepest part of your parental soul).

Bankerworld was buried down at the opposite end of our council's jurisdiction. The end where all the streets have speed bumps or signs telling you not to turn between 8 and 9am (in Melbourne this being the surest sign of money and influence). Beemers top and tailed with Lexii.

School is at the other end, where we have moved to. Sure there's a banker or two, there are also teachers and nurses, artists who can't afford that other end which abuts so many galleries and bars they ply their trade in. A farmers' market. And people who don't work, some of them men, and others who work nice, soft, genuinely flexible hours, allowing them to spend real time with their children, drop them off, pick them up at 3.30pm, attend those parent morning teas and twilight sports events that are not scheduled to work with Collins Street.

Like the one scheduled for 5.30- 7.30pm that I arrived half way through to be told I'd missed almost everything. In my office arriving at 5.30 means leaving at 4.30 which is like taking a half-day off.

Like the drop offs and pick ups largely being done by the au paire. Daddy I want you to drop me off said Bear, my little mate, and I can't and I want to. And the frustration of being told we can't afford to live on my income, which is well above the national average, so Beloved won't ditch her job, but she - understandably - doesn't want to go full time either so I'm rather stuck and,

...now, at our friendlier, more corduroy, farmers' market-hosting school, we are now in the minority with our au paire, our expected shift into after school care, our turning up late to things in a suit. There is a community here, and I like it a lot, and I want at least one of us to be able to settle into that community, that pace alongside our children.

There are certain types of job that own you. Lawyer, even if part-time, or working for the government, is like that. Everyone is out to take your job, or file that urgent notice to produce documents when they know you're on leave. Two people in jobs that want to own you is a bad recipe.

My hours of themselves aren't ridiculous. I could work slightly more, in fact, if it meant Beloved could be there all the time. What I resent now is being trapped in the mid zone where neither of us feels we have room to move, or give. It is, to be technical, plainly shite, and now we can see that there are lots of other people who have rejigged something and made a bit more room in their lives to be human. I am buying The Age again, flicking across pages of community, teaching, local government jobs, for ideas, for either or both of us...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

As days become years

As Beloved peeled off to bed, I went out for a walk. Like so many evenings capping days that drag on, circling around the screen, files, briefings and other bureacratic occuclutter. Evenings that fail their promise of something to make the day seem worthwhile. Worth more than merely paying the bills.

We are tired. Everything makes sense. But that doesn't change the wait each day for the third part of life, the one where you are adults with your own agency living your own life, to engage, even if just for an hour.

I told an older relative, with a comfortable looking nuclear family life in Surrey, England, that we are thinking of getting someone in the bungalow out the back, perhaps an au pair. It sits empty, unvisited, and we thought if there was a boarder who could babysit from time-to-time we might be able to do things like go out on occasional dates.

...Beloved and I, to be clear!

And anyway (as Bear says when you pause in a conversation with her) they replied that it sounded like I was pining for the past, going on dates and all that; better to adjust to life as it is now. And not for the first time in recent months I found another person's helpful view of my stage in life almost suicidally depressing. And realised that even a happy-looking twee family in Surrey can be the post-script to some compromise that forever consigned some romantic notion like, well, romance, or affection, to a cold little graveyard in the far corner of the park.

Perhaps going out together is not important to those people. Perhaps all of it became less important. But in the words of a Black Crowes number I've been messing around with a bit on my old, scarred, nylon-string:





She don't know no lover,
No man I've ever seen,
To her that ain't nothin',
But to me it is, it is everything.





I walked along the ridge above Merri Creek, where the street lights are infrequent and muffled by dominating trees. It was dark, quiet. Now and then a house was fantastically lit with Christmas lights. A lone skateboarder peeled off into a driveway. A couple of dogs murmered unconvincingly.

All my closest slept. No war threatened them, no fire or floods approached our suburb. There was food in the cupboard. These things are all good and I am thankful. But we only live once, and if we spend our days apart, grinding our faces into computer screens in giant hives, then at some point surely we need more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The unfinished business of repairs

Speaking with my birth mother last night. She is here, finding her space as one of the grandparent constellation.

Closing the circle. That is how I see it: repairs that can never fully be made to the fabric of her and my relationship, just because (because my guilt sets boundaries, there are others, and because of stories she can't fully tell). But with them there is no obstacle, none indeed for any of the grandfolk willing to step forward and have a relationship. Step, adoptive, birth, right pain in the arse or otherwise.

They can take a few giants steps together this week.

Landmark was on TV. The cult, movement, positive thinking self-help whatever. We spoke of repairs, to the past, the complexity of wanting or wanting to give forgiveness. And apology. Someone in her life - nothing to do with me or adoption - went to Landmark, with its clear simplicity and demands for change and movement. They came to her, seeking something. She gave something approaching apology, hoping for something back; acknowledgment, concession, perhaps something approaching apology. She got nothing. They asked for their apology. She gave it, still hopeful.

They went off with their head full of positive thinking, new starts and all of that, Landmark's simplicity directing them to the cool rainforest of Northern Queensland.

Fixing the past doesn't necessarily mean hurling yourself on coals. But no matter how much you clutch assertions, tropes, rhetoric, or other cultish devices, the repairs don't fix themselves. Not completely. People may move on but you shouldn't ask for absolution if you can't roll up your sleeves and fix that tap that has been leaking since 19whenever.

