harm

Moment Of Impact

Last night those dearest to me were in an accident. I was home making toast and cups of tea awaiting their arrival. When they didn’t arrive, I wondered if I should eat the toast. Then a call to say ‘we’ve been in an accident’ the next few moments seemed to last forever as I heard the words ‘we are ok’. Relief instantly overwhelmed me followed by anger and frustration.

Why are humans still in control of vehicles? I think once transport is fully automated then human ego’s will no longer kill others with wheels of mass destruction. Problem is we are attached to the idea that we – with our limited reaction times, varying degrees of visual acuity and general sense of entitlement and selfishness – should not give up our right to injure and kill others trying to move themselves around.

That’s what road deaths are – death by transportation is utterly ridiculous. To spend more money and resources to improve ways to do this is even more insane. I wonder if in 200 years we will look back on this era of obsession with cars like we might on the era of medicine where bloodletting and trepanning were acceptable.

Well, come to think of it many politicians do seem to talk like they have a hole in their head. Maybe trepanning is making a come-back after all. Or they have found a way to recycle crash test dummies.

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Plastic not so fantastic

Petroleum products have not been around for long but they have certainly had an impact on our lives and the environment. Our love affair with hydrocarbons has spawned all sorts of useful things including my favourite – polyurethane wheels for skate boards. The 70’s saw the explosion of plastic inventions including Tupperwear and cling wrap or ‘glad wrap’ (aptly named for the time). I remember my Dad keenly wrapping everything in my lunch box so much so that completing a rubix cube might have been easier to solve than how to get into my sandwiches. These days almost everything comes wrapped in some form of plastic. Sometimes I want to laugh hysterically, don a balaclava and run into a fruit and vege shop with a craft knife and free all cucumbers and cauliflower that are suffocating in PVC condoms and polystyrene.

The relationship with this stuff needs to change. We need to break it off as a species and get honest with the cost – not the monetary value or economic impact – the cost to nature. I’m not sure if you have tried enjoying a walk on the beach recently but I don’t so much as enjoy it anymore as find myself picking up bits of bags, pegs, corks, nylon, and ‘sad wrap’. There is a bit of an addiction to problem-solution thinking as well. Yes we need to clean up the environment but it’s become a trend to find novel ways to use waste creatively or find ways to recruit nature to help do the cleaning up. One of the current ideas is that mealworms are the answer – they can eat polystyrene apparently and not get a hangover. Sounds very ethical, keep making a mess and let someone else clean it up – and you don’t even have to pay them. But plastic that gets into the ocean is another story. Sea life needs better protection and every loose bit that falls into the sea is a hazard. If it isn’t strangling something, it’s ingested even when dissolved into microscopic levels. Yes – plastic has been found in plankton, the only way is up the food chain from there.

Summer is coming, the beach is calling. If you see a bag blowing along the beach, jump on it – just watch the sudden reduction in friction resulting in the inadvertent splits and potential hamstring strain. Nature has just one request leave nothing but footprints and buttock creases.

Dodgy Digits

My line of work puts me at the scroll face of online abuse, bullying and harassment of young people. Whilst I like to think of myself as youthful I cannot claim any knowledge of what it might be like to be growing into a young adult with so many ways to connect, share thoughts, ideas and more. Taking more clothing off and sharing these pictures with others is a growing phenomenon. I’ve been consulting with police and other agencies recently. It might be a bit hard for many parents to hear but if you have a child who knows how to use a phone and is socially networked you might need to be aware of the new harmful digital communications act.

The uncomfortable truth is young people in their teens are growing an awareness of sexuality, desire and taking risks, pushing boundaries. Some of these edges are new as technology creates alternative mediums and relationships. Parents are playing ‘catch up’ and while the act defines the law it will not necessarily prevent harm, distress, upset and deep regret. One consistent message I’d like to give is for parents to try and not ‘freak out’ and send their teen back into the dark ages of the 1990’s – which to them is last century…metaphorically. If they get it wrong, support them, listen and try and suspend judgement. I’ll come back to support later.

So what should people know? This is just my summary (the act is much more detailed and I do encourage people to read it)

First the act defines harmful as that which if any reasonable person was put in the same position then they would be highly offended. There are 10 criteria that define offensive, a digital communication should not…

1: disclose sensitive personal facts

2: be threatening, intimidating, or menacing

3: be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the same position

4: be indecent or obscene

5: be used to harass

6: make a false allegation

7: contain things published in breach of confidence

8: incite or encourage anyone to send a message to someone to purposely cause harm

9: incite or encourage someone to commit suicide

10: put someone down (denigrate) for their colour, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability

One of the issues we face is that cameras are out all the time. It is not a crime to take pictures of people in public unless they could expect a privacy. This covers changing rooms, bathrooms, showers. But if they are posted online without someones consent the above criteria kick in.

