truth

being device-ive

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, with flags going up coming down changing colour and misidentified. In the middle of this are some very serious and real dangers for people. Lives are most definitely at stake so to break the tension with humour might seem like an act of trivialising but CNN brought it to a whole new level when one of their reporters mistook a certain black and white flag with random symbols for an ISIS one.

I’m tempted to launch into a slippery slope of sex terrorism, loaded with rocket propelled explosions, but the sad thing is many people would view a flag with sex toys on it as a threat. So while they might seem poles apart the confederate, rainbow, ISIS, flags attempt to represent and define ideology, beliefs, values, power, oppression, control and resistance. They have history and meaning for groups to unite and define their doctrines of truth.

Flags are in fact so important we have already decided on one that will go on Mars should we land there. But I like Eddy Izzards take on flags and the entitlement they give to stake a claim and in doing so reveal the strange attachment humans have to bits of cloth that serve no practical purpose save to show the direction the wind is blowing. I might have found the answer however to what happens if you combine ISIS, southern USA and gay pride – My Little Ponies! Apple Jack is definitely talking with a Southern drawl and Rainbow Dash has the power to make a sonic rainboom.

That’s enough exploding of weapons of mass deconstruction.

Vanity (un)Fair

With Caitlyn Jenner splashed all over the news tonight and awkward references to ‘not having had surgery yet’ there seemed to be an unnecessary personalised moment of attachment to the idea of no longer having a particular attachment from one male news reader. I’m not sure what his intentions were. I don’t think he would have even registered that drawing attention to the implications of ‘having surgery’ rendered transgendered identity in that moment to losing or gaining a piece of anatomy. Even mentioning this has yet to happen somehow suggests Caitlin is not a ‘real’ woman yet.

My conversations with trans people over the last few years and especially young people beginning their own questioning and working through making sense of not fitting the pre-set mould they have been assigned, have helped me to see that focusing on the physical changes limits and diminishes the complexity and adds to the invisibility.
There are so many excuses made for not including diverse representations in collecting socially significant data such as a census. When you are not given a box to tick, or have to tick a box you do not fit that is a moment of disavowal that does as much harm as bullying, harassment or hate speech. We can expect extreme religious views to take a particular stance – that shouldn’t shock anyone really. But to be quietly denied your existence or forced to pretend that you are something you are not that is a form of identity cleansing or gendercide.

It might not seem like a big deal changing pro-nouns for those of us trucking along with the same old same old, but for the young trans people I know – asking and then using their preferred name and pronoun is like being re-cognised and real-ised. They become, they matter and when someone matters they can find a foothold on the precarious landscape of validation.

Caitlyn Jenner has done more than gain a foothold, she has thrown pointed passion and bounded with track spikes of truth over many hurdles. Well she did have a bit of a head start, who is going to ‘keep up with’ her now?

Fiction Friction

We have just ‘celebrated’ ANZAC day, and I did a lot of thinking and reflecting. I had mixed feelings all day, wondering about the meaning we have made, should make, or unmake from history. To challenge anything other than the media produced reverence is cultural blasphemy, as Australian sports presenter Scott McIntyre did and was promptly fired. A part of me understands this from the tightly woven narratives around sport and war. That aside, what frightens me more are the parallels with the themes George Orwell wrote about in 1984.

Orwells 1984 has been studied by many but few like to consider the realities of such a world, let alone that it might already be upon us. Dystopian worlds have become romanticised in teen literature and movies to a point where the harsh edges of power have been reworked into love, adventure and survival themes which are far easier to sell. So I want to take you through some of my favourite quotes because the date will come and go but what will we remember as 1915 and ‘1984’ mark real and imagined horror.

1: ‘Ignorance is strength’ – one of the 3 slogans, but my favourite because it allow for the other two to be made possible by ensuring people believe that ‘war is peace’ and ‘freedom is slavery’.

2: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” – History is a selective lens that focuses attention on certain details while overlooking or blocking out others. It means we continually see a chosen perspective – one that serves particular interests. It is why I am very interested in agnotology as a field of inquiry (funny how it always comes up underlined for spell checking – clearly a word that needs more promoting…unless the ministry of truth get hold of it).

3: “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” – I see this happening through the media propaganda machine and the use of fear.

4: “So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance….Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.” – So let me check what is on the news and tv…sport, sport, weather, sport, game shows, reality tv…looking quite accurate George.

5: “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” – I see flickers of consciousness at times but I also see it being extinguished. Consciousness without action maintains the status quo. Rebelling need not look like public protest, it can be a quiet internal realisation.

