crazyjane: (eclipse)
After being very, very low for the last few weeks, I finally got to see my shrink today. It was a bloody awful experience; I felt like I was letting him down by saying that the medication cocktail I'm currently taking has stopped working. Or rather, it keeps me from cycling up into a manic state, but does nothing to deal with the depression. And I had to tell him that, and felt bad about it. How stupid.

He's decided to put me back on Zoloft, even though it caused a manic episode way back when - in fact, that's how I first got diagnosed as bipolar, when he prescribed Zoloft for the depression. He's pretty sure that the mood stabilisers I also take will counter the tendency to switch up.

Although I almost want to switch up. I can't stand the crushing weight that goes with being in such a bad down cycle, and it doesn't help to be told that it'll end, or that a bit of sunshine or 'doing something nice for myself' will do me good.

I have to wonder, though. What if it's not the meds that are wrong? What if it's me?
crazyjane: (Default)
Watching the nightly news, as an article about the Commonwealth Games comes on ...

Lilygirl: What's the Commonwealth Games?

Me: Like the Olympics, a bunch of countries compete - the ones that are part of the British Commonwealth. Like Canada, England, etc.

Lilygirl: And that's all? That's not very nice, to be all exclusive like that for no reason.

Me: No, there is a reason ...

Lilygirl: Oh yeah, just because you're not in their little gang, they won't let you join? (severely) That's just not on, Mother.

Me: ...
crazyjane: (moondark)
When I started blogging about Australian politics, I did so with the aim of helping make it more accessible to those of us outside the rarefied atmosphere of Canberra. My secondary objective was to try to convey the idea that we, as citizens and voters, are not powerless; that we can have an active place in the social and political issues of the day that extend beyond ticking a few boxes on a ballot paper.

I can't claim that I succeeded, by a long shot. It would be good to think that I had some influence that led to others speaking up, acting on the courage of their convictions, but honestly, it's not something I will ever know. That's not really the point, though. I didn't do it to score brownie points (or karma points, or what have you).

For a while, though, I thought there was something happening. People would contact me saying that they had always 'switched off' before when it came to politics, but were now following the issues, discussing and acting. Others commented that they were making an effort to understand what was going on. I'd call that a victory.


It's simplistic to lay it all at the feet of a change of government. The fact is that the majority of Australians voted for the Liberal/National Coalition to take over, and the only way I can explain that is to think that either they wanted to punish the ALP for something, or that they swallowed what was - to me, at least - a transparent scare campaign full of lies. Otherwise, I simply can't fathom why allegedly reasonable people would vote themselves into a situation where low income earners are targeted to come under even more financial stress, where our greenhouse gas emissions skyrocket and contribute to even faster climate change, where we are complicit in the horrendous treatment of people who seek asylum from us. The list goes on - but what matters is that the vote did swing that way, and this is the government we have.

I could write about that. I could marshal my words, cite my sources, invite interviews and examine and analyse and criticise. I'd lose whatever objectivity I strove for, but sometimes objectivity is not all it's cracked up to be. To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, there aren't always two sides to every story - and I don't think I could even pretend there is in any case.

What's so different this time around?

Part of the answer lies in my mental health problems, and I've written about those before. There's just too much that I need to deal with. It's not the whole story, though. The rest lies in the government itself. When I sit back and look at how this government conducts its business, all I can see is a political coalition revelling in its staggering majority and running roughshod over principles, rules and even the most basically decent behaviour. Like any ungracious and insecure winner, they gloat and change the rules to ensure no one can ever knock them off their pedestals - or even get near.

It was a tradition of Parliament that an Opposition could move to suspend the normal business of the House to bring on a debate and vote of importance, such as a censure. Certainly, when the ALP was in power, the Coalition availed themselves of that power on a daily basis - sometimes even several times a day. As soon as they were elected, however, they used their majority to remove that ability altogether. There is now no way the House of Representatives can bring a censure motion, or any other motion that the government doesn't want. They can silence any voice in that chamber. Any voice.

