Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Elephant In The Room - Let's Talk

I wasn't sure if I should blog about the results of the Trump vs Clinton election. After all, I'm an Aussie! What would I know about American politics? Why should I care? And was there really anything I could add to a conversation with '11,664,601 talking about this' on Facebook? Surely we’d all had a gutful!

But then I saw a video by Jonathan Pie, it echoed sentiments of what some of my favourite thinkers, Charles Eisenstein and Russell Brand are saying, and it urged me to speak up and be heard - it's time to talk.

Like many, I’ve been captivated by this election campaign and when the result was finalised, I was shocked - but not surprised. And along with a feeling of horror… This is the best human the United States could put forward for the job? No political experience! He said vile things against minorities, women, disabled people? He said Climate Change was a hoax invented by China?… Along with this feeling of horror I felt a strange relief. Like I’d witnessed a great spew, after months of nauseating twists and turns, now we were going to make some real progress, because it’s only when something is admitted to that there becomes the capacity for change.

A tweet from 2012 by Donald Trump, he has since retracted this statement, but not before it was retweeted 104,019 times.

I do believe this is a pivotal moment in history. I believe there was a fork in the road back when Al Gore was beaten in a controversially narrow margin by George W Bush in 2000, and I believe this is another. Obama has been an eloquent President but he's only scratched the surface in terms of real change. Hillary was a bandaid to keep the system running, sugar-coated to feel progressive because she could have been the first female President but as Susan Sarandon summed up in an interview,
 “I don’t vote with my vagina”, a sentiment echoed by many.

I'm sure my children and others will remember the day that 'Trump got in' because his win sparked such a tsunami of strong feelings around the world - on both sides. nathanmac87

Some votes for Trump were easy to explain, and some not so easy:

42% of women voted for him8% of black people voted for him and 29% of hispanic people voted for him [1]. And the more I talk about it the more I’m amazed by seemingly kind, intelligent people telling me that they would have voted for him too.

The big question is: Why?

The common thread seems to be that people liked that he was unafraid to speak his mind, they overlooked things he’d said that had appalled me, and it didn’t matter to them that he had no political experience, they liked that he was 'not a politician' and that was enough.

This is how urgently people want for change. That is how desperate people have become to hear TRUTH in whatever form it takes. People are fed up with 'fat cats' and a rigged system that benefits some and not others, they’re sick of politicians with hands tied behind their back by corporations with vested interests. They’re sick of the rhetoric and the meaningless arguments.

Would Bernie Sanders with his socialist bent have won against Trump? Personally I don’t think so. I don’t think we’ve advanced beyond the realm of self-interest, most of us are still focused on what we’ve got to lose over what we could gain. We've made marginal progress in equality of the sexes, gay marriage is still being debated, there are laws protecting the rights of corporations but next to none defending the environment nor the rights of animals.

Trump is a mirror to us all - a polluting, fearful, money-hungry, insatiable, ego-centric, semi-intelligent species who has stood upright for only a blip on Earth's 4.5 billion year timescale, a species who has become disconnected from the land, has become more interested in screens than in nature, more interested in headlines than facts.

In my opinion the world hasn't had to really discuss, let alone think about, anything too serious since the last World War. We’ve been fortunate for a long time. We’ve been busy building economic empires, making astounding leaps in science and health, created technology that would look like nothing short of magic to previous generations, and we’ve also created frivolous indulgences just because we could, it was fun and we had the luxury to, and like any child indulged with too many toys we’ve become entitled and spoilt.

Those of us with a fortunate lifestyle have been able to ignore any subject that makes us feel uncomfortable as easily as switching channels on our flatscreen TV. Anyone impassioned enough to rant publicly about a topic too hotly on Facebook can be muted. And so conversations about big subjects - subjects that are morally difficult or go against our consumerist way of life - are avoided and we go on living in blissful ignorance, until something really unavoidably awful happens - planes loaded with passengers crash into the Twin Towers, a truck drives into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, a Syrian child’s body is photographed washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach.

And then we appear shocked and horrified.

Governments respond by pledging to do more to crack down on illegal immigrants, ‘turn back the boats’ of refugees, fight harder against ‘the war on terror’ - we cannot beat terrorism because the terror is inside us.

Crying Statue of Liberty by NOK Crew

Real problems don’t go away. When they’re not talked about they’re left to fester, until finally someone less couth has the audacity to blurt it out. The irony is that only a few years ago I remember feeling shame that Australia was being labelled as a racist country by America because Pauline Hanson had declared we were being 'swamped by Asians’.

There is only one way forward, it's not enough to come from a position of privilege and take the moral high ground then ostracise others for not sharing our views - we must come down from our ivory towers and engage the debate.

As Jonathan Pie argued in his video, Clinton calling Trump supporters a “basketful of deplorables” was badly wrong - at the time I thought it was less awful than the things Trump was saying so I overlooked it - but I shouldn’t have because as Pie rightly points out "when has anyone ever been persuaded by being insulted or labeled?”

There is no longer a choice to sit by passively and hope for a better future. The time has come to speak up from our HEART and it’s time to listen to each other and stop living in fear. And here’s why - we’re coming to the pointy bit of human existence, and there are some subjects that need to be talked about, sooner rather than later. And we're fortunate to have free speech and the internet - the ability is at our fingertips for all of us to speak our mind.

Whether you believe in Climate Change or not, there's no way to escape the fact that the population of humans on Earth continues to exponentially bloom past 7.5 BILLION
 [2]That's a fuck load of humans putting an ever increasing load on resources.

If you do believe in Climate Change no doubt you will have thought through the alarming consequences - rising sea levels displacing millions of people, extreme weather conditions creating more problems on a bigger scale - hurricanes, droughts, bushfires, floods and heatwaves, and all these things putting even more pressure on resources essential to our survival - access to fresh unpolluted water, arable land and food sources.

