26 March 2015

My two cents on celebrity violence

I absolutely understand that good people make mistakes.  Good people do bad things. It can be in the heat of the moment, brain snaps, carelessness, thoughtlessness, whatever.

It doesn't make the person a bad person.  It was bad behaviour.

It's basically small people 101.

It doesn't however mean that there are not consequences.  And money, fame or a top rating TV show about cars does not negate the behaviour.

Verbally and physically abusing people is not the right thing to do.

And it doesn't matter if you're Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Brown, Roman Polanski, Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris, Bill Cosby, Sean Penn, Mel Gibson, Emma Roberts, Russell Crowe, Charlie Sheen, Dennis Rodman, Tommy Lee, Steven Seagal, Nicholas Cage, Ozzy Osburne, Mickey Rourke, Dudley Moore, Vince O'Neill, Vanilla Ice, Zsa Zsa Gabor or Naomi Campbell.

I don't care how good they are, or are not, at what they do - there are consequences.

If Jeremy Clarkson valued his audience as much as they valued him, he would have stopped behaving like a dick.  He's been racist, he's behaved like a thug, he's regularly charming and he is often very funny.

You can be all of those things at once.

But if you spend more time being the first two and OVERWHELMINGLY non-repentant - the other two lose their currency.

You can still like a person who has behaved badly.  You can still love them even.  But when my child bites another child I don't let them keep playing as if nothing has happened.

Jeremy Clarkson is, in the lexicon of his behaviour, a butthead.

I adored Mel Gibson growing up. Posters on my wall, my grandfather had met his father, it was like us ending up together was a sure thing (despite him being short and married with six kids).

You all know how that ended up.  It doesn't negate his talent or the fact that his friends adore and support him.  It does mean that he was a complete dick and that deservedly caught up with him.

Like Jeremy.

Time out time JC.  And remember the golden rule of life next time.


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18 March 2015

Be gentle with their grief

For obvious reasons, this year there is a huge amount of attention being focussed on domestic violence and those that have experienced it.

And domestic violence is actually a very palatable phrase that encompasses the less palatable words like rape, beatings, torture, burns, bullying, neglect, child abuse, insults, assaults, kicks, sadism, barbarity, stabbings and fear .

It is a sad truth that putting the word 'domestic' in front of the word violence trivialises it in many people's minds.  We toss around words like percentages and statistics and gleefully engage in victim blaming asking "why didn't she leave?" or "that would never have happened to me because I would have done it differently."

We buy badges, sign pledges. We are collectively and rightly appalled by what we read in the papers or online.

We are made uncomfortable by campaigns like this by The Guardian newspaper where the statistics of one per week dead at the hands of their partners are replaced by the actual faces of women who have actually died.

Photo source: The Guardian (www.theguardian.com)
We applaud Rosie Batty for telling her story over and over and over again and putting her face and her 'celebrity' behind apps and initiatives that will hopefully empower people and start to reduce the staggering numbers of people living with domestic violence.  At the same time, there are those that that quite openly blame her for the death of her son.

We say very little when Tara Moss speaks out about being raped because she's obviously done all right for herself what with being a model and an author and having her own family.  Oh, and being pretty.  Was it really rape if she knew him?

We think that Arman Abrahimzadeh should have 'manned up' and stopped his father from killing his mother in 2010. If he and his sisters had really been affected by the domestic violence they grew up with surely they would have done something to stop him.

And the list goes on.

These people courageously package their experiences, their soul shattering grief, their eternal losses, their endless pain into small chunks of palatable reality for us, the skeptical public, to try and get us to understand and to act.

And we are so careless with that gift.  We mock it, we undermine it, we belittle it by thinking that it can't have been that bad if they are prepared to revisit it, if they smile again, if they go on and find love, build a new life, start afresh.

We use language which puts the emphasis on the abused.  Not the abuser.  We do not write letters via the national press saying "Why did you burn your daughter? Why did you rape your partner? It's your fault your son died."

No. We only go public to ask the abused, and often the dead, why did they not do things differently.

And yet incredibly, there is an increasing number of people are brave enough to package up their experience and say  "I do not want this to happen to another person".

And for ever person that doesn't appear on TV or in the papers, there are countless others taking their experiences to support groups, to families, to churches, to soccer games, to friends, to colleagues and saying "I see you. I have been there."

But still we judge. And every time we assume that we understand their circumstances, that we would do it differently without ever having been there, we are actively contributing to the problem.

We need to be gentle and respectful of the grief in those shared stories. Those voices speaking of a reality they we can not fully comprehend without experience.  They speak up so that others may have the courage to leave and again for others, the bystanders, to act.

In the end it is simple.  If we do not honour those stories -if we do not learn from them and actively seek to change our own language, our own prejudices, our own silence, and the language, the prejudices and the judgement of those around us - then we are complicit.

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9 March 2015

Nope, it's a fair question - what about the kids?

These children hate going to bed and some vegetables.
That's it. That's all they've got in the prejudice department.
I actually applaud the question being asked.

What about the kids?

What about the kids born completely free of bigotry in any way and finding themselves being raised by people who actually think who other people choose to love is any of their damn business?

What about the kids being drip fed hate speak as normal? What about the children who are being brought up by parents who judge others based on sexuality, religion, race or disability?