The President of the Senate, John Hogg, is a tiger more toothless than the United Nations. He drones, 'Order! Order!', and - very occasionally - directs a government Senator to actually put some relevance into their answer. As he notes himself, however, he can't actually force that Senator to comply - and the government is not slow to take advantage of that. Government Senators will happily ignore any directive from the President, to the point where they'll shout him down as he's trying to make a ruling.

As for Bronwyn Bishop, the Speaker of the House - it's an understatement to say she is a partisan hack who clearly enjoys her position of power. She bestows fond smiles on the Prime Minister and his front bench, saving her most delighted expressions for those times when the government either completely ignores the rules of the House, or when she can stymie any voice that might dare to lift itself in opposition. She loves point scoring, and will happily receive the fawning praise of Education Minister Chris Pyne. When he shouts abuse at Tanya Plibersek, Bishop nods and smiles. When Plibersek mutters under her breath, Bishop scolds her and throws her out, and Pyne shouts threats after her - threats that Bishop backs up approvingly, saying, 'Indeed'.

This is the Speaker who, in an interview, smugly declared that she'd 'brought decorum back into the House'.

There's no decorum. There's no democracy, no 'for the people, by the people'. Sure, the government has a majority - but they're using that majority to silence any dissenting voice. Don't like 'em? Gag 'em. Don't want to deal with them any further? Throw them out, on the slightest provocation. They've taken Question Time to new levels of absurdity, substituting reading from press releases and abuse for substantive answers. (And yes, I know all governments attempt to be obscure, but this government is worse even than Paul Keating's.)

This should be familiar to anyone who ever inhabited a school playground, or watched their own kids at school. It's bullying. The confidence of Chris Pyne is the confidence of a weak kid who knows he's got tough mates. He's the kid who pulls the girls' ponytails, and then runs to the bigger kid - Abbott - who's urging him on. And when his favourite teacher (Bishop) happens to be on Yard Duty, he can get away with murder.

It goes on. Day after day after day. If it's not the systematic dismantling of virtually every social reform of the last six years, it's doing everything possible to ensure that only one message goes out, only one voice is heard. Criticism of the military is virtually banned, while Parliamentary privilege is abused and blatant lies are told about everything from upcoming government policy to the personal characters of Labor, Greens and Independent MPs and Senators. In the midst of all this, the government declares itself the champion of free speech and truth. Just today the Attorney-General George Brandis stood with figurative hand on heart to righteously condemn those who would not allow notorious hard-right columnist, serial defamer and noted racist Andrew Bolt to say whatever he wanted to say about whoever he liked. For Brandis, the mere thought that Bolt might have to temper his words and refrain from defaming an indigenous person was truly horrifying. Of course, that doesn't apply to anyone who doesn't agree with the government. Such people are simply not allowed to even insinuate that a government Minister might be abusing his position.

While all the posturing and bullying goes on, there's so much pointless, ridiculous noise. Rather than expending energy building our society up, the government divides, silences and punishes. Yes, punishes. What else can you call it when someone whose only 'crime' is to be in a low-paying job has the payment that helps them buy their kids school textbooks is removed in favour of paying hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations in profit? When a woman in a low income job has her superannuation contribution axed, while a woman earning $150,000 a year is given a massive parental leave payment and government paid super?

And then the government appears puzzled by the idea that people might take to the streets to protest. 'What's their message?' 'What are they after, anyway?' 'Oh, it's a disaffected minority, the loony Left'. No - 50,000 people in one city, over 100,000 around the country, all marching together, all gathering under banners protesting this government's behaviour - that isn't a 'disaffected minority'. It's a cry for help from people who cannot otherwise be heard. They literally have to stop traffic to get the attention of those in power, and even then they're laughed at and dismissed.

This is not democracy.

This is not the country I've loved.