Barbara Ehrenreich nailed it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Approaching 40 - time to give up?

"If you have not self actualised by 40, isn't it time to give up?"

I had been dealing pretty well with being in my late 30s. I had no 40 issues, really none at all. Until that statement, made by a well-meaning late-20-something.

Perhaps it is time. Perhaps that last rung on the hierarchy of needs is an illusion. Many seem too obsessed with it, with something they haven't yet found. If 'too' is defined by missing the good things right in front of you.

But when I toyed with the notion, not writing that novel or thesis, losing the idea I've been gnawing away on that I might look again at career with the kids in school, consider the possibilities like an undergraduate, when grasped it and peered in, I saw a hard, lightless landscape, I saw slowly lifting one foot, then the other, forwards, towards the same. It was just bleak, a shade of ashen grey about 3 shades short of black.

It was a statement made with the same sense of certaintly I felt at that age, by now I would be everything I am and more, whatever more is, and perhaps most importantly of all I would have 'found it' and would be entirely sated by what it is that I put my energy into. Not only that, but money would be bouncing off my shoulder blades and as I straddled a perfect balance of material sufficiency and ethical purity. Saving the world, then recuperating on a ski field in Japan or a reef off the coast of Manado. As I write it the words are silly, the utopianism self-contradictory and absurd, yet it was a firm belief.

The young person, the sense of certainty, both are easy to put into perspective. But the words pierce my defences against a far broader sweep of pressures that are less passing, less easily ignored. From family, from Beloved, my kids and my own guilt, outwards.

Should I be mourning the 30s as the last time in my life I might have been entitled to do something radically different? Are the unfinished 8,500 word novel, the Masters that never turned into that Phd scholarship, the two writing jobs for which I got to second interview stage, the dream policy role that came at the wrong time, the artefacts of the final period of settlement on the rest of my life?

I have so much I am happy about. I know I should be grateful. I just don't know what I can tell my children, in complete honesty, it is all for. I know some of you have the answers, have passed this date by a while and will find the very notion here perplexing or even offensive. I hope so anyway, as I need to hear something that isn't from the maw of conservative late-30s career-life, a maw that presently has me in its teeth...

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Age of Divorce

There was a time of heightened marrying, and among those unmarried several equivalent partnerships. You know at the time that they can't all last, perhaps, in some cases, you already know they shouldn't.

Then there were children. Parenting is by necessity myopic and distorted, everything appears behind the lens of a world that so completely envelops your time and energy. You mingle by mutual interest: mother's groups switch everyone's attention to a group of others in the same place, and even within existing friends fathers seek each other out to compare notes, reassure, share an understood release over beer-soaked conversation from quarter to quarter.

Now a succession of separations and divorces. I should not overstate it, there are only 3 on my mind although a couple of other unions are clearly on the rocks. They all have small children. In at least 1, probably 2, it is a result I might have predicted if I were forced to lay down money back then. The couples, indeed the children, may be better off, and having brought wonderful children into the world through those unions there must be a caveat on any regret. In one case they are working well together to share responsibilities and avoiding vitriol.

None of which reduces the general melancholy I feel when I look across that landscape of friends and imagine the disappointments, the sense of failure most would feel, perhaps deep down the speculation - no doubt quickly suppressed out of guilt and love for their children - as to how things might have been different.

Happy photos now weigh heavily in albums, threatening to push through pages. Smiles seem strained, sunny beaches a prelude to storms. I want to hold mine close and never leave the afternoon in the back garden, grass, gently-clunking toys, Beloved with a handfull of snippings under the olive tree.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back to where Raquel came from...

What this show demonstrated more than anything else is what most refugee advocates have long believed: the hard line reflects a failure to empathise that reflects a failure to imagine.

Raquel copped it, but right from the start others riled me more. Surely those dishing out the vitriol in her direction could see at least some of the causes- a lousy education and modest circumstances (to put it mildly). Her racism was honest and refreshing in one sense; it is plainly not an uncommon view of the 'other' in this country but it is one furiously and aggressively denied. She said it, and said it simply and without malice. And as the show developed she made the most remarkable progress.

A couple of the others made far less sense in my view, having the benefit of more time in and understanding of the world. The homicidal hatred expressed by the ex-disability advocate was astounding.

But all of them improved markedly during the show. All showed capacity to reflect and learn. Which just sadly emphasises how far public opinion might shift if people were able to imagine their plight, and empathise. It casts light on the role of selective reporting as well. If each image of a boatload of Afghanis were accompanied by images of the Taliban hunting down schoolgirls it's not beyond hope to think that many people's reaction would be a little less hateful.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hard for a boy, it is

Mitts is struggling with life at 2. He has started being physically and verbally assertive (to put it mildly) and I am sure the collective weight of correction from both ourselves and others is getting him down. He can't get away with hitting or shoving. On the other hand with the bulk of his playmates being girls there is a tendency for him to be at the rougher end, noted as such by the parents of girls, without necessarily being the instigator. Part of learning is not to hit, part of learning is not to snatch or boss other kids about. And dare I say being hit by their friends when they try to wrestle a teddy away from them is one of the ways kids learn that they aren't an island. Which is to say that it ain't always his fault.