6: “Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – I think we have a form of secular fundamentalism setting in. With forms of cultural doctrine that are unquestionable, and evangelical public figures use fear and suspicion to cast shame on those who do not agree with the prescribed truth. Persecution is swift and exile follows – again, say the wrong thing on twitter and you are a gonner. The thought police will get you.

7: “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” – Yes ignorance is bliss after all. The problem at the moment is no-one is quite sure what freedom is. We have set the bar so low, that any meeting of basic needs is now seen as a luxury. If we are outraged and horrified, saddened or affected by event’s – its only until the bachelor comes on, or the rugby starts.

Others have spoken on similar themes and a healthy mature society should be able to ask questions and revisit what we believe to be ‘true’. Being right is not the same as truth. One suggests a single event the other provides for alternative viewpoints and information to be considered.

Lest we forget what we have chosen to remember.

Hot Cross Profits

Scatterings of silver paper litter the floor. Spikes of insulin and piercing squeals signal another cluster of rituals combined with religious significance to put many parents on notice. When the questions start – you’d better be ready with some answers that make sense…and quite frankly…I’m a bit stumped with Easter.

I try my best to respect all points of view and positions of belief, because I don’t think I know or understand enough to take any clear position. So I’d rather see belief in the context of belonging, that I can get. But how on earth do you explain to a 7 year old the crucifixion of Jesus combined with a bunny, eggs and chocolate especially when you are living a life pretty much free of any organised religion?

There is a part of me quietly hoping others will help the next generation unravel the tightly wrapped mythology and modern consumption insanity to expose the sticky complex mess of hysterical and slightly horrifying truths. It is a battle of ‘the profits’ where on the one hand cocoa and sugar industries, exploit third world countries in a form of modern slave labour and cash in on greed. But what to do with that other Profit? It’s a pretty unsavoury story but it has kept the Christianity going for a decent amount of time, I’d say that’s good business management. I could get all hot and cross about it but you won’t get a rise out of me.

Today I realised that trying to talk about it to a child after they’ve eaten a dozen chocolate eggs is just asking for trouble. So when in Rome – rip the foil off some chocolate and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a sin. Next time around I will simply enjoy the marvellous mess of Easter. Kid’s do ask questions and whether fact or fiction or something else entirely, I will do more homework and hope not to get caught with egg on my face.

No I will not be foiled.

counting for something

Here I am closing in on my 100th blog. I feel a bit like a cricket player nervously perched on the edge of my crease wondering if I should play conservatively or just cut loose, throw caution to the wind and smash it out of the park. But it’s just a number and part of me is also intrigued by our relationship with numbers, statistics and putting numerical values on things. The saturation of data available and our reliance on numbers to define the boundaries and boarders of what becomes significant value doesn’t add up. Data can be forgotten, omitted, discarded and interpreted more ways that you can shake a bit of willow at.

I suppose I have an aversion to the normal curve anyway so its probably no surprise I’d rather use it as a moustache, slide, or bow and arrow or something similar. People love to throw numbers around to get their point across or claim some for of truth status, especially if has been ‘scientifically proven’. Padded up and staring down someone charging into a conversation I sometimes wonder what on earth I should do – I don’t want to be caught on the back foot but learning to anticipate what might be coming down gets easier if you do your research. Sometimes the best way to play a shot is to take the momentum and simply redirect it.

I was always a pretty average batter but I wasn’t a bad wicket keeper, catching people out. Get to know what shots to play depending on the kind of data thrown down. Some will have more spin on it than others so you need to be quick on your feet. Being stumped isn’t the best feeling but it isn’t the end of the world.

Things aren’t always what they seam . Time to run that single – Howzat.

Battle of the Sex-isms

Apparently it was international women’s day yesterday. Ok. So WTF – What’s True Feminism? Cut to the NZ herald today for a comment on sexism and this is why journalism needs a philosophical enema. Deborah Hill Cone takes a bit of a pot shot at Alison Mau about her concern around ‘casual sexism’ that there is ‘serious sexism’ to compare it to.

This is where the backlog of neo-liberalism and post-feminism really starts to bloat these kinds of debates and the constipated arguments keep being recycled. The arguing for a continuum of serious – non-serious issues of equality or examples of discrimination simply drys out the digested mass of assumptions and absorbs the complexities to leave ‘solid’ claims that just…well…stink!

