Death by Hash-tag######

As a planet we are making incredible advances in technology and communication. We can make synthetic sperm and put  a man on the moon (or in a studio decked out very well to look like the moon.) But I worry that as a species we are becoming a whole lot hypocritical.

Our vulnerability to ‘offense’ is becoming dangerous and is threatening the entire dynamic of the society we live in. It is good to be self-regulating and to address problems when we see them arise. But some of the problems we are attempting to eradicate are making way for new ones.

Corporal and capital punishment used to be widespread, even a form of entertainment . Now we have the social media guillotine of Twitter and Facebook and anyone and everyone can get unlimited free burning sticks to brand anyone who causes them offense.  The problem is that those most offended are the first to raise a virtual stick and offend the crap out of whoever offended them.

Indeed, the social media has become a cacophonous rabble of naysayers and self-righteous prigs, some just reveling in the anonymous platform, others hell-bent on disemboweling strangers who dare to disagree with them. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so damaging. The huffing, puffing commentators are quick to point out a perceived ‘offence’ but fail to responsibly filter their own responses which can include death threats and profane litanies of personal abuse.

Our human race is becoming so self-righteous and hypocritical that the heat it is generating might just be contributing to global warming.  Freedom of speech is being threatened like never before, despite the web megaphones handed out to anyone who can hold and operate a mobile phone.  People have been given a voice but are increasingly using it to abuse others for the crime of having used their own voice. If one thing really offends me – it is hypocrisy.  I’ll call it when I see it but I’ll try to do it nicely.

Here’s the rub. You can’t please all the people all the time. What offends one person will make someone else laugh. One person’s poison is another’s cognac. And you know what, not having developed our powers of mind-reading, we can’t always predict how people will react when we share our views.

Twitter users can often be very black or white .  ‘Champion my world view or I will cut you into tiny pieces with my hash-tag.’

The Twitter troll is  a new and disturbing  creature to climb out of the primordial internet soup. Trolls are dangerous because you rarely see them coming.  They hide under the Twitter bridge ready to leap up and strike at the first sounds of heavy footsteps. Trolls also set up Facebook pages to specifically embarrass, shame and destroy people they have a beef with. Sometimes strangers target a celebrity, disregarding any psychological damage they may in turn create. Trolls derive pleasure from inflicting senseless vitriol into the ether.  

We live in a world where the flies on the wall have Twitter accounts and cameras and little respect.

The new commandments of political correctness might soon look like this.

1.     Thou shalt not make a joke, about anything as it is sure to offend someone.

2.     Thou shalt not point out the bleeding obvious to people who are content to wallow in irrationality and delusion.

3.     Thou shalt not use any labels to describe any person ever.  

4.     Thou shall free up the law courts by taking personal revenge on the presumed guilty via social media, killing them (virtually speaking) with a sledge-hammer of abuse.

5.     Thou shall enjoy freedom of religion so long as your heathen practices do not offend the Judea-Christian sensibility.

6.     Thou shalt not sack any employee for any reason.

7.     Thou shall protect the rights of children unless they infringe on the right to bear arms (pointedly directed at the US).

8.     Thou shalt not play practical jokes on anyone.

9.     Thou shalt not give homeless people shoes as they will just be ungrateful and sell them for beer.

1      Thou  shalt not laugh at Sacha Baron Cohen as he is the devil (but not because he’s Jewish or male). 
It seems the only way to ensure that you are never found culpable for someone else’s profound sense of ‘offense’ is to remain silent.

Not this little blabber-mouth.

The George Costanza Challenge

Have you seen the episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza decides that every decision he has ever made has been wrong, because it has gotten him to where he doesn’t want to be?  His current life. So he decides to override his own system and begin to make decisions that would be the opposite of what he would normally do. He breaks with his instinct and nature and lo and behold everything starts falling into place in his life – jobs, girls etc. This was not only an extremely funny episode but also very poignant.

We really are the sum of our decisions and while our habits seem almost bordering on the edge of ‘beyond our control’, they are the product of repeated decisions to engage in the same behaviour. When at lunch, George ordered the opposite of what he normally ordered. He drank tea instead of coffee. He approached women with confidence and was honest to his boss. Things old George just didn’t normally do!

So if you would normally snap at your partner for leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night so that you nearly fall in – don’t. Do something nice for him instead of snapping. If you normally sleep on the right side of the bed – sleep on the left. If a partner has a problem with it – sleep on the sofa or outside in a tent. When you see that annoying woman from down the street, tell her she looks really lovely today, instead of pretending you didn’t see her. Buy a different newspaper. Wear your hair a completely different way. Go even further – if you usually look like a conservative librarian – dress like a hippy. Walk instead of drive. If you are tight with money– splurge on something. If you’re a mad shopaholic like me, be completely radical and go and put some money in a savings account for a rainy day. Just challenge yourself to get out of the thousands of behavioural ruts you have set yourself in. You’ll unnerve everyone. It will be fun!