Still. He can't hit and we will keep making that clear. And there are a few ways he is testing ground, asserting himself, pushing boundaries, most of which need some curbing at the fringes. But perhaps we need to add some other carrot. I think a boy is sad and world-weary.

He held on today, as he now often does, at childcare. His chin slumped on my shoulder, yet his grip around me was firm. The new normal, before which he was better than fine and he'd adjusted well to childcare from the start. As with Bear who hurls herself in, loves her kinder teacher, and currently strikes a nice balance by waving to me from the window but then leaving to return to her friends before I have driven off.

Men have a lot of lessons to learn as they grow up. There are a lot of contradictions in those lessons. He will be baffled many times. My job may be to guide him through those lessons, teach him to be a decent man, but it is also to make sure the weight of contradictions and the size of the task of tackling life itself don't overwhelm him. At first, he needs love and reassurance. While keeping the rules firm, I need to find more ways to give him that love and reassurance.

And hang out throwing mud and stuff.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Breaking Sad

'Something's gotta give.'

So Beloved declared last night, as we found ourselves half-seriously considering a suggestion that we move to Cairns. She'd caught up with a friend who lives there, having moved from Brunei after her Aussie pilot husband explained that cheating was just part of the pilot lifestyle and shrugged.

The friend had offered to babysit, all the time, as she loves kids but is over the relationship game for a while, and frankly that's the best offer we've got on the table.

I've been a bit perkier lately, since starting a new job in which I'm well over my head but at least feel stimulated and surrounded by what seem to be *touch wood* nice people. I still talk to my father, though despite the great 'offence' he took last year, where I 'got him wrong' and mistook his words for criticism, he has since made several nasty attacks on my career (a topic I don't even discuss with him any more) and dug up his intense dislike of music with the suggestion that if I encourage it in the kids they'll wake up in a gutter somewhere with a needle hanging from their arms.

I'm attempting to keep him at arm's length without cutting him off completely, and the idea of counselling to find ways to deal with this is becoming attractive.

But Beloved is also disappointed. Her parents keep making excuses to find other things to do on their weekends, watch aeroplanes or dig garden beds or other priorities. They are choosing not to be a meaningful part of the kids' lives, and I think we are both still struggling with this.

My birth mum used to talk of moving to Melbourne. She has a great bond with Bear, and makes a great effort when we visit. If she came up, even for a couple of years, she could be part of their lives, and ours. But I know for a range of reasons this is improbable.

I think being wandering, independent types we probably underestimated the amount we would want family. Now we have kids, and see other families where everyone gathers around and is involved, even families where everyone is interstate where the effort, and enthusiasm, is on another level. I think also because they banged on for years about how much they'd like grandkids, we never imagined Beloved's mum choosing to potter in her Canberra house weekend after weekend, instead of spending the mortgage-free largess on a few 1 hour plane tickets to Melbourne. Or my mum choosing to stay in Bundaberg when my dad refused to come down for Christmas.

So. Why don't we move to them? Well, in the case of my birth family, in Hobart, I would have too much guilt, it could wreck the already uncertain relationship with my parents in Bundaberg. Unfortunate, as I get the sense we would get some support there. Parents in Bundaberg- my mum would try, but you don't have to read back far on this blog to get a sense of the ongoing poison that drips from my dad. Despite hints of caring and reflection coming through in recent times, as he works through the darkness of chemo. That might work well for years, only to have him tell Bear she needs to lose weight when she's 9 or something similarly in-character, whereupon I would probably do something that would risk my incarceration.

Beloved's dad and stepmum make a pretty good effort, when we're there, but apart from my concern that their love of money, expensive aeroplanes, cars and the like might rub off, they live in the middle of nowhere near a small, sad, violent town. Beloved enjoyed growing up there, but the ball might bounce differently next time around. And Canberra, her mum, sister, other family? I probably could have been tempted, but the ongoing mediocrity of interest shown by her mum has not only put that option to bed, but is slowly but surely pushing Beloved further and further away.

Perhaps, as it is for me and my dad, what was previously tolerable now just looks unpleasant in the light cast by small children.

We work, relentlessly. She works about 4 and a half days and gets paid for 3. Late night phone conferences are frequent. There are no breaks. We go out maybe 3 times a year together. Time with the kids is lovely, there is never enough. It is lost standing on crowded trains that are stuck, yet again, at Clifton Hill. We get up, we process the day, we flop into the couch, we sleep. Day after day, week after week.

I know you might say what people always say, what we already know, that we just need to get over it, stop expecting more from family, adjust. I know. We want to. It just isn't easy, the disappointment clings on hard.

Last night I watched a show about kids who are selectively mute. A granddad was taking so much time out to be with his granddaughter, taking her boating, chatting to her, patiently trying things until one day she speaks into a phone and leaves him a message. His eyes watered. So did mine. At him, his devotion and care.

So. Cairns? Adelaide? Volunteers Abroad on a small island? The UK?

Or just hang in there and hope it gets better, easier, one day...?

Something's got to give.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The not so Awesome Dancer...

So what exactly is disruptive misbehaviour in a 3 and a half year old?