Caring about how your daughter is positioned in the educational, social, and political world by noticing comments made is not trivial. The flow on effect of this is how she will access the economic world and so what income she will ‘earn’. Some will go as far to say these arguments pale in comparison to women in countries where female genital mutilation occurs and so the dangerous illusion of relativity flushes away any chance of re-defining what might be considered worthy of caring about.

Human rights needs a rebranding and a 21st century reboot. One that re-cognises the subtle power plays of language, privilege, social construction, and ditching some moralistic high ground typical of western/capitalist neo-liberal based thinking. Instead of splitting up rights into labels of have’s and have nots and taking some strange imaginary scale system to measure when ‘equality’ is finally reached we need to question the very measures of our definitions of what makes us Hue-man.

And if you need to regain your appetite or some pain relief after all that, just do mau cone.

Book Ends

I go through book binges. This summer I managed to get through The Luminaries…on which one does not ‘binge’ rather pick away carefully and take time between courses, but I am already losing the plot. I also read two books in successive weekends that were…well…illuminating.

Waitangi weekend, celebrating the signing of a historical document destined to both unite and divide our identity as a nation, I read Russell Brand’s book Revolution. If someone asked me to describe it I would say it’s a – rant – rehab coach – militant – radical peace – best and worst of conspiracy – consciousness – political commentary – autobiography. Or, a bit like a Billy T James skit colliding with bikram yoga.

The follow weekend was Valentines day, celebrating the cultural signs of commercial coupledom destined to both unite and divide our identity, I read A Short History of Stupid, equally digestible with beer and chips, but a bit of a shift from Russell. It was like listening to philosophy grad students talking at the pub after a shandy showing of their ability to both think and drink and solve the worlds problems.

Both managed to capture an individual and global perspective, albeit with differing emphasis. Much like the concept of yin and yang, complementing interconnected forces with aspects running through each other. It was also an excellent example of polarity and diversity. From simple to complex, personal to global, theory and experience all giving rise to intersections of ideas that evoke some challenges to status quo commentaries. I think the authors of both would liven up a dinner party conversation with some charades or twister, but maybe not trivial pursuit. The common use of humour was strong, particularly the ability to locate the ‘self’ as both an individual and in relation to systemic political, historical, geographical….(you probably get the idea) structures. Occasionally both overly self indulgent but read back to back the interlocking of patterns and meaning was intriguing. In the days in between I read How To Train Your Dragon where a sense of irony curled itself into the ouroboros of meaning. The ongoing reproduction, recycling and reinvention of stories past, present and future are all lived now.

Where do the dragons fit? They are mythical to some and real to others with varying degrees of evidence and belief adding weight to the truth. But in the book they are mischievous and generally difficult to bring under human control. Think I might have some dragon in me, well, I do like to breathe fire from time to time…lots of heat and plenty of light…illuminating.

Just mind the kerosene burps after – hydrocarbons not so palatable.

Crying Vowel

Auckland harbour has a problem with effluent. Oh, I’m sorry that should read affluent. What a difference a simple vowel can make. The giant superyacht Serene belonging to Russian Vodka Baron Yuri Schefler is a great monument to the excesses of ‘big business’. How wonderful that someone can make that much money producing a neurotoxin that causes so much physiological, social and emotional harm. Do I agree that this is wonderful for tourism? It might, but what does the Serene leaves me with an extremely uneasy feely, a queasy giddy sense of vertigo not unlike being intoxicated. The opulence, is both breath taking for its grand statement of financial success and a monument to the stench of consumption with so many chewed up and shat out in the process.

The difference between rich and poo is R we willing to put our heads that far into a dark place and pretend the air is sweet? Think I need a drink…dang it… out of fejoa vodka. Perhaps I could get an I O U.

Happy new yeah…nah

I’ve been out running this afternoon. Winding my way along the Manukau harbour, observing people starting their new years eve celebrations. Over the next 24hrs people all over the world join in one of the few celebrations that are not tied to any particular religion or historical event. The right to celebrate isn’t limited or restricted to any particular group and there are no set traditions, although many would say that drinking, dancing, and other shenanigans most certainly seem pretty well established.

I find the ritual of setting new year resolutions curious. I’m not ‘for’ or ‘against’ that would be too easy. Instead I wonder about why we feel the compulsion to do it at all. I don’t know if it has to do with the altered states of consciousness people are in but declarations and commitments fill the ether. It is like a contractual agreement made stronger sometimes by collective witnessing even joining with others in similar states of intoxication to monitor and cheer each other on. These contracts are made spontaneously usually or perhaps there had been some prior thought but there is nothing like a NY resolution – they just seem more binding.