A tricky bit for young people is the sharing of images with friends or somewhere like facebook. When talking with police recently they were very clear that once an image was ‘shared’ it was a form of consent. I’m not sure I agree and others would naturally challenge this. The issue is the ability to control that image and where it goes. Facebook profile pictures are some of the most common images uplifted and used in other places. So check you profile pics folks. Shutting down and removing images takes time and in my experience it is the worry, fear, anxiety and shame and humiliation that lasts much longer. The rumours start fairly instantaneously and once spinning are very difficult to stop.

If there are sexually suggestive images being shared of any young person under the age of 16 this is also legally classified as child pornography. So yup it’s serious. Your teens need to know this stuff! They also need to know where to get support. Hopefully they can talk to someone in their family. If not someone at school, or netsafe (nz) or the police. If you know someone who is being pressured to send pictures they can use the ‘send this instead’ app.

But we need more open conversations not just ‘thou shalt not take selfies’ lectures. Young people need to lead these conversations in schools. Peer Sexuality Support Teams, Body Image Leaders, Mediators, Prefects…others with capital letters of importance!

Many of us will shake our greying heads and recall the only harmful digital communications we knew about growing up was giving the fingers or making rude words on our calculators. Times change and we need to zero in and be one.

touchy subject

Hair we go again part2. Right so Mr Key says any ponytail is up for grabs – even a dudes. I find that hard to believe but can respect his belief that he’s an equal opportunity kind of guy. So long as we have no discrimination personal space violation is ok. Once served up on an equality platter it can go with a side of ‘overreaction’ and ‘woops I did it again’.

‘Wandering hands’ aren’t a new phenomenon. The names Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris represent the tip of the iceberg but we all know what is under the water that goes unnoticed and can do significant damage. But because these cases are so extreme our consciousness defaults to a pony tail pull as ‘harmless’ and I can see that in comparison, it seems trivial. But what is lost in all of this is the experience of the person on the receiving end – gender irrelevant. You don’t have to look too far to see the insidious way ‘just being friendly’ and a certain level of power enable people to go unquestioned and those who are upset, offended, become fodder for ridicule and shame. People stop coming forward to report incidents of harassment, abuse or bullying because of precisely what has happened hair.

My sense is we are moving more towards ‘blaming the victim’ culture, by ensuring context is overplayed and individual feelings count for nothing other than to direct them to ‘what they should have done’ instead. The onus is on those who are hurt to ‘get over it’ and this is a dangerous message. Taking responsibility is still watered down and diluted to the point where those on the receiving end are painted as asking for blood rather than a simple human to human acknowledgement that I hurt you and understand why you are hurt. Understanding this as strength rather than weakness is an under appreciated ethic.

Whenever I talk with people who have been abused one thing has always stood out. The person who did the abuse (I’m not about to debate what counts as ‘serious’) was always someone who had respect of others, was viewed as friendly, usually funny and outgoing (but not always), and often maintained a level of esteem in the community. Why? Because it creates a shield of trust.

I’m not saying Mr Key is one of these people, nor am I saying he couldn’t be. That is the point and it needs to pierce the shield.

Talk that needs to change frequency

It’s a bit of a conundrum turning the radio on in the morning with a young pair of ears in the car. There is the option of popping in a CD but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do the music selection with a bit of banter, but some like to talk, ….and talk, and rant, and make sexual references. While this is happening I am desperately reaching for the off button and juggling hot coffee. Bracing for the questions and planning a response at that hour of the morning is mental gymnastics and my brain is barely warmed up and feels like it’s about to do the splits.

Some might say ‘well just don’t listen’ and I could agree to some extent that choosing to switch or change channel might be a good option. But it was also evident at the Weetbix Tryathlon where radio DJ’s host the pre and post event hyping there was a general disregard for the age of the audience that was largely children. What I’m not so sure about is why DJ’s feel so compelled these days to entertain via the use of humiliation and degradation? It’s a bit like what’s happened to MTV – yes Music Television… I don’t see a lot of music on there anymore, time for a rebrand I think. The strange thing about radio is you often don’t see it coming like with TV and the content can swing so suddenly as to catch you off guard – a psychic side swipe. But I also don’t want sanitised radio with no humour (gosh I’m sounding hard to please).