Beloved and I are both feeling a bit thrown, well, quite upset, after getting bailed up by the teacher at Bear's dance class. She wasn't subtle. Bear doesn't always do what she's told, and when she [gets bored?] wanders off in a different direction or doesn't follow instructions properly, a couple of other kids (who I note approvingly must look up to her a little) do the same.

This particularly riled the teacher, who emphasised that because these other kids (who are Bear's friends from outside class) followed her, she was disrupting their learning.

Gutted. And not quite knowing in which direction to feel bad. Is Bear's behaviour, which is not loud or aggressive, age-inappropriate raucousness? We push child care to tell us if anything's up, but they've described her as generally obedient, patient, and a good sharer. This last point particularly comes out when we observe her with her other peers, and she seems to us to show mature conflict-resolution skills and tolerance.

Are we being those parents we don't want to be, who can't see that their precious little angel is really wild, undisciplined and in need of more discipline? If we aren't, perhaps someone (who teaches classes of much older kids as well) has a slightly impatient and even age-inappropriate attitude. Certainly the fact that she said

I don't want to shout at them, but...

twice, might have been telling. Because I wanted to reply 'great, I don't want to put a call in to the department administering your Working with Children Check'. But again- perhaps we're wrong, and 3 and a half year olds should know to remain tightly disciplined in dance classes.

Perhaps they should accept personal responsibility (or in lieu we, as their parents, should suck it up) if their own conduct leads others astray.

After all, Bear isn't 3 and a bit anymore, you've got to grow up sometime.

...

My childhood (and beyond), so much boredom, so much unfed creativity, so much annoying teachers with my inability to focus on their head-slapping repetition, all rushed into view. Bear already makes up songs, paints, loves to just get into an activity and explore. Are we letting her off the leash, setting her up for trouble? Should responsible parents get in and crush the dissent early so that their children have the best possible chance to thrive in school, being, per the Prussian model it evolved from, set up in much the same structured, one for all, way?

Kids are full of so much creativity and joy. Looking around, at the way we become as adults, I suppose it's not surprising we try to crush it out of them early.

Age appropriate kid versus impatient teacher, or feckless fawning parents? Certainly this will preoccupy Beloved and I for several wine-fuelled chats on the couch...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Media outrage at slight glimpse of human error

The incident involving Conrad French approaching Abbott in a pair of speedos embodies everything that is wrong with politics, and the under-educated over-powerful media that shapes it, in this country.

My hyperbole? Let's take a deep breath and have a look.

A labor staffer- so for the first bit of perspective, not an elected member (just an underdressed member, but I digress), likely to be on a pretty average salary and to work very hard for it- pulls off a stunt that:

* shows a lapse of judgement in the current political environment, and given his position;

* would have made complete sense otherwise, given Abbott's history, as a minor, inoffensive, non-aggressive (he desisted pretty much immediately) prank.

Wait, let's use some caps here: A MEMBER OF THE POLITICAL CLASS FELL OFF MESSAGE AND ACTED HUMAN FOR 30 SECONDS!

That's it. Abbott laughs it off. Brandis agrees it's not that big a deal. Yet according to The Age Gillard is under pressure to sack him.

Sack him. Take away his job and career. For wearing speedos.

'Under pressure' from whom? The media. This kind of tawdry, senseless scandalisation of the unremarkable is what we have come to expect as normal. It doesn't seem odd that there is 'pressure' to sack someone, for running in a pair of budgie smugglers.

[As an aside I think everyone who wears them should be subject to some cruel and unusual punishment, however this should not be meted out arbitrarily in this case!]

I have met Conrad. He seemed fine, he works hard for that party which I was a member of. I don't have any special attachment to him though and I'm not writing this out of bias- he's part of the machine that ultimately let me down.

But I've chosen to comment on this as I think it's a great glaring paradox of our system that we, and the media, rabbit on about wanting human beings in politics, then any time there's a minor slip off the company prompt card the hysteria is deafening.

He'll be dwelling on his embarrassment, and nurturing that awkward sense that this will be used against him for years to come. Only the media cares, because if he isn't sacked then the scandle-cycle hasn't worked properly, and they miss an additional news story.

Monkeys. Go find some other peanuts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Child Bigotry Double Standard

So Pleb A is standing there at work, chatting to Pleb B. Pleb B pulls out their phone and says:



"Hey Pleb A, I want to show you a pic of me hanging out with my bandmate, here's us with guitars grinning at the camera."


Pleb A looks then pulls away quickly.



"I'm not into black people. Nothing personal, I don't have anything against them, and yours is an ok one I'm sure, but I just don't like them myself, prefer not to see pictures of them."


So the other day a workmate I really get along well with does precisely this, but in respect of a picture of my kids. I don't send these things around every other day, it was in fact the first time in several weeks of working together that I waved such an image in her general direction. (acknowledging that there can be overkill in this department, and that sometimes the kid-waving thing can be insensitive...)

I just don't get the 'thing' about not liking kids. Different to not liking some, particularly badly behaved kids, or even not liking kids in cafes or some other more particular circumstance. This is just the whole 'I don't like kids at all' thing. Even when I was younger, in my 20s, dating and drinking and whatnot, I didn't have, or get, this particular dislike.

Each to their own I guess, and I do have a couple of friends who fit this description but are civil and tolerant. That's a fair enough compromise, we can be mates and not take the matter further.