I’m advocating this behaviour as a way of kick-starting the process that we all need to work through and that is – realising that we are not our bad habits – and that we have the right, responsibility and need – to change them into whatever great habits we might wish to have as a part of our character. Prepare for the New Year. The definition of an idiot, according to Einstein (who was not an idiot), is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. New Year. New You!

We were not born with any bad habits

We collected them along the way. Some were taught to us. Some we were predisposed to develop. But at some point we chose them as our own special bad habits. The one thing that separates us from the flock of sheep – is our ability to apply our free will.

The late Steven Covey, very clearly enunciates this in his book, “The 8th Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness.” He states that between the stimulus and the response lies the freedom of choice. In other words when something happens to you or you perceive that something has happened to you, there is a gap of time before you react. If you have been described as having a very short fuse – then your reaction time is probably ‘instant’. If you react to stressful situations like that repeatedly it becomes a bad habit – called a temper or a chronic over-reaction! I call it ‘knee-jerk’ disorder. The challenge to grow and evolve into a person liberated from negative bad habits lies in this space. Widening that space gives you options. That gives you time to evaluate the correct or most appropriate response. The counting to ten method is a good way to start if you find yourself reacting prematurely. Just count to ten and breathe deeply whenever you are confronted with a situation that would usually see you ‘blow your top’.

Every day,  pick a bad habit and do all you can to transform it into something wonderful. If it is your habit not to tip when going to restaurants and hotels – start doing it and see if it kills you. It won’t and you might find you start getting better service and feeling better about yourself.

You are the product of the choices you make – if you don’t like where you are  - do a turn around and use some new dance moves. Spin some 180 degree changes in your life.

Make some radically opposite choices for this New Year . I dare you. George Costanza dares you! 

Happy 2013.

X-Mas - Bah humbug

I have not been infected with the X-Mas spirit this year.

Perhaps after so many years I have built up an immunity to it. Every year of my entire life I have had a X-Mas tree, decorated with tinsel and baubles and crappy homemade ornaments made of felt and paddle-pop sticks. But this year....I don't even have the enthusiasm to figure out where I would put a tree if I had one. The space where it was last year - has a new sofa there and I am not, absolutely not,  moving my new is even allowed to sit on it yet because it is still so new and clean and unspoiled.

But I had a pang of guilt when my daughter asked me yesterday why there was no tree up and it's already the tenth of December. She was not satisfied with my answer that if there is no Santa Claus, there doesn't need to be a tree. After five children who grew up believing in Santa for a bit until I caved in and told them that it was all crap, I have finally reached the point where none of my kids subscribe to that implausible legend anymore. The ruse is over.....until grandchildren.....but that's a long way off (I hope).

Perhaps that is why I feel no need for pomp and ceremony. The bubble has burst. It really is just commercial hype. It has nothing to do with Jesus or family togetherness. It really is all about the presents and the food and the alcohol. And all that will still appear with or without the tree.

The truth is I threw the last one in the bin on Boxing Day last year. It was just such a sense of relief that I'd made it through another Yuletide that I wanted no trace of the event and boxed it up for the tip.

So....if I am to pander to my nine year old daughter's sense of tradition, I must go to the STORE and buy another one along with bags of delicate decorations like those impossible coloured balls that can never be attached because the string falls off.  The tacky star that droops sadly to one side from the top of the tree or an angel with a surprised O of a mouth. Is she singing psalms or just freaked out that she's been rudely impaled on the top of a pine tree? Ouch!

I'm not a Christian.

Santas in department stores creep me out. (After seeing Bad Santa, they will never be the same).

And yet.....I feel I must. Although my heart is not in it and  I would do away with the whole nonsense if I had my way, I feel compelled by my social/maternal conscience.

I haven't bought a single present and have a wedding to attend this weekend which leaves little time to buy the hundreds of gifts I will be expected to rock up to the obligatory family function with. I have been avoiding it all, hoping that if I ignored Christmas, it would simply go away.

The kids have made their lists and they are longer than any potential X-Mas tree. Greedy little shits. Really. All they want for X-Mas is ....everything! What do they ever get me? A clay ash-tray with finger prints pressed into it. Honestly? I don't smoke and I have so many paper clip holders I could open a shop.

But I must think of the children. Mustn't I? Because that is what a good mother is supposed to do. I am supposed to read The Nightmare before Christmas/I mean the Night before Christmas on X-Mas Eve and pretend that the plane flying over head is really a sleigh, the red lights, Rudolph's nose. Well, not this year. I can with a clear conscience say 'that there is a plane - just a plane and Rudolph was just a symbol for all the kids who got bullied for being flawed or different or just incredibly painful and annoying..'

