Newtown, Connecticut

This morning, everything was normal. I woke when the kids did, I yawned, I got their breakfast, I gave them a bath, I turned on my computer, I checked Facebook. It was there I had my first inkling that not all was right with the world. Several posts made mention of a tragedy, but I had to go looking at news sites to find the specifics.

I wish I hadn’t.

Normally, distant events have little impact on me. I can acknowledge a tragedy without feeling any sadness; I am more likely to feel frustration at people’s acts than despair at the outcome.

If the president can cry, so can I.

If the president can cry, so can I.

But this time… I am not ashamed to admit I was in tears, and am again while I write this. Those children, so young, shot down in a place that should be safe and secure and normal, and for what? So very young. So many of them. So many families deprived. Whole lives, towns, the world, devastated.

I am astonished how even out of the devastation, stories of heroism emerge. Teachers saved their classes, hid them in closets or bathrooms. One teacher told her entire class she loved them; she told the media afterwards that she had no idea if she was allowed to say that, but she wanted it to be the last thing those children heard, if they were to die that day. People have shown incredible bravery in the face of sheer terror.

But there is the other side of the coin. This incident (what a horribly clinical word, incident) has once again raised the issue of gun control in the US, and gun lobbies are spinning the old ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do.’ And then there are the Christians who appear to blame the whole thing on Atheists, and the separation of church and state. If they could see me now, weeping, they might reconsider.shooting1Personally, I think we need to move beyond petty blame-games, beyond name-calling, beyond procrastination. This horrific slaughter should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back; if this doesn’t result in stricter gun control laws and better mental health services in the US and indeed the world, nothing ever will. Lets all go to hell in a handbasket, says the Atheist. I despair.

Incoming!

Now, what with being Australian and all, I don’t follow US politics very closely. Obviously I am aware that there has been a hotly contested election, and that Barack Obama has just won his second term as president.

With my limited awareness, Obama seems progressive and socially conscious, intelligent and well-spoken, caring and compassionate. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is… Jesus H Tapdancin’ Christ, he’s a Mormon. If he actually believes everything Mormons are supposed to believe, I can only conclude he’s got the intelligence of a retarded gnat. I know that he and his party are apparently violently opposed to the equality of women and the whole concept of ‘family planning’ – namely contraception and abortion.

With these vague ideas in mind, I can only suppose that Romney’s supporters are fairly right-wing, conservative, and religious.

Why, then, are so many of them now professing a desire to move to Australia now that Obama has won?

Are they unaware that our Prime Minister is female, an Atheist, and unmarried? Do they know nothing of our gun control laws? Have they no idea how easily available contraception is here? How socially progressive we are? Our health care system? Our religious apathy? Our multicultural nature?

Or have they just picked Australia because it seems so far away in every respect? Does the distance, to them, mean we must also be politically different?  Backwards? Old-fashioned?

If that is a Republican’s perception of Australia – that is, if they haven’t updated their knowledge base in seventy-odd years – it only serves to confirm their lack of intelligence!

In short – Republicans, we don’t want you, and you wouldn’t be happy here. Stay put, or maybe move to a warzone.

Respect for the enemy

I was watching Q&A the other night. It’s a show I watch rarely, but enjoy when I do. On the panel on this particular occasion were, along with others, Catherine Deveny and Archbishop Peter Jensen.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I agree with most of Catherine Deveny’s views on most social matters. She is in favour of gay marriage, she’s all for equal rights, feminism, and so on. And, of course, I disagree with virtually everything the Archbishop believes. God, the Bible, and all that goes with it.

So I was rather surprised to find myself respecting Jensen while getting very frustrated at Catherine while watching them ‘debate’ on Q&A. Jensen puts his views forward in an eloquent and dispassionate way, he says that he seeks out intelligent and unemotional discussion, he claims to want to know more facts about a great many contentious issues. He was also courteous towards the other panel members.

Catherine, on the other hand, laid on the sarcasm like it was going out of style, and employed rhetoric to a similar degree. She did not show herself willing to articulate her arguments, relying instead on mocking the points of others. She interrupted other speakers to push her agenda, and failed to keep her answers relevant to the questions. Despite holding very valid views, she utterly failed to articulate why she held them, or why anybody else should agree with her, which seems to me the entire point of a debate.

So, contrary as it might sound, I now have a great deal more respect for a prominent member of ‘the enemy’ than I do for a prominent person from ‘my side’. Fortunately I can see the difference between respect and like, so I don’t have a problem with this, but from comments I’ve read about the Q&A show and about these speakers specifically, other people see my stance as a sort of betrayal; it seems the public will not permit me to hold a positive view of one aspect of a person while maintaining a negative view of another aspect. Too bad, I say, that is how I feel!

I don’t want to…

from knowyourmeme.com

My country disgusts me. More specifically, a large proportion of the people I have to share it with. I maintain a small degree of optimism for the rest of the planet; continental Europe seems – at least at a cursory glance – to accommodate more accommodating types.