This is not the country I want my children to inherit.

I want my children to inherit a country in which dissent is not only permitted, it is expected. I want them to live in a society that understands what social justice means, that believes the first duty of a government is to its people, not to its bank balance.

I do not know if I have the strength, anymore, to fight. I do not know where, or even if that strength can still be found.

I only know that my children deserve far better than this - and so, don't I owe it to them to try?
crazyjane: (shit_list)
It's almost time for uni students to start choosing subjects, buying textbooks and generally preparing for their first semester classes. Figuring out the areas on which you specifically want to concentrate can be either fraught or fun - in some cases, both. It can make the difference to where you go once your undergraduate degree is done, and what career path is open to you. In any event, it's not a trivial decision.

There are all sorts of disciplines for the Arts student, from the traditional (Sociology, languages) to the exotic (European Union Studies, Gender Studies). This year, if you're studying at the University of South Australia, you also have the opportunity to take up a new course - in 'Male Studies'. Sounds intriguing? Even, perhaps, logical? After all, we used to have Women's Studies, and we have Gender Studies, so why not?

But hold up a moment. Take a look at who's doing the teaching, and the rationale given for establishing the course in the first place. We're not talking about simply focusing on an area that has a history of being inadequately covered in university studies. This is a course with an agenda. A self-declared 'anti-feminist' agenda.

Gary Misan, the course's founder, claims that men simply can't get a word in edgeways these days. You can't criticise feminism, because the women will rise up and crush you. As far as he's concerned, this course is necessary; otherwise, how will there ever be a 'balanced view'? Another lecturer, Greg Andresen, laments the '20 or 30 or 40' years of feminism, during which, apparently, men have been silenced in the halls of academe. Then there's Roy Den Hollander, who opines that men 'struggle' to have any influence whatsoever.

Now, those are some ridiculous, overblown statements. Even granting the presence of Women's Studies as a specific discipline in universities, the idea that men, men's history or men's perspectives have been silenced is laughable. I won't go into the statistics on women's representation (or lack thereof) in the top echelons of society - you can find those easily enough - but it doesn't take a lot of searching to find evidence to completely refute these three lecturers.

As absurd as their statements are, however, the lecturers haven't stopped with outrageous claims about the evils of feminism. Andresen asserts that talking about violence against women renders men invisible, and that women who make false accusations of rape commit 'psychological rape' on men. He also takes issue with every possible statistic that even suggests that men enjoy a social, economic or political advantage over women - whether those numbers come from Amnesty International, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, university studies or social work organisations.

Another, Miles Groth, believes that date rape awareness seminars may deter men from enrolling at university. He suggests that young men despair because they are condemned as sexually violent without cause, and that this in turn affects not only their representation in university and senior secondary school cohorts but their final marks.

But the really nasty ones come from self-proclaimed 'anti-feminist' Den Hollander, whose website is password-protected. He refers to Women's Studies as 'witch's studies'. He likens men's position in society to that of black people forced to sit in the back of the bus. He's attempted to sue many venues for holding 'ladies' nights', on the grounds that they are discriminatory. And then there's this chilling comment:

'There is one remaining source of power in which men still have a near monopoly - firearms'.

Yes, you read that right. Den Hollander explicitly supports the use of guns by men to combat the alleged feminist agenda. Never mind the horrific statistics showing the level of gun violence against women, particularly when perpetrated by an intimate partner (the overwhelming majority of whom are male). Here's just an example, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: in 2005, 40% of female homicide victims were killed by their partners. 55% of those were killed by a gun. According to Den Hollander, that's just men 'taking back their power'.

Den Hollander's an attorney with a penchant for nuisance lawsuits, a tendency to bombast and a long-held grudge against an ex-wife (and he's never shy to remind people of this last). It's a struggle to see where his qualifications to teach lie - but this is someone who's going to be lecturing Australian students on what UniSA describes as a course primarily concerned with men's health issues. A person who advises men - and, by extension, warns women - that firearm violence is a valid response to a perceived loss of 'power'.