But I really struggle with the situation where someone treats even a glimpse of a photo as if they're being asked to put fire ants up their nostrils.

Bearing in mind I'm psychotically protective of my kids, and view them as an absolutely indistinguishable part of who I am, it throws up a bit of a barrier to a better friendship.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Aker's not homophobic but...

"Some footballers think there's something wrong with people, they have some kind of disease."

Some people think there's something wrong with footballers, they have some kind of retardation.

We know there are dumb bigots, racists, and people who can't understand what's wrong with s3xual assault in footy. Sometime in the past decade or so most people who haven't fallen on their small heads coming out of a particularly high mark came to the realisation that this isn't a good thing...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Abbott caught with insufficient art...

Despite ending my Labor membership, I certainly don't like Abbott one iota, and I should still be taking visceral pleasure in his squirming discomfort on the subject of the truth.

I am certainly happy that he is in trouble. He is undoubtedly from a dark, wet place in the dungeons of the far right that I do not want to see anywhere near the reins of power. I enjoyed watching last night (and if I enjoyed it, Kerry looked like he was being given a small country for Christmas).

It would just be a lot more enjoyable if it reflected a deep, ethical adherence to the truth among both the political classes and the fourth estate. If his opponent were spotless, and 100% reliable in his word. If people actually, really, gave a toss.

It's just ironic that Abbott may suffer damage for being relatively artless about that which is usually practised through more sophisticated craft...

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Leaving Labor

Done. And it hurts a bit.

Done without vitriol, just disappointment.

Done without joining the competition, without any clear home for my politics. A centre-left secular humanist, with liberal tendencies restrained by some cynicism towards the market, lacking attachment to unions, per se. There is no home for me in Australian politics.

Done, taking me back to the mid-1990s, when my friend at university was campaigning for a seat, and I joined his campaign, then his party and faction. They were the 'moderates', a uniquely NT mish-mash of right and centre, pragmatic at a time when that seemed more acceptable. Decades of corrupt, hard-right rule by the Country Liberal Party made any compromise acceptable back then. And in the NT you didn't have to be part of a key union, large 'labor family', or other inside player in order to get involved. Membership meant real involvement, meeting the players, having a substantive say.

Done for a vow, one that was never clear in the execution. It involved dumping on refugees, a 'never again' following the Tampa capitulation. Yet I'm a centrist, I understand that my views aren't those of the people in the marginals and I do accept compromise. I didn't expect utopia- indeed, I can see that at some point refugee numbers could need restraint, and that decisions must be made that leave some people, whose lives aren't that great, on the wrong side of an application. I grumbled through a few 'toughening' steps, and kept the faith. But when it became arbitrary and irrational I knew the line had been crossed.

Done during the Great Rudd ALP principles-dump. A decision was made to dump a succession of ideals, to clear the decks for a debate on the economy and perhaps health, backed no doubt by some IR scare campaigning. The decision involved taking people like me - let along substantial numbers of party members well to my left - for granted. That taking-for-granted is pretty much standard operating procedure in Labor, based on a perceived need to pander elsewhere for crucial marginal seats. But taking several huge hits in succession just made my post-Tampa vow all the easier to keep.

Done during my year of clearing the decks. I haven't ruled out trying to re-join in the future if things improve. But the way forward is now hazy, in a year where I'm trying to stocktake the things I put energy into, to prioritise, to work out how I can do something worthwhile with my life.

Done to relieve the cognitive dissonance. I'm pretty straight-talking, the eternal compromise is always very unsettling.

Done because the one issue on which the ALP is genuinely left of centre- the continued influence of the unions- is not really my issue. Partly due to that issue and the influence of a couple of huge unions in particular, the party is pretty much as conservative as the Liberals when it comes to social liberalism and the continued comingling of church and state in this country. Those, by contrast, are my issues.

Done because the ALP are dumb on foreign policy. No better way to put it, it's a lack of knowledge and competence. On balance I will agree with more of their positions, but viewed objectively the Liberals actually seem to have more people who know what they are talking about. Who read books and stuff, even if they aren't books I agree with. This is a big area for me, miniscule as it is for the electorate, and I find the directionless floundering under Rudd's stewardship (let's face it, Smith is a patsy in this portfolio) highly frustrating. Ultimately I'd like to see us revisit our brainless sycophancy and flag-waving militarism, to find a completely new settlement with our place in the world as a small-to-medium power with quite different policy needs from either the US or UK. I'm tired of our foreign policy being resolved on bases that a year 10 student could rip apart. Which leads to...

Done because I believe in good policy. Policy I don't agree with is one thing, but policy I don't agree with that was hatched without, or against the prevailing analysis, simply on poll-driven impulse, is just an ongoing offence to our nation and polity. I really do think I believe that it would be better for the party to formulate some strong positions it genuinely believes in, that are backed by evidence, and to fight for those at the hustings. To just dump all perceived risks and run on the smallest of differentiations is to rob the people of their choice.

Done because, unlike many hard-wired members of political parties of all persuasions, I really do believe that the nation, and the policies, are more important than the -any- party.

Done.

Friday, April 23, 2010

We need to talk about Kevin... Kate Ellis... Labor...

An explosion of ethical and bad policy misfires may not of itself damage voting prospects, but it is giving me palpitations in membership renewal month.