And then, I'll have to tiptoe around and place wrapped gifts under the tree, which will be somewhere in the garage this year I think. Or just stumble around with champagne banging into things and when I wake the kids, yell...'Yes, yes you know it's me! Ho-ho-ho! Where are my frickin milk and cookies??!!'

I must arrive at a BBQ on the big day, with a red and white Santa hat and a big smile and give out the $30 a head gifts to people I only see once a year and try not to drink too much eggnog. Can't back that up. I don't even know what eggnog is.

It's the silly season...the most commercial season of the year. might be fun. I might get some cool gifts.

I know I'm being a bit of a scrooge....and I do feel a little bit guilty as I see that puppy dog look in my daughter's eyes as she pleads for a Christmas tree....just a little cheap one....anything,.

Goddamn it! Alright. I give in. I'll buy a plastic thing from Target - all wire and shredded fake lawn clippings. I'll buy turtledoves and candy canes and fake little presents the size of matchboxes. I might get some dangerous strands of mega-electricity-burning lights. Hell...why don't I compete with those guys up the road and turn my house into a nuclear power plant with coloured lights and a real sleigh on the roof.? I'll hire a live reindeer and charge the local kids to have rides around the block or give them away for free. I'll be the neighborhood winner of Christmas Cheer.

So, I'll do it! The tree that is...not the rest of it. I was just being sarcastic. Just a tree and some decorations from the Reject shop.

But this is the last year. I mean it. I'm with scrooge. Bah Humbug!

Political Star Wars

Australia is a wayward school and the student leadership council is in chronic disarray. The place has become like one of the lamer Star Wars movies. The school captain is a capable girl, a Princess Leia,  with a good head on her shoulders and a sensible attitude but she is fighting an uphill battle against a space-ship full  of fools and she's doing it with such patience and grace that it's hard not to take your hat off to her.

Leia's got her chief rival making life hard for her. The obnoxious big-mouth, Jar Jar Binks. He's the kid who likes to poke other people in the eye and laugh when no-one else thinks it's funny. She's up the front talking about policy and direction and he's flinging paper clips at her while singing in a Jamaican accent that she runs the joint 'like a girl'. The teachers love him which confounds the student body and they are getting sick of asking why he'd be a good leader when his answers amount to - 'Because Leia's got bread rolls on her ears...' or 'Because Leia's got a paperclip between her eyes.'

There's Han Solo, the cool, suave dude who all the kids like but the teachers complain about because he's not a team player. Malcolm Turnbull is a bit of a solo player but he's popular with the girls. I think the teachers are all just a little bit jealous of him because he makes them look...well....look a bit daggy.

Jar Jar Binks has his off-sider, more famous for the bad hair than anything else....ohhh...and the noises that come out of her mouth that are trying to sound like intelligent words....but are just a pitiful, vacuous moan. The Empire's own Wookie Bishop.

In a previous episode, Leia deposed the popular class clown, a fair fellow with a dashing smile and unnerving giggle. And didn't the kids love him! Not least for his propensity to hand out sweeties to them all, particularly the ones with not much in their lunch-boxes....but the teachers got rid of him because he had an attitude and behind closed doors lost his temper with the teachers and swore at them. God help us! He had a broad grin and time for everyone and he was not too proud to say 'sorry' when no-one else would. Kind of like the loveable Skywalker. He peaked early and then just drifted off into the background. He's still working for the Alliance but in the outposts. Being Leia's secret brother....there's a bit of sibling rivalry going on and he figures...he's the boy...the crown should be rightfully his!

But down in one of the lower grades there is something much more sinister going on - in one of the classes, there is a class captain who is running amok. This is the premier of QLD, Darth Vadar....only in this case it's more like a scene from Space Balls....when you take off the scary black mask and suit, you find it's really little Rick Moranis with his high-pitched voice. This would  be funny if he wasn't wielding a Lightsaber because that's the sort of thing that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. For ages eight and up. He's firing that thing about zapping the Literary Awards, public service jobs, Breast screening, Indigenous literacy programs, Drive safe programs and blaming foster parents for the bad behaviour  of the troubled children put into their care, while despotically  outlawing his opposition. He's surrounded himself with a team of Storm-troopers but even they are being unnerved by the pocket-sized Mussolini and they are scrambling to jump ship.

And as for  Obi-Wan Kenobi .....maybe Paul Keating with his air of superiority and biting words of advice and commentary being shared from time to time?

Yoda...perhaps Laurie Oakes??

Either would all be somewhat entertaining if it wasn't so serious. It's a country, not a Hollywood film set. Throw down the light-sabers and don't be so reckless!!!!!!!!!!!!

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