To say the appointment of a lecturer with such declared views is inappropriate is an understatement.

Whether or not you believe UniSA's stated position about the Male Studies course - that it addresses a perceived lack of education in a particular public health area - surely there are far better qualified lecturers available, ones who do not push hateful, violent, misleading agendas? Den Hollander and Groth are affiliated with anti-feminist website A Voice for Men, which frequently refers to women as 'bitches' and 'whores'. Andresen, associated with Men's Health Australia, is also an 'Australian liaison' for the National Coalition for Men, a lobby group that blames women for everything from 'sexually conditioning' men to deny their own pleasure to rigging the legal system to deny men their rights as regards their children.

Why not someone like Michael Flood, or Ben Wadham, who actually bother to analyse the statistics, study men's rights organisations, examine claims and take history into account? Why not lecturers who have worked, or do work, in the public health system? Qualified and experienced social and community workers?

If this is the best UniSA can do for a course that is aimed at health degree graduates or those who have experience in psychology, social work, and the like, then perhaps the university needs to rethink its hiring and background check procedures. It's not good enough for Misan to defend UniSA's choice of staff by saying that what their lecturers write on websites, or say in seminars and presentations to specific organisations, doesn't mean that they're necessarily affiliated with those groups.

I beg to differ. If someone is described as an 'Australian liaison', he's not just hitting the comments section of a blog. If someone's Facebook page is littered with groups espousing an agenda best described as advocating misandry, some of which he administers, he's not just clicking the 'Like' button.

Perhaps any publicity is good publicity for this course. After all, A Voice for Men gave it coverage that fairly gushed with glee. 'What Dr. Groth has accomplished is something entirely different, new and worthwhile. And it marks THE moment in history when the complete academic hegemony of gender feminists on discussions of sex, gender, and importantly power, comes to an end,' enthused editor Paul Elam.

But is that really the kind of support UniSA wants? Does this university, with its solid academic reputation, really want to be known as an institution that endorses - even by association - firearm violence against women and the suppression of date rape awareness, not to mention the wilful dismissal of any academic reporting that differs from a predetermined worldview?

Men's health is a serious issue; to all it to be reduced to a platform for misogynistic political lobbying does all of us a real disservice. UniSA has a choice; to be known as the plaything of extreme groups, or to be a world leader in an important area of public health.
crazyjane: (eclipse)
Hundreds of thousands of people just to our north crawl through the splintered remains of their lives, trying to ignore the smell of stagnant water, raw sewage and rotting bodies. They're looking for something, anything, that they can salvage. Each day they queue up in front of the trucks for their ration of water and rice, perhaps the odd ready-to-eat meal. It's not enough to feed a family - in fact, barely enough calories for one person - but it's better than starving, or risking disease. They can't rebuild without help, but they're not getting it.

A country claiming to be the chosen homeland of at least three religions sits under the control of one. It exercises power ruthlessly, building walls and allowing infrastructure in selected areas to degrade to shocking levels. When it learns that one of its traditional enemies has agreed to a deal that will prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, it responds with anger. Why? It doesn't think the deal is tough enough. It wants to be the only power in the region with nuclear capability. It threatens to 'take matters into its own hands' - in other words, to provoke another war in the Middle East, which would draw in nations from all over the world.

Back home, our government systematically breaks every one of its election promises. It cuts education funding, punishes low-income workers for the 'crime' of being underpaid, unravels even the most pitifully small action to mitigate climate change. It rewards the highest paid with handouts and tax cuts. It threatens to keep those unable to work on a pittance that, as time goes on, is less and less able to meet daily needs, let alone medical expenses. Our hideously-misnamed 'Immigration Minister' spearheads the effort to refuse those most in need of refuge, doing everything he can to demonise them while at the same time giving out as little information as possible.

