Wednesday, 16 July 2014

I'm Conservative, But Not Like You

My Nan says I should be a politician. Quite the vote of confidence, right there. I have always planned to be a politician eventually, but you know, not until I am sufficiently aged. I almost changed my mind today. Driving home from work, listening to the news on the radio, I sorely wanted to change course and head to Canberra to start right now. 

In the words of Lorde  "Let me in the ring, I'll show you what that big word means."

Nan and Pop, this post is for you x

My maternal grandparents are Conservative. They "know I am a Greenie," because my darling Nan reads my blog. They are fine with me being a "Greenie" (and I am fine with them calling me that if that helps them understand my views), but Nan has given me me one caveat so far: I'm allowed to be a Greenie, as long as I don't go crook about her cutting down trees.
I laughed and agreed that I wouldn't "go crook" about this. What her comment did make me think about though was the generation gap, and how if my Nan was my age now, she too might be a "Greenie." Let me explain...

Nan wants her right to chop trees. Even if she is 80.

My Nan was born during the Great Depression. My, how we have heard about how tough it was back then. There are photo albums and stories to prove it. I utterly respect the guts and resilience of my forebears in those years, no question.

By the time my Nan was politically aware, Communism was plaguing Europe. I learned about what happened to the people in the former USSR at uni, and have learned enough about world history to know that just about any country that tries out Communism in practice ends up a basket case. In case I ever forget, North Korea is the ultimate omnipotent deterrent to Communism the rest of the world simply cannot get rid of. But Nan didn't learn about this stuff in books, she lived through those scary idealogical times. Communism was a real potential threat to governments and people were scared that Australia had "Reds under the bed."

Whether they know it or not, my grandparents were witness, through their radios, newspapers and eventually televisions, to the destruction and economic devastation that Communist ideology caused during the 20th Century. From an historical perspective, I can understand why my grandparents and those of their generation may be very fearful of anything that comes from the Left, including perhaps the writing of their own "Greenie" granddaughter. 

"We're the Planeteers! You can be one too!"

I was born in 1987 and was raised in the 90's and early 21st Century. I was a teenager more than 50 years after my grandmother was. My first eighteen years on Earth were very different to hers. I went to a state school, for free, right up until year 12. Whenever I went to the doctor or dentist, my parents never had to pay. I watched the ABC almost every day after school and was not bombarded by advertising for that 2 hours in the afternoon. No junk food commercials, no Barbie doll ads, nothing but Captain Planet goodness and Feral TV. I studied the environment at school and went on excursions to stinky mangrove forests and the beach. I was not a "Greenie" back then. I was kind of bored with environmental science to tell the truth. Like it or not, we were taught to look after the planet, often using catchy songs by like "Look After Your Planet." Again, I wasn't a "Greenie" when I was singing along then, I just liked the song.

Communism wasn't on the radio or the TV by the time I became politically aware, the Gulf War (I) was. Greed was good in the 80's and that philosophy lingered in to the 90's. I ingested stories about American culture through toys, cartoons, movies and video games. America dominated the television I watched, with shows emphasising the importance of being rich and famous. The international news stories I heard were all of the same narrative - Free trade, New World Order, Coalition of the Willing. 

My political leaning as an adult is mostly a result of my early environment and the influences I took in as a child. I learned what "normal" was before I knew what "normal" meant in a political context. Applying the same logic to what happened in my Nan's case, it is only natural that I should want to preserve the things I love about my life, and rally against anything that could take those away. My Nan didn't want her country to become Communist, or even Socialist, because that could take away her right to forge her own life independent of others. Hell, she needed to cut down trees back then to burn wood for the stove and to heat the house. If I'd been around then I would have been right out there chopping wood with her! 

Neo-Conservatives in Action - Cheney and Bush

Now, in 2014, I don't want my country to swing too far towards the other extreme. My Nan was frightened of Communism - I am shit scared of the new Neo-Conservatives. Unlike Neo-Cons, I do not believe in the free market being a mechanism to provide cheap access to everything I could need, because I have witnessed the rise of the Corporation. I have seen on my computer screen and on my iPhone the advertising of every multi-national selling me things I don't need. Free trade will not give me affordable healthcare. Medicare already does that. News Corp and Fairfax will not give me unbiased reporting of stories because they are beholden to their shareholders, not their readers. This is my reality. 

So why am I calling myself a Conservative? Because to be Conservative is to be adverse to change. To be Conservative is to hold on to your tradition. I am Conservative because I am fighting to keep my way of life in tact. I am not advocating anything radical, I just want to keep the freedoms I have so long taken for granted in place. If we privatise everything, then we have to pay for everything at a price that is out of our hands. We are left with no bargaining power, and no vote. If you can't pay, then you miss out. 

And that's not fair. 

That's American.

And that's definitely not where my grandmother or I grew up.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

It's The Little Things That Count

The proto-type for the Do-it-Yourself Valentine's Day Flower Set I made for Rae and Kev when they were in Afghanistan.

The Playing Card Chandelier I made for my brother's Casino Royale themed birthday - it actually lit up too

The Bon Voyage collage post card I made for my friend Quinn who is off to South Sudan with the UN in a few weeks

The set of wood block trophies I made for the Melbourne Cup Best Hat Competition at Ashlea's Hens Party

The 2013 edition of my Christmas Card, complete with self composed, religious-free poem.

Have you ever received a real letter from me? Maybe you are one of the lucky ones on my Christmas Card list?

Did you feel loved when you opened up that little envelope? I hope so.

I love to make things for people to make them feel good. It's my own self-declared super power. 

Being at my wits end politically, and knowing that not much I do or say impacts politicians, I have decided that I am going to use my super power to help refugees in detention instead. I spent a whole weekend making a postcard for a friend I met overseas last week and I reckon I can make some pretty kick ass postcards to keep those poor buggers sane while they go through hell - thanks to our government. 

These are the details if you want to do the same. 

Send the letter to:
Julian Burnside 
205 William St 
Melbourne, 3000 

Remember to enclose a self-addressed envelope and include 'Australia' as part of your address. 

Before you send
If you want to send your letter to Nauru, please place $1.85 in Australian stamps on the reply envelope (addressed to you). Nauru uses Australian stamps. 

If sending your letter to Manus Island, please include a $5 note in the reply envelope. Stamps are expensive in Papua New Guinea, this will allow the recipient of your letter to buy stamps to write back to you.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

How Much Should I Care?

Do you pay attention to the news?

I do.

I read it on my ABC for iPhone app in the morning, and during the day, and at night.

I also hear the news on the radio while I drive to and from work, and see new things on my Facebook feed on my lunch break.

Without realising, I have saturated myself in news. I don't own a television, but that is probably the only medium I don't receive news from on a daily basis.

After a day like today, I am starting to wonder if I wouldn't be better off not knowing what's going on in the world...

One of the first things I read today was an article headline pulled from The Guardian via Junkee.
Apparently, the federal government has been rewording articles on its official websites that refer to climate change so that they no longer mention climate change and its effects, like increased bush fire risks and heat waves. Ever read 1984? Scared yet? Yeh, they really did that.

I read this before I got to work, and by the time I'd heard about it again on the radio, I was mad. How dare they be so evil! I get super mad when things are reworded to sound better or mislead. I work in retail - we are experts at writing fluff and then interpreting our fluff back to customers so that they understand that 15% off is only on selected items, not the one they are holding. It makes me mad doing that, so hearing that the government is doing it to avoid owning up to science, well I was fuming.

I fumed across the carpark and in to work - and it was a mess. This is not so bad, it means that we were super busy yesterday and didn't have a chance to put all the clothes back, but already being mad at a Big Issue news item made it easy to slump in to a slight depression about the amount of work I had in front of me.

I normally like Tuesdays. Tuesdays are my Get Stuff Done days. Not many customers, no reports to get done by 10am, recovery from weekend almost done (usually) and I have time to attack things that otherwise pile up.

Today, I did not like Tuesday.

Right now, Queensland children are on school holidays. It's also Winter. And now, it's finally getting a bit nippy, so Brisbanites are having to wear these things called jumpers, and we sell lots of those. To make my Tuesday worse, I only had one other person working with me. This is great on a normal Tuesday, but today, everyone wanted to buy things from my store, so I had to be serving customers as fast as I could instead of doing all the Other Things I wanted to do.

I didn't get time to put the store back together nicely before customers pulled it apart again.
I didn't get time to unpack the rest of the delivery from yesterday and put it away neatly.
I didn't get time to look at my stockroom mess and fix it.

And then, because it was really busy, one of my staff walked in wanting to talk to me about his shift tomorrow and how he couldn't do it because he didn't know that he had uni tomorrow until today.

What's more, he had walked in dressed for work, but wasn't actually rostered to work. So he hung around waiting to talk to me while customers wondered why he wasn't helping them...

This kid is a role model for how not to organise your life and get your shit together.

Because Mr Can't Get His Shit Together has a history of stuffing up his roster and changing his shifts at the last minute, it created another headache for me. I had to write down what had happened so I could tell HR and add it to his file.

Did I mention that we were really busy? And that Tuesday is meant to be my Get Stuff Done day?

None of the above was the fault of any of my customers, but I did have to try extra hard to be nice to the annoying ones by this afternoon.

If this was a new age yoga blog, or one written by my lovely best friend, the next part of this story would be that I shook all the stress out by walking outside in to the sunlight, smiled and appreciated the little things, the positives, like making budget for the day.

But this is my blog. And I have another ending.

When I see the news in the morning, I almost always come across something that makes me mad. What's more, the things that piss me off in the news are usually Big Things. Topics that actually matter in the scheme of things. Yes, it does actually matter that the government is editing away facts. Yes, it does matter which way the Senate votes on topics I care about. So when things happen at work that annoy me, after I've read the news, I get a double reason to be mad - peeved that I have to deal with the issue in the first place, and then annoyed that I'm using all my anger on a Little Thing - something that actually means very little in the scheme of things, but has to be treated with all the seriousness of a Big Thing because there is money involved.

Customers making up lies to get refunds is my personal favourite.

Double rage.

I can't go on like this.

I need to choose what to care about and when. I won't stop caring about Big Things, and I'm certainly not allowed to tell customers I don't care about their Little Things, but I need to lighten up the load of caring or I'm going to be a grumpy bum for the rest of my life!

Not reading the news in the morning will not make me a bad person. I may be less informed, but then again, reading the news at night will catch me up. I won't be in a bad mood before work because of the news anyway.

Having to deal with Little Things is frustrating, especially when customers lie and make it an Ugly Little Thing. If we were not in the roles of Customer and Sales Assistant, I would have plainly outed this particular liar as a fraud in front of everyone. But I couldn't. Because if I had, Head Office would be asking me why I made a lady stick her head in a row of jackets to prove she was allergic to duck down and I would not have a job.

Me, wanting to stick my customer's head in a pile of down.

Me being upset about things that happen in the world does not have any impact whatsoever on the happening of those events. The only time me being upset about anything impacts anyone is when I choose to act upon those feelings, and then normally the outcome isn't that great because I'm not feeling very rational, because I'm upset.

At the guts of this issue is the feeling of helplessness. I hate that Big bad things are happening and I am powerless to stop them. I hate that Little people who lie get away with their money back. The only way I can stem the caring to the point where I am not exhausted is to focus my caring on very particular things.

I am starting my Masters in Sustainability and Climate Change next week. I am acting on my caring.
I am joining recycling groups and meeting like-minded people. I am acting on my caring.

I can not sustain an emotional response to every bit of bad news I see. So I'm going to see less of it.

As for Little Things, well, I can't make them go away, and I can't ignore them at work, but I can eat more chocolate and laugh at them later.