Kate Ellis has proved (who would ever have thought?) that being young and the 'sexiest politician' or somecrap doesn't actually make you good at the helm of national policy. The astonishing broken child care promise is yet more evidence of why not everything should be run from Canberra. Oh, you have stats that show vacancies do you, somewhere out in the nation? How about coming down into the suburbs and finding them so that people like Priscilla Davies can go to work:

The Clifton Hill woman is on the waiting list for five centres, but has been told to expect an 18-month wait, which has forced her to abandon her plans to return to work in June.

18 MONTHS NO WAY YOU LIE
, Kate Ellis must be saying. Except, funnily enough, that's the same wait time in most of the surrounding suburbs as well. Including ours.

Good Labor outcome, Kate.

What else is news? Well down in Victoria we don't need a Royal Commission. In case the fact that a gangland boss can be killed while in almost-complete isolation under video surveillance in maximum security when he was a known hit target etcetera, etcetera, got you a bit concerned. Now you know, it is ALL RIGHT.

He denied he wanted to hide anything, and suggested ''greedy leftie lawyers'' were pushing the issue.

Greedy leftie lawyers.

Well, one can understand Brumby's point. After all if you were a very powerful person you might not want your supporters, funders or associates exposed to a greedy leftie lawyer. Just think what Saturday dinner gatherings they might have omitted to mention.

Covered the asylum backflip/kowtow already. Here's hoping this appeal manages to tap some of the judicial clawback embodied in the recent High Court decision of Kirk. Better yet, how about a declaration from that Court to the effect that there can be no ouster of jurisdiction on any land (sea or air) over which Australia claims sovereignty? A little bit of rule of law can only scare people who like breaking it.

Speaking of which, elsewhere human rights have been dumped. Someone, somewhere, felt threatened. And teachers need to shut up now they've been given laptops. And Kev is still proud that he's officially the worst employer in the nation.

No irony, that's the thing I'm getting from all this. Never mind the ethics, or the lustful adoption of policy-based evidence making, there's no sense of irony. No shame.

Damn. So disappointing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rudd's Reffo Bashing Redux

This isn't a post about policy. Not directly, not in the sense of asking the same questions about why this tiny number of desperate people are such favoured scapegoats for poor government, insecurity, and the self-evident failings of our education system. That's just too frustrating, coming as it does at the end of a minor-thesis-writing process that involved, in part, exploring the irrationality of so many Australians, the left as well as the right, towards the region, people in boats, the usual themes that have been used to de-secure life on an apparently vast and remote continent for well over 100 years. Prodeo's onto it, anyway.

No, this is a post about the meaning of 'never again', a mantra so many in the ALP, such as myself, hoped would prove true following the humiliating nonsense of Tampa. Some left back then, joining the Greens or retiring from political involvement altogether, while others such as myself sucked up the bad realpolitik and thought 'well, this has been a particularly nasty period in Australian history, but perhaps once the poor-bugger-me set have had their little vent, and the aftermath of 11/9 has settled, we can reach saner ground on this issue.' Quietly we waited, watching things improve a little, trusting in people's decency and empathy to slowly eat away at the policies. And for a while it appeared things had changed. Not remarkably, but perhaps enough to remove reffo-baiting (nonsensically known as 'border security', as if there were any threat whatsoever to the integrity of the border, as such) from the prime issue tray.

We were wrong. Abbott, the great prodigy of St Ignatius Riverview, my alma mater, with its Ignatian slogan Men For Others...

...The term has come to mean that if one person graduates from a Jesuit school lacking a sense of social justice, the school has not achieved its primary mission...

...has ramped up the hatred for the Samaritans, and in response Kevin Rudd- not desperately trying to get elected like Beasley, in fact from a position of notable political strength, has screamed 'ME TOO!'

Pathetic. And palpably dishonest. Any idiot who follows international affairs knows neither Afghanistan nor Sri Lanka has demonstrated any improvement in respect of the treatment of its vilified minorities. In Sri Lanka's case it's a bit like claiming that the Tutsis were safe once the Hutus had successfully taken power (or indeed, as the worm turned back, the other way around). But in any event that is a moot point, because if people cannot show the requisite risk of persecution then the process, stacked against them to begin with, should weed that out. The fact that Rudd has suspended the process demonstrates complete lack of confidence in the very argument he is asserting.

So where does this leave the 'never again' contingent? Did I in fact vow to leave the party if it ever stooped that low again? Perhaps assuming it couldn't possibly do so twice, that last time was the result of a particularly bad confluence of events and the sheer surprise factor of Tampa...?

Bizarrely, I'm to the right of many in Labor, at least theoretically. But I found myself arguing with a comrade at the last branch meeting I went to, she was from the left, and she was running the old 'better off than the other side' line I've run so often, and I found myself really struggling with it. Labor has been better, pound-for-pound, than the Howard Liberals, but is that the test we should be applying? There is another test, the opportunity-cost test, one I've often held the Greens up to. It goes a little like:

If there wasn't an ALP, in its present form, dominated by unions and factions, controlling the space it does, obtaining consent from the likes of us, what else could there be?

Or- is the only choice we have a choice between two social conservatives, with a hard left party sniping away from one side and some illiterate nutballs hurling bibles from the other?