Meanwhile the press prattle about Kardashians, satire TV programs provide better information and comment than the news, and we wring our hands or march in the streets and confess our outraged impotence, over and over.

And I'm no better. I ask myself daily, what is the fucking point anymore?

Nothing changes.
crazyjane: (eclipse)
There are days when I think the worst thing about being bipolar is the medication regime, with all the side-effects that disrupt my life almost as much as the mood swings. The sudden sedation, the fucked-up dreams, the inability to get my eyes open in the morning. That sense of being kept on the level, something I do not understand because I do not, cannot feel that way on my own.

There are days when I think it's the mania, because I feel so damned good for a while, and it's only when I start to go out of control that I realise I need to stop, right now, and I can't. The part of me that says, skip the meds and stay up all night, ride the lightning, just once.

And there are days when I think it's the way the bottom can fall out of my mood without warning, like a sugar crash, only a thousand times worse. When gravity seems to increase, and the volume turns right up, and there's something faintly frightening about everything and everyone around me. When the last thing I want is to be behind the wheel of a car or handling a knife or pouring boiling water - not because I want to hurt myself, but because of the fear that I'm not safe.
crazyjane: (Default)
I went to see my orthopaedic surgeon today, nominally about my tennis elbow (ridiculous bloody name). It was inevitable that my arthritis would come up in conversation, though. It went something like this:

Him: So how are the knees?

Me: They suck. A lot.

Him: I thought so. Ready for that knee replacement yet?

Me: Soon.

Him: Okay. Let me know when. Now, about your elbow ... go away and take some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. Anything else is stupid.

Me: Cortisone injections?

Him: Hurt like hell, and probably won't help. Same with surgery. Don't worry, it will go away. But it'll probably come back. Mine does whenever I do a hip replacement - it's all that work with a hammer.

Me: You're not inspiring me.

Him: Not my job.

Me: I'd say thanks, but ...

Him: See you next time.

We have a ... blunt relationship. Much like the instruments used to, oh, replace knees and hips.

I like him.
crazyjane: (eclipse)
CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed the mother of Rebecca Sedgewick. The girl had committed suicide after she was subjected to a truly horrific campaign of bullying (both online and off) by her schoolmates. It was a fairly standard piece designed to humanise the victim, while highlighting a significant social issue. Asked to describe her daughter, the mother replied, 'She was beautiful ... she was smart ...she was funny'.

Heard that before? Sure you have. In fact, if you watched any coverage at all of, say, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings, the Trayvon Martin shooting - and the list goes on - you heard those phrases. Those exact phrases. Oh, sometimes the gender changes, or there's a synonym slipped in here and there - but what it all boils down to is 'beautiful, smart, and funny'. A description so generic that it could apply to anyone.

This isn't coming from the interviewers. These aren't the words of a reporter standing in front of a 'scene of tragedy' (another handy little phrase). These are parents, loved ones, friends, all describing the dead in terms that effectively render them faceless, colourless, and utterly without personality.

What does it mean that someone was 'beautiful', anyway? Did they have shining hair? Immaculate makeup? Up-to-the-minute taste in fashion? Soulful blue eyes, smooth chocolate skin, a dancer's physique?

How about 'smart'? Did they ace their exam results? Did they have a natural aptitude for tinkering with all things mechanical? Were they just good at problem-solving?

And let's not forget 'funny'. What does that mean? Quick-witted? Clumsy, in a kind of 'cute' way? Maybe they had a famous party trick involving spoons? Or did they just have a great repertoire of jokes for every situation?

When we think of those who are taken from us, whether by malice, accident, illness, or their own hands - we don't think 'beautiful, smart, funny'. We think about how her eyes sparkled when she was excited, or how he was about to graduate from high school as a top student. We think about the self-deprecating anecdotes he'd tell at parties that had everyone laughing along in sympathy. In other words, we think about the person.