But the irony is no-one would EVER consider a contract signed under these conditions as valid in the real world. Yet we hold ourselves and sometimes others to account – that is if we can remember what was said. So here is some ‘fine print’ I would be mindful of if I was tempted (which I not – and tea and gingernuts are not likely to open the wrath of my subconscious) to make a NYR.

• All declarations of love are subject to confirmation upon sobriety
• Promises made under influence of substances are not binding
• If found praying while emptying stomach contents – all utterances are null and void
• Actions cannot be considered in character unless the behaviour is consistent outside of the 24hrs
• Kissing is not considered binding
• Recollection of events might be subject to impairment – in light of new information the holder of this contract has the right to edit, censor or remain silent
• It is advisable to wait at least a week – in which time negotiation with your past, present and future self is warranted
• Awkward and embarrassing feelings may be rescinded

Whether you do or don’t make a resolution remember you can change your mind at any time. Don’t wait a whole year.

Ministry of silly journalism

I’ve been reading the New Zealand Herald for years. It was considered one of the local broadsheets of choice for those wanting to keep abreast of local and world events. Oh how times have changed. Flicking through The Herald online recently I thought I was reading a script for Monty Python skit!

At first glance the headlines and opening paragraph looked reasonably familiar – following patterns of acceptable reporting. Details generally describe incident with basic facts such as location, type of event, who ‘might’ be involved and what follow up there could be. The general slant is tentative and neutral. Then it degenerates and morphs into some strange montage of social media bites, spurious ‘expert’ opinions, local knowledge, speculation and enough spin to induce (e)motion sickness. To add to the roller coaster there is ghastly spelling and grammar, accentuated by the inclusion of verbatim bystander accounts, I genuinely think if you asked these reporters what they think a semi-colon is; they would say it was part of the intestinal tract.

I’m generally up for a laugh, but I don’t find much of this amusing as many deeply personal events are played out publicly stripping back the concept of private and sensitive to be replaced with primitive and sensational. So here is my concern, we are rapidly creating a tabloid version of life that we accept as real. If something were to happen to any of my close friends and family my distress would be magnified. Like circling sharks we have ditched our higher faculties to go searching for the small drops of blood and we are fed all sorts of ‘offal’ information to keep the frenzy going.

The other conundrum is I love Monty Python for it’s absurdity. If that starts translating into my view of the world I’d prefer to slap myself in the face with a fish. But just in case none of this makes sense I’d like to create a piece of fiction, mirroring the patterns I have alluded to above. I don’t want to offend anyone currently grieving over a loved one, and also understand the media do a good job at helping people stay connected and does generate support and compassion. I’m not against the human side of journalism but there is a thick line that has been well and truly pushed through:

Man dies in tiger attack

A 42 year old man from Colon near Oscopy on the coast of Sphincter was mauled by Tiger that had escaped from the local Zoo. The as yet unnamed man is local and is survived by his son Anaal. Authorities are hunting the Tiger who goes by the name of Pussy Goremore.

CCTV footage shows he had been shopping earlier that day but friends say he had not intended to be in that part of town however there was a Manbag sale on. Shop assistant Peter Bowel said stock had backed up and had been grateful to see it turdover.

Eye witnesses say he had browsed through a number of shops that day and had coffee. Cafe owner Lisa Flatu-lance said he often had a bagel with his coffee but didn’t that day so had left early. She believed the man would not have died if he had kept to his routine and had a bagel. Bagel suppliers have now put warnings on their products about the risk of tiger attacks.

Family of the Man are yet to be informed but police have posted information on Facebook and invited members of the public to help piece together his last moments, people with a morbid sense of self-importance are urged to come forward. Tributes have been flowing online including his former high school wood work teacher who had this to say.

“He was a natural on the lathe, nice long strokes on the plane and always put safety first. Sad day for us – we will erect a memorial”

Zoo authorities were keeping caged lipped today but say it is the first incident of an animal escaping. However a self appointed spokesperson who was closely linked to a former employee, a tea lady and local domino champion, claimed the Tiger had no intention of mauling the man but the bag he purchased was made out of Leopard Skin and was probably just protesting.

Animal rights groups have rallied online to ensure the fair trial of Pussy Goremore, who some believe is not actually a Tiger. The society for the prevention of cruelty to people who like to dress up as animals urged for restraint and asked for calm and that retaliation against those wearing animal products was not necessary. The Tiger is believed to have connections in Sumatra, not Africa as some have speculated.

And now for something completely different – the world shoe horn crisis has been linked to global warming.

….Yup I’m done.
cue flying circus music.