Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A space for us all

Image: Niagara

OK.  It was bound to happen sooner or later in this blog.  This post comes with a *curmudgeon* warning.  In some ways I'm surprised it hasn't surfaced sooner.  So here goes...

On friday night  Peter and I went to a gig at the Forum in Melbourne.  It's one of my favourite places to watch bands.  It always feels special because the theatre itself is so beautiful.  We got their early and lined up outside waiting for the doors to open.  Upon which we staked our spot.  We bumped into friends and watched the first two band as part of the happy throng.  The vibe was great and people around us were chatting away, excitedly waiting for the main band.  Then, all elbows and bad manners a group of twenty-somethings pushed passed us to get closer.  When Peter remonstrated, a young girl yelled back at him 'I paid for my ticket just the same as you'.  This group proceeded to sway and sing along, however they also kept elbowing me, oblivious to the fact they were touching another person.  The 6 foot tall couple in front of me start making out, which meant they completely blocked my 5 foot 4 view of the stage.  I ask you - why pay $70 for a ticket just to suck face?  Watch the fucking band or move to the back.  I was staggered at this groups lack of self awareness.  They had no idea how they were impacting on everyone around them.

A guy next to Peter leant over explaining that in a crowded band setting "everyone is somebody's cunt".  Yes, perhaps we all are.  As much as they pissed us off, perhaps we were 'those' people to someone else.  And as easy as it would be to start a 'young people today' rant the reality is it's always been the same.  As I've mentioned before, I've had my shoes stuck to the sticky carpets of Melbourne's pubs since I was 16.  There is one etiquette for most of us, and then those pushy arseholes who spend their time at the bar, rock up late and push the fans who have been glued to the spot for 3 hours out of the way.  When I was in my 20s there were annoying cunts, and now I'm in my 40's those people still exist.

On sunday we were driving into town down Sydney Road.  It's a defensive driving course on the best of days and juggles lots of cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians.  We were stopped at the front of the lights with a row of cyclists next to us.  A young blonde lycra clad girl sailed past the line of fellow cyclists and parked herself in front of my car.  Lights change, and of course not even a drug fuelled Lance Armstrong could take off with the speed of a car.  I had to swing to get around her.  Again, Peter remonstrated saying 'Get in the bike lane!'  We were met with the roar back of 'Get out of your fucking car you hero!'  Now, my ex was a cyclist and you can't drive around the inner city without encountering bikes. I'm really super cautious and check my mirrors and give way to the two wheelers.  However, I'm sure if I had been driving in the bike lane lycra girl would have been apoplectic with rage.  And rightly so.  So if she's cycling in front of my car why shouldn't I be pissed off?  I get angry when I see motorcyclists and people on scooters (scooterists?) in the bike lane I wish there was a cop around to point out that if it has an engine it should be with the rest of the traffic.  For everyone's safety we have allocated space on a shared road.

So my question is this: what ever happened to self awareness...and why can't some people see how they affect others?  Are we SO blinded by our own sense of entitlement and self importance?  If we all adhere to the spacial etiquette most of us live by, there would be space for everyone.  There are just some people spoiling it for everyone.

I caught up recently with a friend who's spent weeks driving across America.  I asked about the traffic, and he said even in New York everyone was polite.  I was reminded of my travels through the U.K.  I loved how people made eye contact in narrow hedge rowed laneways, or truck drivers flashed their headlights on the motorway to signal they were giving you space to merge.  I quickly learnt the click of the hazard lights to reply 'thank you'.  I was gobsmacked that the jam packed roads were full of politeness.  It seems to be a similar story in the States.  So what's up this us?

Where does our sense of entitlement at the cost of others come from?  Why haven't we learnt to share and play nicely with the other kids?  This made me contemplate how Australia deals with asylum seekers and immigration.  The racist element of our community take the 'fuck off we're full' approach.  While many of us appreciate the amazing influence of multiculturalism and embrace diversity - particularly if it helps protect vulnerable people.

Something has gone wrong somewhere.  The pushy 'me first' attitude does not serve us well.  Maybe it's my cranky forty-something-self despairing at the state of the world.  But as I said, there have always been pushy arseholes, and perhaps we are all someone else's cunt.  But maybe if we stopped for a moment and looked at the people around us, there would be space for us all.

Enjoy a Neutral Milk Hotel song on me.  Thanks Peter for introducing me to them and for taking me to the Forum.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Are we still having the same conversation?

I left for work the other morning and began a very telling conversation.  Our body corporate hires someone to look after basic maintenance around the apartments.  His name is Alan and he's an elderly Sri Lankan gent.  We always talk about gardening, as we have a vegie planter in the front yard.  But this day the conversation steered somewhere new.  Into politics.  I held my breath, as Alan complained about the government and I smiled, relieved.  He said as he's gotten older he's gotten more radical in his thinking.  I beamed at Alan.  What a legend.

It seems sometimes that it's a sin to be passionate, particularly about the state of the world.  Apathy runs deep and recently after Russell Brand's youtube hit, despondency runs deeper.  Many people feel like it's a choice between one bunch of lying spin doctors or another.  Where is the choice?  Perhaps this is why small community groups and online petition sites are taking matters into the publics hands.

On saturday night I saw The Beast at the MTC.  It's a biting satire poking jibes at the new middle class, having 'tree changes', being organic, sustainable and seeking to live an 'authentic' life.  Whatever the fuck that is.  These people, rather than yearning to reduce their footprint seem to live this lifestyle only to be 'on trend' with Epicure and for bragging rites and moral superiority. During the play they slaughter a calf (albeit a spookily real puppet) and the blood splattering horror of killing something is shown to all who watch.  This part left me speechless.  The characters moral compass is questioned constantly, highlighted when one wife is outraged more by her husband hiding the fact he's still smoking, rather than the fact he was shipwrecked and killed and ate another human.  The finger pointing is complete.  Where are our priorities?