What about the kids of people who not only believe these things but put their faces to them on national television or bang on lecterns in public places as they share their bigotry with others?

What about the kids being exposed to the bullshit bigotry enshrined in legislation, aired on television as an advert , wrapped up as God's freakin' word at church on Sunday or spat out as the ultimate insult on Saturday's football field?

What about the kids that don't know that being called 'gay' by somebody isn't actually an insult, but a very public demonstration of ignorance by the other person?

What about the kids who don't know that having a parent of each gender does not guarantee you positive role models, a caring environment or a successful life?

What about the kids who are being brought up by complete numpties?

This isn't random for me.  I have a number of friends who because they happen to love somebody of the same gender have to live regularly with the kind of small minded, bigoted bullshit perpetuated by the adverts on the weekend.

About half of those are parents. Good parents.  Loving parents.  Sometimes completely insane parents that worry about getting it right.  You know.  Like most parents.

What about the kids?

Fairly awesome, engaging and loud - every single one of them.

Like all kids surrounded by love and not bigotry.

I wish all kids were so lucky.

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2 March 2015

Is your bus full?

I was on the periphery of a conversation on the weekend about the expression 'my bus is full'. It's an expression which suggests that you've got enough friends and don't need anymore.  Some also see it as saying that it's not just friends, but commitments overall.

I've had discussions in the past with people about this.  Somebody once said to me "I'm not like you Al, I don't want to talk to strangers, I have enough friends."

It's a comment I've pondered at various times over the years, when thinking about the peculiar beast which is friendship and the various joys and frustrations associated with any people based relationship.  How the hell do you define "enough friends"?  And how can you say that absolutely when you're only in your early 30s?

See, it's not that I "want" to speak to strangers per se.  But some of the most interesting things I know, and some of the most entertaining random experiences I have had, come from encounters with people that I would never have met if I "didn't have room on my bus".

To me  claiming your bus is full is an open declaration that you've learnt all you need to learn and that life would be best if it never ever changed.

And that makes me feel claustrophobic in the extreme.

People are absolutely the most brilliant thing about being alive.

There are people on my bus that invariably going to get off.  Some I will ask to leave, some will jump off without paying and others will get off because they got to where they are going.  Some might decide they don't like the way I drive. Some people never even got on my bus, or anybody's bus, and learn nothing more than can be gleaned from the bus stop closest to their home.

But there are people on my bus like the chap on the Perth train last month.  They get up and dance.  They start sing-alongs even though they can't sing. They scratch their name into the back windows so that their mark is permanent no matter whether they stay the entire journey. These people are the passengers which others often remark on and always remember - even if not entirely for the right reasons.

There are those on my bus who will get off and push if we break down.  There are those that sit quietly reading in the front of the bus.  They sit alongside those that sit at the front purely so they can watch what is going on and keep up a running commentary about the rest of the passengers.

There are those sitting half way along that are doing their own thing but remember to catch my eye in the rear view mirror and give me a broad smile and a thumbs up whenever they get a chance.  There are those laughing and laughing and laughing and while I never have a clue what is going on, they bring a lot of joy to the journey.

There are those that have jumped on along the way that have added value to the bus trip in so many immeasurable ways I wonder how the journey began without them. There are those that got on, got off, got on, got off and are back on again and that is perfectly okay.  Not everybody likes to travel the same way and those breaks are good for everybody.

There are those that get on the bus accidentally and you wonder what a trip without them would look like and you hope you never have to find out.  There are those you make a detour for so that even though they are not going to be regular passengers, you've helped them find the bus that is right for them and it's always great to wave at them as you pass by.

There are those that ride for free and those that buy life time passes. There are those that drive you to exasperation by sneaking in the back door even though you swore they couldn't come on the bus and yet somehow, they journey would have kind of sucked without them.

There are those that stick their head out the roof and scream for the sheer hell of it and their infectious crazy antics make you wish you had the courage to live with such wild, joyful abandon even though you know that you will probably have to visit them in hospital when they hit their head on an overhead traffic light.  There are those that remember to fill their water bottles before they get on the bus and know CPR and don't mind speaking to the nutters in the third row and there is never a time on your journey where you are not grateful for their kindness and good sense.

Some bring more baggage then fits in the lockers, and others have a small bag that would make Mary Poppins envious.  There are those that you know will still be there when you pull into the bus station at the end no matter how long the journey or how obscure the end destination or how crowded the bus may be.

So is my bus full? No.

There are times when it's pretty close to capacity because the terrain is a bit crazy and you have to be careful to make sure the bus doesn't tip, but when it comes down to it - it's the passengers on the bus or waiting at the next stop that look out for you, get out and push if you get stuck and stick their hands in the air and yell 'Wheeeeeeee' when it's downhill and obstacle free.

Maybe I'm just somebody that has been blessed with a bendy bus or a double decker bus or maybe it's just that until I reach the final destination, the bus is has got to keep moving. And I have no desire to be on that bus alone because the journey would be dull, deathly dull.

So I choose to love the passengers I have, wish the ones that get off all the best and always, always be ready to let on new passengers.  Sure it might get squishy sometimes but I bet you anything I never have to sing "The wheels on the bus" alone.

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