If everyone who doesn't like the status quo just rolls with it, and accepts the apologia articulated by my comrade, will it ever improve?

Do I roll out my credit card again before May, keep up the membership, hope for something better if we win again? Wasn't that the hope the first time around?

Would I do more good dumping this policy shebang and going back to law, finding a way to a spot where I'm fighting tooth and nail to at least achieve some small wins for people who are getting screwed over?

Will we ever, ever, get over the fact that we're Girt by Sea?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lentil As Anything gets a pink slip of thanks

Abbotsford Convent pushing out Lentil as Anything. Wanting to get more rent. Is this all there is to it? Is a place that, as I understand it, lives on public benevolence for vaguely articulated notions of the wider good, going to shaft one of the most respected and original businesses in Australia, one that gives so much back by skilling up welfare recipients and refugees, so it can rake in some more moolah?

Is there more to it? Some hitherto undisclosed dispute?

If not I'm appalled. Why don't we just take the whole damn complex, sitting as it does in prime DINKy million dollar real estate land, give it to a developer with a mandate to go up 15 stories, and let the market completely speak for itself? If that's all it comes down to.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What sort of hiatus is this?

I don't know. It's like Murphy's law, you make a call you've been building up to for months, bereft of inspiration, then suddenly the blogwaters break.

A little.

I don't know. I do know I'm particularly bad at this whole 'stop blogging', 'stop this blog', 'start a different blog to discuss X' thing. It's probably a certifiable condition under the DSM, but at least I'm not putting anyone in mortal danger.

Damn.

Blast.

Nang.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Memo to the Net: 5 years worth of thoughts on blogging and life... A post-script in assorted figments...

I've fallen into hiatus again. It may be the last time. This may be the last post, sans bugle.

Sometimes its nice to vent and talk for a moment about life. Sometimes its nice to live in the moment. Sometimes there aren't enough moments.

You can't do it all on one blog. Funny doesn't want to read dry, dry doesn't want to read teary. You can't help but care.

It's hard getting too close to a movement you aren't part of.

Being flamed by the other side is unpleasant, slightly. Being flamed by your own is sickening, it turns your world on its head, makes you wonder why you have found common political ground with someone like that.

I started poliblogging 5 years ago with a firm belief that my side of politics held most of the decent people. I now hold the firm belief that it holds a marginal majority of decent people. I have come to be suspicious of extremes, I like the line that joins the yin and the yang.

You can't capture the emotions of parenting on a blog, not fully. It's an experience best enjoyed in person.

Men and women, even those who are trying hard, are still a long way from understanding each other. It is worth the effort, but there is still a long way to go. Very few people are really trying to understand the other.

Debates about music and sport are pointless, logically. They can, however, be a great test of the character of both yourself and those you think you respect.

A room full of bloggers is a study in asymetry and disjunct. It is also a guaranteed source of excellent conversation.

Keeping confidences can be hard. When someone has coffee with you and talks about how they're considering joining either Party A or Party B, then joins the latter and within weeks starts virulently attacking Party A and all of its supporters on their high profile blog, you don't break the confidence. But its frustrating, and you learn about the nuance that underpins so much polemic.

The more people you tell, the less you can write about. Anonymity is the friend of fine personal blogging (see my first 10 or so posts...).

Before LOLCATS was big, I gave you Chairman Mao, don't forget it.

An idiotic blog about a talking cat is an amazingly popular idea. A talking cat is a very funny, and telling, way to discover that some of your favourite threads are populated by people with an irony bypass.

It was also my wife's favourite.

A post about a 60 year old bodybuilder will attract daily visits from people who have searched for 60 year old bodybuilders on Google. It will prove to be the post with the longest tail. You will find yourself wondering at the meaning of life. (redux, perhaps?)

The kids are doing fine, thank you. Mitts is walking around holding on to things, taking steps, and Bear is jumping, painting, helping me water our new mini herb garden and still taking no prisoners. Beloved is back at work, enjoying the return to adult interaction. Minh and Mao are enjoying the new house and the greatly increased time spent outside.

I'm on tolerably better terms with my father, and with myself in respect of my father. In his own, emotionally retarded ways, he's been making small efforts. He still isn't being a proper grandfather, but perhaps the worst interpretations I started to put on his actions were excessive. I hope so, disappointed as I am.

Being a parent is complex. Try to listen to the narrative of the person, allow that to sit apart from the narrative you've adopted. For my part, I'm tired of existing narratives. All of them.

The second hardest thing to capture in a post is raw emotion. The hardest is humour.

It will be reasonable to call for an end to anonymous blogging when it is illegal to hold anything a person has said on a blog against them in a place of work. When you see pigs fly, let me know.

I have learned about mutuality and ethics. I learned not to flame, as I don't like being flamed. Something my mummy said about doing unto others springs to mind.

In this and other things I believe blogging has made me a more thoughtful person.

Blogging is often more like talking than the kind of writing we associate with articles and books. The world does not understand this.

As large group and corporate blogs take over the 'sphere, I reflect that the art of the editor, now much maligned, was always at least as important as the art of the writer.

Writing posts is quite easy. It can be done efficiently and balanced with a decent workload. What drains your energy and time is going back to comment threads to see what people are saying about your last assertion.