It was also the week of the Melbourne Cup.  For all the talk of fashions on the field, and a great sunny public holiday the reality of the day was lost on many.  A horse was killed during the race but many news outlets didn't even mention what had happened.  For the sake of betting, and spoiling everyone's public holiday it was kept out of the footage.  However, good old social media fought back with outrage, and this video showing horses being shot in the head spread fast.  The reality of 'wastage' in the racing industry.

Sunday was World Vegan Day and there's a big event in Melbourne.  I've been vegetarian since I was 14.  So that means for 29 years I've not eaten meat of any kind.  I remember when I turned vego there was nothing in supermarkets for us.  Tofu wasn't on my radar yet, but Mum helped me make lentil burgers which I lived off and we bought new cook books to learn more.  At heart being vego is the easiest thing in the word for me.  It's who I am.  I'm not vegan, but I admire their dedication to living a kinder life and I hope to expand my culinary horizons to include more of this type of food.  As I walked around the event there were fair trade shoes and clothes, cruelty free make up, and lots of food products. Including the most amazing and delicious cupcakes from My Nice Guy Bakeshop (go the Peanut butter cup if you can).

But one area had information stalls and lots of petitions to sign.  Ban live exports, ban jumps racing, ban vivisection, ban Beagles being used in labs, save the orangutans, stop the sale of dog meat, stop whaling... on it went.  Stall after stall.  I stood there, saddened.  I stood looking at all the passionate and compassionate people trying to make a difference.  I love them for it.  But how are we still having these conversations?  I wrote a paper in high school about the use of animals in experiments.  It seemed like it would only be a matter of years before we would no longer need to torture, poison or harm animals for our benefit.  But here I am, 26 years later watching people still striving to get it banned.

It reminds me a little of a Doctor Who episode about a star whale.  As the world was ending a star whale came and was trapped by humans who built their city on it's back.  It flies through space having it's brain electric shocked to keep going.  The humans are convinced that if they stop shocking it the world will end, as the shocks keeps the star whale under control.  If they bother to look beneath the surface they are faced with a choice, remember and end the world or forget and keep torturing the whale. But Amy realises this isn't true.  She stops the shocks and the star whale continues to fly at greater speed helping it's human cargo.

I don't know why we choose to keep hitting the forget button.  We cry about disinterest and despondency, but don't want to face the hard truth.  We could live kinder lives and realise the true impact of what we eat and wear.  But many people turn away and worry about less important things.  I hope I'm like Alan.  I hope I get more radical as I get older.  I hope I'm like the passionate and compassionate people I saw on sunday.  But most of all, I hope one day I won't have to any more.  That we will change.  If we bother to look.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Well.  It has taken five years, but I have finally finished.  I have spent a lot of the last few years juggling.  Life, work and study.  But it has come to an end.  Last night I got my final assignment back for uni and I passed.  I will have a degree and I can graduate.  It's actually still sinking in.  Five years creates a very ingrained habit and mindset.

Before it finished I was beginning to look backwards.  Thinking about where I was and who I was when I began.  I feel very far from that person now.  I was living another life with a partner of 13 years, in a house we'd lived in for about 5 years.  But within six months of starting the degree it all changed.  I ended the relationship and then spent the next 18 months trying to unravel that life legally and financially.  It was not a great time.  I also started a new relationship...and a year later got married.  We house hunted for about 12 months and eventually found somewhere of our own.  Peter and I had a long distance relationship, even after the wedding until the day he lost his job and was made redundant.  We have both had anxiety and depression in different amounts and over differing periods.  We've faced financial strains and emotional hardship.  Then my Dad died.  And through all of this I have kept working full time and studying part time.

It feels in many ways like I've run a marathon...with the occasional steeple chase thrown in.  Looking back, I don't know how I did it.  But I also know that there were times that I cried my heart out at how hard life can be.  The type of primal crying that comes from somewhere deep inside.  But here I am at the finish line.

I am the first person in my family to get a degree.  I was so unsure of what I was doing when I started.  So insecure about myself.  And although there are some things I'm still a little fuzzy on, I have more confidence now when it comes to writing and speaking my mind.  It has changed how I see myself.  I know I can do things now.  Interestingly this blog has helped me find a voice and a writing style.  I think when I began to mix my own writing with essay writing my marks got better.  I learnt to be myself and perhaps more importantly - back myself.  I guess I have learnt that I can think and write and just keep going.  I've never thought of myself as disciplined, but studying via distance on your own, you have to be.

I was talking today with a work friend about how I was a quiet kid at school.  I sat and hid behind my fringe and never wanted the teacher to ask me anything.  ANYTHING.  How utterly terrifying.  I never wagged school, except for one class where I hadn't finished my homework.  I think I hid in the library! And perhaps I nicked off early one day with a friend.  So perhaps I've always been the conscientious nerd who learnt to just keep going.

I plan to give myself 12 months off before thinking about more study.  I don't have huge academic aspirations, but I think I can go a little bit further.  I guess I feel after the journey of the last few years I owe it to myself.  Hopefully it will be just a little further meander in my journey.

I'm sure this will sink in.  Perhaps it will take the silly cap and gown to make it seem real.  But for those of you tuning in online or those dear friends who have witnessed the journey I want to say thank you.  At times when it did seem too hard your kind words of encouragement put a smile on my face and helped me know I was not alone.  Like many big journeys there is a support crew and you have been mine.  So now I get to plan the pilgrimage to my interstate uni for graduation.  I promise to post a picture.

Thanks again.