And that’s before even mentioning truly catastrophic possibilities such as the additional atmospheric carbon being absorbed into the ocean turning it acidic, dissolving the shells of crustaceans such as krill which is a keystone species, causing the collapse of entire ecosystems including whales, seals and penguins.[3]

We are coming to a crucial moment in our history - our intelligence is about to be put to the test. We cannot stick our head in the sand because this is what the gift of being human is all about - our consciousness comes with a conscience.

Nele Azevedo, Melting Man, Berlin

The discussion starts with simple things and gets stickier. 

For instance, do we let migrants into our countries? We’ve done it in the past, we’ve even encouraged it - the wealth of nations was built on the sweat of immigrants - whether they came willingly seeking a better life, or in chains. So why is it a different story now? And what entitles us to our claim when it was our forebears that displaced indigenous peoples?

What about war torn countries and people fleeing persecution? Are we to be like the passengers of the Titanic who ignored the calls of drowning souls for fear of upsetting their own life rafts?

Do we let everyone in? Do we let no one in? What about people who arrive uninvited anyway - do we send them away? Where do we send them? Is it right to keep children in detention?

What about the people already living in a country? Can we learn to get along? Should we give ultimatums to have them conform to our ways of living? What religions should they be allowed to observe, can they dress how they like? How many children should they be allowed to have? Where does it end?

As Sir David Attenborough said in a post Brexit interview, “It’s very easy… to be very tolerant of minorities until they become majorities and you find yourself a minority.” [4]

What about people who arrived illegally a decade ago or more who have integrated into society and proved they want only to work hard and contribute? Do we grant them amnesty? What about their relatives?

There are no easy answers to these questions, as President Francois Hollande discovered to his peril in 2013 when the French government cracked down on the deportation of illegal Roma immigrants. 
Following the rejection of her family’s application for asylum, police picked up 15 year old Leonarda Dibrani from a school excursion and deported her to Kosovo. Unsurprisingly, there was public outcry.

President Hollande 
responded by making a special public announcement on live television saying he would make a one-off allowance for Leonarda to return to finish her studies, but denied reentry to her five siblings and parents. Television networks ‘went live’ to Kosovo to capture Leonarda's response - she called the president “heartless” to the cameras, told him she was "not a female dog" and his approval rating went from bad to worse.

So what about people's families? And will we ever start thinking of the world's population as one big family?

This is just one line of questioning surrounding immigration and racism, and the truth is, I would never have even thought to ask most of them had Trump not been elected. Had he not won we could have swept them back under the carpet a while longer, but he did win, and now our greatest hope lies in the fact that he has engaged so many in the debate, and with it will come the opportunity to make real and lasting change. 

At the root of all these questions however is one that dwarfs them all. How do we solve the problem that the people with the most money (and usually the most self-interest) are given the loudest voices? When the wealthiest corporations oil the gears of the establishment to become the most powerful and the vitality of a politician is directly transfused to the health of his or her government’s economy?

People have asked for change and they will get it - sooner or later. Will Trump, tweeting from his Midas penthouse apartment be the instrument, or will things have to get so invariably bad that the majority finally realises that money is not the bottom line? That endless economic growth is impossible within a finite planet? And that we're all in this together. 

I would LOVE to hear your views. 
Please no hate comments - let's have a constructive conversation!

Photo credits. Main image - David Blackwell, Earth - John Voo
1. BBC News - Reality Check: Who Voted for Donald Trump?
2. Check out the World Population Clock here
3. How Acid Oceans Could Kill Krill - Colin Cummings
4. ’Sir David Attenborough says “it’s very easy to be tolerant of minorities… until they’re the majority”’ Mark Jefferies

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Flying Solo

If you see a woman running in the street it’s probably me. 

There’s always somewhere I’m supposed to be, usually ten minutes ago, and I’m always in a rush to get there. Looking on the bright side, I think: It’s good that I’m always running TO somewhere, rather than running AWAY. 

A woman I know who lives in my neighbourhood, she has six children and she’s always running too. She says it’s a fitness thing, (unlike me she has activewear on), but every time I see her I can’t help thinking that she’s running AWAY. As fast as she can. 

Perhaps that's what happens when you reach the critical mass of too many children and responsibilities - when you realise there’s just no possible way you can meet every deadline, obligation or expectation - you just start running and keep running, and don’t stop.
It’s usually when my husband goes away that crazy things happen - I find nits in the kid’s hair, Tom lands a job with a 5am call time, the dog escapes, my car gets stolen, my toddler comes out in spots, my father falls over, I get asked onto television, or the hospital phones to tell me they want to take Charlotte’s tonsils out - tomorrow.

Before you know it, I’m running. Hauling the recycling bin up the driveway before dawn, carrying a warm sleeping child to the car after dark, running up and down the stairs in between turning schnitzels and managing print jobs. Thanking neighbours and friends for the help they give me every time I think that life surely can’t get any crazier.

I run, and I keep on running until I wear holes in my shoes and there’s no time to think about the holes until it rains and my feet get wet.

I run, and I keep on running until I’m forced to sit still and be amazed. My youngest is counting out loud along with me as we read a bedtime story, his addition to the family still comes as a surprise. My eldest is lit up on the stage of the Opera House, filling my heart with so much pride I think it might burst. My daughter is so pale and beautiful, honey coloured hair sprawled across the white hospital sheets, fingers stained with ink from drawing. My father’s feeble attempts to stand and reach his wheelchair, simple things like running, forever out of reach.

Would love to hear in the comments if you feel like you're running to something, or away. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference...

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