Godwin's Law is a crock, designed to allow history to repeat itself. It is based on the negligent conflation of two distinct acts: asserting equivalence and drawing analogy. If you see people cracking down on dissent, or touting racial nationalism, or calling for war at the drop of a hat, history is there to remind us of why we find these things so repugnant.

Feed readers, facebook and twitter have all been invented in the time I've been blogging. What does this say about a policy focussed on teaching primary school kids to use laptops?

When I was in primary school, Ataris had just been invented. I wish I'd learned to work one of those Ataris inside out, I'd have been so much better off when I hit the workforce in the late '90s.

People have given me some touching and profound advice on this blog, and shared the most personal and instructive experiences. Thank you, I am grateful. This has been a highlight.

Once you start keeping 'a record', such as things your kids are doing, a blog can become a source of incredible guilt if you are not diligent and thorough.

Long posts that talk about all sorts of unrelated crap are rarely read. I know.

Part of the reason for previous blogging resurrections was a sense of wanting to reconnect with my online peeps. Facebook has now been invented, there was always email. Mine's armagny [atsymbol] gmail DOT com.

The answer to that is, I don't know, maybe.

Work is hard to find satisfying once you've turned down 2 or more opportunities to do jobs you'd prefer. Even if they were on less pay, or in Canberra.

The Oz Blogosphere is ostensibly saturated. But there are major topics that are all but ignored. I'm not sure why, or whether there is value in exploring them, but I do think there is still room for more, well-placed, writings.

Ditto political parties. On a left-right axis the space is largely filled. On a more nuanced, multi-axis analysis, there are some large empty spaces, and they sit surprisingly close to the middle ground.

Australia is an inherently conservative country, and the likes of Tony Abbott or Barnaby Joyce should be treated with the respect that you'd give to a Taipan in a sleeping bag.

Like music, and probably other creative arts I know less about, writing can sap your emotions as much as it can buoy them.

Child hatred is as common as doting parental blogging. Sometimes, when I'm reading some bigot's rant about prams in cafes or pregnant women, I wonder "Do they vote the way I do?" I hope not, but the thought is troubling and not easy to dislodge.

A way to test the true mettle of your favourite bloggers is to experiment by joining in the same old threads under a different ID. See who treats you like an outsider, see the snobbery and exclusion embraced by some of your favourite blogerati. It can feel like the sandpit all over again.

All good posts must come to an end. So must messy, tatty, incoherent ones.

So must messy, tatty, incoherent blogs. I have, after all, given you an engagement, a wedding, 2 cats, 2 kids, and an outstanding reason to explore old Brandy.

Back to hiatus, perhaps not for long, perhaps for ever.

Love yaz all.

A.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Institutional Care - stuff we still do

Watching ABC2 this morning brought out historical experiences involving trauma, separated families and socially-endorsed institutionalisation. It was very moving. So were the stories from the people who experienced that in the past.

The earnest voices talked, with grave condemnation dripping from every word, of a time when children would be removed from home and placed in institutional or foster care, not because they were being raped or bashed by their parents, but because dysfunction or socioeconomic circumstances meant they weren't able to take care of their kids. We didn't have the same social welfare back then, they said.

I thought 'What, 5 years ago?' And did it really get better under the dying days of Howard as the pressure on the unemployed, single parents and the disabled was ramped up exponentially? Because I've encountered, for example, a situation where the only thing preventing a child from being with their family was the need for a particular support (for example drug and alcohol monitoring, or anger management counselling), but because of a waiting list or some other funding-related obstacle that support was not available, and so a child, a vulnerable, developing child, was removed or kept out of their family home.

We've all observed (or quietly looked the other way as it occurred, the natural consequence of hard nosed policies endorsed by the polity at the ballot box) the state going hell for leather to recover debts incurred accidentally by poor people who are supporting children- that is, to be clear, hauling those debt amounts out of the meagre budgets that would otherwise put food in kids' mouths.

The link between poverty, dysfuction and the state removing children is still alive and well. Choices, based on considerations ranging from budget priorities to voter-friendly headlines, are still made to the detriment of the individual family as a coherent entity. Or to the detriment of the 'best interests of the child'.

The story also included footage and discussion of these poor institutionalised kids being forced to march, decked out in military gear. Awful, said the tone of the announcers. Well, it seems it's horrific if decades ago they were doing that to orphans and wards of the state. It's not horrific if a kid today is sent to boarding school, or enrolled in cadets and taught to march and fire weapons, that's different because they have a choice. Their parents might make it for them, and they might do so under illusions created by fallacious notions and glossy brochures, but they are somehow part of a 'choice' that distinguishes them from other institutionalised kids.

We're so much better today, aren't we? I don't even need to get started on asylum kids, those queue-jumping ratbags aren't worthy of empathy until they have permanent residency.

Sure, things are better. Even between when I went to school and got the cane for being punched in the head, or for not making my bed in time, and the present, there has been notable improvement. But with such ritual distancing of the past as we are seeing today, we seem to be saying we're now civilised, that such things can't happen today.

Which is utter crap.

Update: Senator Fielding reveals his own abuse at the hands of a scoutmaster. There are not many times when I'm going to give him credit, but I think discussing this would be extremely painful and humiliating for him and he's brave for bringing it up.