This article from the Herald Sun is a brief piece about the possibility of round the clock childcare. And here is a small selection of comments from it:

 

I can’t even begin to point out all the problems with what these people have said, and how they’ve said it. I just don’t know where to start. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read this stuff. Maybe I’ll just address each one individually…

George of Melbourne: If people didn’t have kids, you wouldn’t exist. Nobody you know and love would exist. And if people were allowed to have kids up until now, but must suddenly stop, all of a sudden every person working the childcare or education industry will be unemployed immediately. In the longer term, the entire human race will die out. Thank you for playing.

HK of user and abuser land: I have no idea what your ‘name’ is supposed to signify, but that’s not really the point. Many, maybe even most, people with kids do look after them. I look after mine. But that doesn’t mean that some childcare wouldn’t be handy, for all sorts of reasons. You appear to be implying that no parent is permitted to take a break or have a rest until their child grows up and leaves home. That is unreasonable and counter-productive; every job lets you have time off. Thanks for playing.

An accessory after the fact: Is that what you’d do? Any of your friends? No? I thought not; nobody I know would do that either. Thank you for your hyperbole.

Brett of kids first: Tell me exactly why it’s a horrible idea, please. It seems unconventional to you, I can see that, but that doesn’t make it objectively horrible. Try for some evidence to back up your assertion. Also, shops in Europe do open on weekends and in the evenings. I’m afraid I can’t do anything but point out that you are just plain wrong on that one. Thanks for playing.

There were some more comments, but I couldn’t fit them all into the screenshot. They were all equally ill-informed and narrow. I’ll just go and shut myself in a linen cupboard now, and hope that when I get out, people have learned… something. Anything. Please.

Forever young

Immortality. It’s a concept that has been around for decades in science-fiction, but you might be unaware that the SENS Foundation are working on it for real. They are careful on their website to use terms like ‘rejuvenation’ and ‘restore youthful … structure to aged tissues’. But immortality is essentially what they mean.

A friend of mine – well, an acquaintance, anyway – is very keen on SENS’s founder, Aubrey de Grey, and his ideas. He’s very keen on the idea of living forever.

As for myself, I can’t help thinking that my friend, along with SENS, has failed to really think this through.

To be sure, having the ability to extend human life, possibly indefinitely, would be a pretty amazing scientific breakthrough. But what would it mean in practical terms? Having the ability to live longer would not magically change the world. It would not change things like political systems, social structures, or the economy. All you would be doing is living longer in the world as it is.

You might say to yourself, if I could live forever – or even just a few extra decades – I could do so many things! I’d travel, I’d learn to sword-fight, I’d reduce pollution, I’d… whatever.

But no. I’d say you’re actually more likely to seek out all those adventures and goals if you know your time was limited. If you thought you could do them whenever, you’d keep putting them off, wouldn’t you?

But the main thing is, you would still have to work. You still need to pay for things: food, clothes, housing, electricity, entertainment, and so on. The longer you live, the longer you need to work. Looking forward to retirement? Yeah, right! How much superannuation would you need to last you for, say, eternity? Even having just a few extra decades of life to pay for would require working for a sizeable chunk of it.

Your actual day-to-day life would not be any different. It would just… continue.

The ‘prison’ of motherhood

Some French woman with an over-inflated opinion of herself apparently thinks that modern motherhood is a prison. She seems to think that the expectations on mothers and the things we do are shackles, diminishing us, and defining us by our children.

All I can say is, if you feel that way, you’re doing it wrong.

Everybody is different, and I feel that making over-arching generalisations about a massive group of people – mothers, in this case – is far too simplistic and very unrealistic. Every mother does things differently in her life, parents in a different manner, and feels differently about it.

Some mothers do feel that they need to do everything ‘right’, and some do stress about that. That could be seen as a trap, but if it is, it’s one of a mother’s own making.

Other mothers, such as myself and (I think) most of my friends, are really quite relaxed about the whole thing. I’m not even sure what she means by the ‘intensive, over-enmeshed parenting trend’; yes I stay home with my kids, but that’s a choice I’ve made for my own reasons, and I have no resentment or feelings of imprisonment because of it.

In fact there is a kind of freedom in being a stay at home mum. I have few appointments, not much in the way of a schedule, I can do what I like when I want to. I’m never in a rush when I go shopping, which means we can go to the playground or wander leisurely around Target. If I want to sit on Facebook all day, I can do that – the kids are far more understanding than a boss would be! At a moment’s notice I can take off to my parents’ place with them, effectively giving myself a holiday (my parents are exceedingly helpful with the kids when we’re there).

I would argue that being part of the workforce is far more imprisoning than being a mother. If you disappoint a boss or refuse his request, you’re likely to be reprimanded, have pay docked, or maybe even get fired! But here, in my home, I am the boss! Show me something more free than being your own boss and working from home!

Prison? You’re doing it wrong, lady.