It's the same at funerals or memorial services. We tell those who come up to commiserate with us, even those we barely know, little stories about our loved ones. It may mean absolutely nothing to the hearers, but what matters is that we tell them - because in a way, the dead person still lives as long as we share our memories of them.

And yet.

Shove a microphone in front of our faces, hear that question, and suddenly all that disappears. Instead of telling the world about our loved one, we fall back on stock phrases. We seem to be incapable of going beyond that, and the interviewers certainly don't push for details. Even in 'long form' interviews, we talk and talk about the circumstances of our loved one's death, taking great care to include every aspect - but we don't talk about the fact that she took the teddy bear she was given as a baby off to college with her. That sort of story doesn't come out unless we agree to do a 'special' program. Then - and only then - we are allowed to tell the world anything that will wring a few more tears from the TV audience.

There's a script. There are stock phrases, permitted synonyms and taboo topics. Think politics is full of standardised language? That's nothing to the media language of death, especially murder or teen suicide. Here are a few more. Every town is a 'tight-knit community'. Every mass shooting is an 'unspeakable tragedy'. (I find this one particularly ridiculous, since it's inevitably followed by a breathless, detailed description of exactly what happened.) Suicides 'slip through the cracks'. 'He was a quiet boy'. 'Everybody loved her'. 'The system failed her'. 'Cut down in his prime'.

Et cetera.

Don't believe me? Go hunt down some archival footage from any one of a dozen such incidents. And play bingo.

There's no doubt that the media encourages the script. No interviewer likes to be surprised, and no reporter likes to be caught without the 'right' words. Before we roundly chastise them for what amounts to an absolute de-humanisation of victims, however, we need to stop and acknowledge something about ourselves.

We read from that same script. We embrace that script. Confronted with the opportunity to tell the world about our loved one, we run back to the dubious safety of 'beautiful, smart, funny'. We are complicit in making them faceless.

It's easy to understand the media's motives, but why do we do it? Is it because we find it just too painful to talk freely? If that's the case, though, surely we would have a similar difficulty speaking openly at memorial services and to relative strangers.

What about context? Do we automatically shy away from sharing details about our loved ones with an audience we can neither see, nor hear? Is it simply safer to take refuge in vagueness?

Perhaps these contribute, but I believe there is a third - and most important - factor. We don't even think about it. Our mouths open, and the stock phrases are out before we realise it. It's a self-reinforcing paradigm. We've seen it at work so often that it's become 'the way things are done', or even 'the right words to use'. The microphone appears, the question is asked, and we respond as expected - and our loved ones become part of a generic mass of 'tragedy', indistinguishable from each other.

We owe them more than that.

I'm not advocating we give up our right to grieve privately. No one should be forced to walk in front of a camera. But if we make the decision to speak publicly, we must do so in a way that makes every one of our dead unforgettable. We do it with those who take the lives. How many of us know the names of the 35 people killed by Martin Bryant at Port Arthur in 1996, or the eleven elderly people murdered by Roger Dean's arson? Even if we can find their names, what do we know about them? We might be able to find out which ones were related to each other, but not much else. Unless we tracked down the relatives, we wouldn't know if one was a Dad with a penchant for cracking embarrassing jokes in front of his kids' friends. We'd know the exact causes of death for those who died in the Quakers Hill Nursing Home, but not whether one of those ladies had a secret love of watching Law and Order while drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows.

But Martin Bryant? Sure, we can find out all about him. There are papers, books, documentaries and any number of web pages devoted to the man who obliterated those 35 people. He has become part of our collective memory.

Surely those 35 people deserve at least as much from us.

In the end, it comes down to this - We who know the dead must speak for them. We must refuse 'beautiful, smart, funny'. We must grieve, we must be good to ourselves, and then we must say who our loved ones really are. We need to be more than a society that fetishises the killer and forgets the victim.

We must refuse the script, and speak from our hearts.

September 2014

2122 2324252627


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Mar. 29th, 2015 03:59 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios