Thursday, 28 May 2009

Swine Flu Alert!

My mother has a new hobby horse - each evening she reminds me about how bad the swine flu is and reminds me to wash my hands.

Now, I'm not looking to die of swine flu, but this is my view on it. Take normal precautions, be alert to symptoms and report any, there are obviously situations where people and more likely, larger groups, organisations etc may have to take stricter than normal precautions, but if it gets you and you die, well too bad. Everyone has to die sometime.

There isn't any point running around getting hysterical about it and sitting at your desk thinking that every time someone coughs it's swine flu, that you can't touch anything because swine flu is majorly infectious so what if that something had been in contact with another something which had touched something which had touched something which had touched something which had touched something which had touched ....

Life still has to go on. And if you were that hysterical about it you would have no life.

Anyhow, I was looking at what normal precautions were, and mainly people are walking around saying things like "There's this terrible thing called swine flu! Wash your hands! Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough!"

You mean people have to have the threat of a jazzily named deadly flu before they remember that washing their hands and covering their mouth when they do a big public ATCHOO is the right thing to do?

People who don't remember this stuff are the kinds of people who ought to be wiped out, so I guess it's just another natural selection thing. The survival of the pockets of society of the more hygienic and polite.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Different Shades of Racism

OK, now my last post on Sol Trujillo went on for a bit so now I just want to move on and not move on at the same time.

Mainly (sorry amigo - hehehe) I'm not exactly that interested in Mr Trujillo right at the moment. I don't think I ever was or ever will be. I don't even have a Sol Trujillo label.

However, the real reason I brought up Sol's comment was to discuss racism, not to discuss whether Sol was being a whiney ass or not.

One interesting thing did come up when my Dad mentioned it over the table, and that was that there was no racism, yes he got called names but you just had to laugh at it.

Now, I have to say that my Dad does have certain beliefs about racial differences - that is, he comes right out and says things like he doesn't think Aborigines aren't as good as other people. But then he believes it's based in fact, so that isn't racist.

What I want to throw out here is - what really counts as racist? Is racism distinguishing between race? Is it believing in racial superiority/inferiority? Is it making assumptions based on race? Are there some assumptions that are acceptable to make based on race? Is it ok to be racist if it's a joke - and does it count as a joke if the other person doesn't get it?

For instance, if a person is Chinese, certain people might say it is more acceptable to assume that they will have dark coloured hair and skin. And that's not racist. But is it racist to also assume that they don't speak English and that they eat only with chopsticks?

I was at a TAFE class once and we went to a photo gallery. I liked a photo that was predominantly red in colour so I stopped to look at it, and my teacher came up to me and said "Do you like that photo because you're Chinese?" I said, "No, I like it because I like it. It's got a very vibrant, striking colour." She started going on about how she was sure it was because I was Chinese, and red was a very Chinese colour, and it was the colour of the Chinese flag and it was very symbolic. (I would like to point out that red is only one of the colours on the Chinese flag and red is also the colour most common on all of the flags of all the countries in the world. It's not very particular to the Chinese.)

I'm not sure if someone else would consider this singling out 'racism'. I didn't think it was a major attack, but I did feel she had made me feel awkward, and yes, she'd made a racist assumption and treated me according to my racial group rather than either treating me like everyone else or listening to me individually.

Are racist remarks and opinions based on so-called 'facts' still racist - and then who decides what 'facts' are valid? That is, many tests, surveys, and stats have been done testing racial groups and they have come up with certain results. Physical, social, intelligence, health etc related stats could lead someone to use a taunt and then claim that they backed it up with a stat.

"This guy's a black - more likely to have AIDS and do drugs," or something similar.

I remember a poster that was considered racist that was put up on campus that said "Don't have sex with blacks - Avoid AIDS". It was also backed up with stats that said more black men had AIDS than white men.

Do racial jokes count, and what's funny? And what's not? I don't want to live in a country where you can't tell a joke, but on the other hand, basically other people determine the funniness of any joke.

In my opinion, when you tell a joke you take a risk, but people take the risk because it's well worth the laugh! And you build up enough of a connection with the people you tell jokes to that it is not a big enough deal that you will end up being killed because you told a crummy one. Most likely if it's terrible you will just get some glares or blank looks.

Anyhow, I don't believe I've even touched the tip of the iceberg as to how racial tension, harassment, bullying and discrimination can be expressed, but I'm sure it can express itself in many ways. By omission as well as action. By making assumptions, by delegating work and roles of certain types to certain people.

The trouble is it's almost impossible to be colour blind, and in many ways we wouldn't want people to be because many of us are very proud of the racial backgrounds we embrace; what we don't want is for people to make us suffer because of them, and often it is difficult to know when what we may think is a friendly gesture could be interpreted as a racist or demeaning one that is singling them out, not as one celebrating race, or being curious about individuality or making a friendly joke. It isn't always easy to figure out how the other person takes it, and saying "they shouldn't be so sensitive" or "They should have a better sense of humour" or whatever ... well it doesn't really change the fact that they could be hurt or bemused at the time now, does it?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sol Trujillo's parting shot

I thought I'd write about something else today, like about how I'm insanely thinking of having even less sleep in the mornings and catching the EARLY bus just to get to work early to impress my boss who was late to court this morning (even though he criticises ME for being late!) and also when I'm having trouble staying awake in court as it is.

But then I saw this piece on Sol Trujillo's comments on Australia. Now, let's leave apart the fact that everyone can get a bit bitter when they've been done out of a job. Especially nowadays.

Sol called Australia 'racist' and then people came back and made the usual comments about how we aren't racist and we're the most multicultural country ever with the biggest and best anti-discrimination laws ever and that makes Sol's comments 'ridiculous'.

I've heard these kinds of comments many times before, so basically, neither side is being very original though both may be extremely sincere. Or not. Having not been outside Australia much, from experience I can't give my considered opinion of how other countries rate on the 'racist' scale.

However, here's some comments I 'd like to make:

1. According to this article, India is is the most culturally, linguistically and genetically diverse geographical entity after the Asian continent. Doesn't say anything about Australia holding any record.
2. Simply because a country has lots of people from different ethnicities and nationalities residing within it doesn't mean those people can't feel and exhibit racial tension and develop racial hierarchies. They can even be legally endorsed. So 'multiculturalism' in itself isn't proof of non-racism, per se.
3. It seemed to me that some people ... and this goes for lots of other things, like health and environmental policy too ... want to say something doesn't exist as a problem just because it's not that bad in Australia. "We're not racist in Australia ... because our anti-discrimntaion laws are better than anywhere else" "We don't need to improve our carbon emissions because we don't emit as much as anyone else" blah blah.

This is a very Aussie way of thinking - I can be slack and I don't need to improve or strive higher because everyone else is worse than me. It's a very mediocre way of thinking and it reeks of people who never want to get to the head of the class. like a B-grade student who doesn't try to get an A because all his friends are getting Ds.

Maybe some child genius had the cure for cancer in Australia but figured there was no point in revealing it because their friends were just turning in book reports for Morris Bleitzman books so they threw out their analysis. I wouldn't be the least surprised.

In Australia there are racist people and there are racist social pockets and racist public figures and racist policy etc. Some people don't feel it or realise it because they aren't the ones getting the hard stick. It mightn't be as bad as other places but not acknowledging it belittles the difficulties some people have with it.

Which leads me to ...

4. Racism has a lot to do with the individual experiences.

Anyone can experience racism, but usually it's people in minority groups who get put at a disadvantage or feel a burden because of racism. Just like any other discrimination or sneering. People have always behaved differently towards groups that are different from them - that is, there have always been groups in some societies who have gotten some schtick because they've been different - looks, race, gender, disability, sexual pref, religion, political beliefs whatever.

Some people haven't felt it as badly or haven't been as negatively affected by it, or felt they've affected others badly that way. They're fortunate, and often they believe that discrimination and those 'isms don't exist and those who cokmplain about them are paranoid harpies making a mountain out of a molehill to get attention.

They could well be people who fall into a 'minority' category of one or two - "I'm a Lebanese female and I've never been harassed and no one talks to me strangely and everyone's really nice to me, I don't know what anyone's complaining about, eeveryone who believes racism or sexism exists is a whinger!"

But you've really got to find out what the other person's experience is to find out whether they've got a valid gripe ...

Maybe they do.

That doesn't necessarily mean the whole country is a nation of racists ...

However it can point to why their point of view has been coloured, and also, that their really is at least an element of racism in a country, whether you count that as a problem of the country yet or not.

Racism and any form of discrimation, harassment, bullying etc can be so personal and so hurtful I think it's somewhat insensitive to say someone is ridiculous for feeling that they've been cut down and that they've received racist slurs. How objective can this be? Though I understand why the defenders are quick to jump up and make those comments in an effort to ensure the image of the nation is protected.

P.S. If we have strong anti-discrimination laws it may be because we don't value racism ... but it also probably is pointing to the fact that there is a problem. I'm betting we didn't put the laws in there as a pre-emptive strike just in case someone happened to be racist or discriminative, but they never are.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Court Snoozing

OK, I've got a problem, and a bit of an embarrassing secret, which is of course why i'm publishing it on the Net.

I'm working in court, see, and my job partially requires me to sit for periods in court, some longer than others. On a chair. Sometimes I hand up court documents and do things but for a long while sometimes I'm just observing/listening. Depends on the day.

And sometimes I get tiiiiiiiiiired. Not sure why. Not enough sleep, muscles feeling lethargic, diet, boring lawyers, not sure.

But my job requires me to stay awake.

Sometimes I feel myself nodding, I jerk my head up and then I end up hitting the back of my head against the wall. Not only does this make a soundbut it's not good for my head.

I've tried doing a few things like surreptitious neck stretches, I can't start dancing or doing star jumps in court. I feel better when I have to be on my feet running errands, so I know that moving around definitely helps (and boring lawyers and long sessions definitley don't help!).

Anyone got any tips for staying awake or less sleepiness on a court morning that don't involve karaoke or cartwheels?

Techno-nannying doesn't go far enough

According to this article there's a new device being tested to speed-limit cars.

This is a special device which would recognise what the speed limit was, and then sound a warning if you tried to abuse it, and also stop you from speeding. It'd stubbornly refuse to let you speed!

Now some people think this is a great idea. I for one have never really understood why cars can go up to 180km/hr anyhow, I have never seen a 180km/hr zone.

But of course there were people who complained about nannying and how what speed you were at should be your personal responsibility.

Of course this does assume that all car drivers know what 'responsibility' means which many don't seem to from the looks of the roads out there.

Then I read a whole bunch of letters groaning about how we are the most over-governed country in the world, which I think is just an excuse for people who don't want to be rioters.

I think there are plenty of places in which we are not governed enough and I would like to see certain sorts of idiots reined in immediately with new technologies. These people don't exhibit proper responsibility and therefore it's useless saying it's up to their personal responsibility. They NEED nannying!

1. People who pack bags in supermarkets. They who are about to put a heavy item on top of a soft item should have a device attached to them which immediately gives them an electric shock and jerks their arm away from the bag!
2. People who smoke and are tempted to throw their cigarette butt out without stubbing it. These people need to have a device attached which makes them stub out it out properly first. Oh, before they stub it, huge neon lights should go off over them saying JERK JERK JERK for a bit of public humiliation.
3. People who go into the 12 items or less lane with more than 12 items should have a little robot who comes out and screams "YOU CAN'T COUNT" and shoves them into the right lane.
In fact, "12 items or less" lanes should have little robots which flash "We know this should say '12 items or fewer' we're just made a mistake and we're too cheap to change all the signs!"
4. People who try to comment on a blog and use all CAPS or have lots and lots of common spelling errors, especially mixing up "your" and "you're", "they're", "there" and "their", etc, should have a "beep" that stops their comment from being posted and after three attempts, bans them from posting until they've done some basic literacy courses.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

High heels, my foot!

Here's an article which urges women to wear stilettos instead of sandals and flats because it will boost their health and possibly also their sex-life.

One minute high heels are bad for you, straining your ankles, next minute they're a godsend. It sounds like one of those crock messages dieticians give you that has you running in both directions. Stupido.

I say, wear what you like, eat what you like, it's too hard to keep up with this load.

What I don't quite get is if these podiatrists are really so concerned about health, and that's their main concern, why is the article only urging WOMEN to pull out those stilettos? Why isn't it asking men to go to the ladies' section to find a high heel that suits them?

Is it because men's bodies are so differently constructed that they don't need the benefit of a heel to stop knee pain or arthiritis or help with posture, or more likely, that podiatrists are thinking, "No it's ok to urge all women to pull out high heels (even though the women I'm urging are presumably those who've been opting to wear the opposite kind of shoewear) but I wouldn't try to impose these ideas on men because, well, that's just a bit ridiculous, eh, I mean *snigger* a guy in high heels hehehe women can do it but I wouldn't expect a man to have to!"

It sounds like a weird discrimination both ways - putting people in boxes, expecting certain ladies to wear something that they have avoided because of certain health gains *supposedly*, and also avoiding marketing the same health benefits to men just because of a presumption that they mightn't want to wear same costume.

Unless it's true that men just don't gain the same benefits from wearing heels - and I'd like to see a test study, thanks, then how can you take this seriously?

As for the sex-life boost, the only possible sex-life boost I can imagine is that when you wear heels you are most likely to trip over, possibly into someone's arms, or perhaps in some weird way, flat on your back into a bed.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

I don't have a drinking problem ...

It surprised me to read a newspaper article about how Aussies accept we have a binge drinking problem. For I've read so much about how any time someone wants to do something about drinking (alcohol that is) and drinking problems, a huge number of people start screaming about how this is a nanny state, drinking is part of the Australian culture, stop spoiling their fun party pooper and they are perfectly responsible people and why don't police go out and punish real criminals like jaywalkers and illegal billboard posters?

By the way, DRINKING somehow always means 'drinking alcohol'. If you drink too much water, you haven't drunk anything at all, even if you have urinated a whole tankful. It's a tricky thing, the English language. I don't know what it is about Orange Juice, but I ain't drinking it, technically. Apparently. Newspaperly.

Anyhow, I do think we have a drinking problem, we don't drink enough of the good stuff, and also the yummy drinks often cost a packet (It's $9 for a milkshake at Guylian's, what the?)

Also, someone warned me not to drink tap water in Adelaide. Fortunately I'm not from Adelaide and don't plan to go there soon. But what are your options then, someone gets the grand idea to bottle STILL water and sell it back to you at some exorbitant price. Makes you sick.

As for alcohol drinking, I'm no connoisseur, but I do get rather sick of the constant excuses for alcohol-induced behaviour not curbed or controlled, and any ideas put forth to control it all screamed down by some groups, because certain people enjoy drinking and consider it an integral part of their lifestyle.

Sure, everyone likes certain thing, but this shouldn't mean that we turn a blind eye to dangerous behaviour or social problems if they occur and think up solutions, and sometimes this does mean that some individuals have to submit to controls on their lifestyle to make things 'nicer' for everyone else.

For instance, other people enjoy the ownership of guns or a smoke, but they are considered not to be great for everyone else, so these people no matter how responsible they are individually submit to basic controls over their hobbies.

But then when someone suggests perhaps about limiting drinks sold at certain times or the power to remove extremely drunken-acting people off the street at night time, you get complaints of 'nanny state'.

Seems silly - I wouldn't want to run into someone waving a gun at me at night - but i've met drunken yobbos at night and they're quite menacing too. All power to those who can remove them. If people think they are the more responsible, drinking types then they don't have anything to worry about. We're not talking about zapping these people from existence, just getting them out of harm's way so they don't hurt themselves or intimidate or hurt others (or property).

I think a sensible talk about drinking without all the passion connected to it via the 'I've got a right to drink, I'm an Aussie it's what I DO!' parade would be very helpful.

Friday, 8 May 2009

In Case of Fire

Recently I got a memo at work saying on Thursday 7 May there would be evacuation drill at 8.45am, probably take until at least 9.15am or 9.30am. It was designed so that it would clash least with people's work and court commitments.

I thought, "Hey cool! I can come into work late!"

I bet others were thinking similarly.

Then I got told that I happened to be a Floor Warden.


I'm new at this job, and while I was cleaning up the mess left by the last guy I found a large yellow hard hat on my desk. I thought it some weird fetishist object, until now. Apparently I've been 'handed the hat' which means I'm our level's Floor Warden.

And that meant turning up extra early on Thursday for Warden Training in Case of Fire.

And wearing my Bright Yellow Hat.

(By the way if you're Stair Warden your Hat is Red. I'm not sure whether I can swap.)

So I ended up waking up bright and early, tumbling out of bed to learn all about being a warden and how to wear my hat with pride and how to check for people in case of fire.

Then we did a Drill.

I checked for people, truly I did, but I couldn't find anyone. I wasn't sure if that would mean I'd get a Fail. I even checked the men's bathrooms in desperation, seeing if I could catch a stray.

Later the wardens went to a debriefing and discussed the situation. Most of us hadn't found anyone to evacuate in the drill. Someone had managed to rouse up a cleaner to boss around, but that was about it.

We figured out that the main reason was we set the drill early in the morning BEFORE WORK and we told everyone before hand there would be a drill. Most people don't like being evacuated especially when there isn't a real fire (because then there isn't any thrill of danger) so they stayed at home or went to a brekkie (I noted that I didn't find any people but I did find notes on desks saying 'gone out for coffee, back by 9.30' on desks.

Some buildings use a sound system that says "Evacuate immediately, this is not a drill" to get people out of the building; I say if you want people out of there fast, tell them it IS a drill. A really boring one. They disappear like magic.