But here is the thing, if I like a particular style of music then there is an assumption made about my character or personality and perhaps DJ’s make generalisations and think up clever ways to embarrass people or shame them in the name of attracting more listeners and maybe that is the point. Radio has become a vehicle for adults to legitimately bully others with music thrown in for good measure from time to time. Commuters scrunched up in rush hour traffic want to vent, so DJ’s are encouraged in some ways go to lowest levels to distract listeners from the mundane and target the frustration elsewhere. Some stations and DJ combinations are worse than others and I have never had any issue with the concert programme funnily enough – just not a lot of nine inch nails or foo fighters, not even as covers (although you never know).

Just spin records guys and stop spinning s*&^
Ahhh just realised radio is all digital…
Only real DJ’s spin vinyl

It’s ‘high’ time we all took a ‘chill pill’

I have a strong case of ‘Kronic fatigue.’ Yes that is spelt correct as I am referring to synthetic cannabis. The mainstream media and blogosphere is ‘buzzing’ with erudite perspectives on legal substances. I don’t want to get started on the idea of banning them until they have been tested on animals to be proven safe, as I fear I might just rant.

I’ve already talked about ‘altered states of consciousness’ in earlier pieces such as ‘Down the rabbit hole.’

I was also surprised and delighted to learn recently that animals like to have these experiences.

This is not the same as putting them through forced testing regimes! So if this is happening in nature, which we are part of (but have done a good job of convincing ourselves we are not) how can we make sense of the sensationalised, emotive and at times distorted information without ‘going out of our minds.’

Part of the assumption around drug use is that people are trying to escape life or numb pain – of all kinds. Yes it can be like this, but I also believe it is more complex, rich and even interesting than simple self medication. Let’s not forget alcohol is a drug in this dialogue as it most definitely alters consciousness.

Here are some things I have been mulling over – as have others but hope it might add to conversations and possibly subvert some of the well worn rhetoric, or over-simplistic ‘hugs not drugs’ type statements. I do have a firm belief however that children and young people most definitely are vulnerable. Their brains and sense of self need careful nurturing and protecting. I want to be clear I am not advocating for ‘anything goes.’

First off we need to stop attaching harm to the taking or using of drugs based on their imposed legal status. We have a default setting that says ‘if it is illegal it is bad or dangerous.’ Making some legal or illegal isn’t always about protecting people from danger. Power, control and politics are big players.

Let’s try to accept that we are all pleasure seekers and enjoy altered states of consciousness. Kids spin to get dizzy, laughing and exercise produce endorphins, and amusement parks reek of adrenaline. The more we try and suppress, deny, or make wrong aspects of self that are natural and healthy – the more harm we do I think.

This might push a few buttons but I feel we need to shift the focus of education away from facts about harm, google has that covered! Scare tactics have proven to be pointless – I’ve looked into it, and only make a difference to those who are already risk averse. Risk takers will still take risks – no matter what graphic consequences you put in front of them – that goes for drugs, sex, driving at high speed. But what to ‘teach’ in a world where information is at your finger tips. We ask young people to put ‘life on hold’ until they are grown up enough. Our challenge is to reintegrate desire, pleasure seeking, and all emotional experiences. Education needs an overhaul in my humble opinion – others have called for it as well. But I think education currently serves other interests.
There are some fantastic innovative teachers battling these constraints. To you I say ‘every conversation changes a person.’

Let’s ask the question, why are we anaesthetising ourselves so much? Surely if we need to escape reality or in that much pain we should be investigating the causes – not just at an individual level as a form of weakness but the more critical ‘meaning of life stuff’ angle. I think this is worth doing anyway, our worshiping of consumption and everything that is built around ensuring we ‘buy into it’ has probably had the most profound effect on humanity.

It would be great if we could look critically at how demonising certain kinds of drugs and ‘saviourising’ (if there is such a word) others has served the interests of very powerful institutions. This has been a well engineered and intentional process. Unravelling some of the historical and political decisions that underpin our current ideas helps to open space to thinking differently.

Finally, I firmly believe we need to be more open to altered states as a concept. Opening our minds to other possibilities and realms has been part of all cultures. Someone speaking out about this is Graeme Hancock. His perspective is so threatening his TED talk was banned – thank goodness for YouTube!

Historically artists used opiates to access other aspects of creativity, enlightenment, inspiration for example part of Samuel Taylor Cooleridge’s Kubla Khan was written after an opium induced dream.

New Zealand is currently wresting with synthetic cannabis as a hot political topic running up to an election…are we ready to take the debate in a new direction? I hope so.
If we are going to insist on being stuck going around in circles – then at least make sure to ‘pass the Dutchie to the left hand side.’