On the difference between being and doing

Almost exactly but not quite ten hundred and a half years ago, I was living in the Bay Area, California. I’ve realised, since I am trying to write something every day, how much of my daily observations are informed by previous experiences. And so; California. My time in NorCal was oriented largely around kitesurfing, as was my want at the time. During one summer I travelled up the PNW coast in a rapidly disintegrating van (a theme that has punctuated my life like a recurring case of the shingles), to Hood River, Oregon. 

Perhaps I’ll write more about those experiences at some point, but I’m reminded today of being offered a job teaching kitesurfing, in San Francisco, the epicentre of extremely expensive and well educated brains tucked inside ridiculously thin skulls. The model was simple – I would work for cash in hand, use the kite school’s equipment and infrastructure to teach people to do something that is easier than driving a car, but with a more consequential and vastly wetter learning curve. 

I declined. I was in the US legally, with long-as-you like residency (can’t recall its real name) but I did not have a work permit. Perhaps more importantly, I did not have any sort of insurance. The school did not seem to think this was a limiting factor, but I was nervous. The scale and scope of kiteboarding injuries makes 17th century Caribbean piracy look like a wellbeing check-in session on Zoom (although personally I’d prefer the former). I’d only recently watched a young man get dragged sideways into a carpark bollard, shearing his pelvis cleanly in two, the harness holding him together like a rolled roast. Or, the chap at Oostvoorne, in the Netherlands, who snapped his neck hitting the water from an unseemly height. 

I could just imagine stage-managing some kind of salt-water flensing and being subsequently sued for both kidneys. When we talk about predatory labour practices this isn’t the kind of thing that springs to mind, but in a litigious environment like California, the potential fleecings are terrifying. Like everyone, I periodically assess the odd poor decision I’ve made along the way, but it’s good to also keep in mind the rare moments of perspicacity.  

This puts me in mind of another peculiar trend I discovered while living in the US; egg harvesting. A good friend, Stanford educated, with enormous student loans, was considering ‘donating’ her eggs. Tall, blond, healthy and in possession of a Masters degree from Stanford, she breezily informed me that her eggs would attract around a $100k price tag. Egg ‘donating’ was casually discussed and seriously undertaken, although not by anyone I knew closely. One ‘cycle’ would pay almost all of one’s student debt. That’s a significant inducement to young graduates, many of whom have had to work as (unpaid) interns in their holidays. For these women, aged between around 28-32, egg harvesting looked like an onerous but lucrative undertaking.

I’ve found myself thinking about my time in the US a bit lately, as I reflect on the polemics of the pandemic response in the US – the varying concepts of social contract, bodily integrity, sovereignty, history, slavery and the commercialisation of risk and flesh and blood. How to account for such vastly different approaches? Medicine and science gets you only so far. Anthropology, surely a little further. 

Navigating the mind and the sea.

Today’s random 500 words is about Polynesian navigation.

I like it. What I particularly like is that the recent history of attempting to account for Polynesian wayfinding is a intersection of theoretical and empirical research. There is nothing like the observation of the sun rising and setting, at higher or lower latitudes, to deduce that the earth is indeed round, although I expect at some point in the near future, this concept to be completely dissolved into a fizzy cup of post-modern relativism. In other words, anyone can observe facts about their world and come up with a theory about what it might look like (round and slightly on the piss) without getting in a space ship for a squiz.

Incidentally this reminds me of an interview I heard with Bruno Latour recently, where he described his bemused surprise that his work on the interconnectedness of things had been used to interrupt the idea of scientific causality. Often theorists pen works that are deliberately abstruse, for their generative effect. That is, they cast out a canvas with some dots and lines on it, and let the reader decide what it means. 

Ultimately, the readers’ interpretation may not have any bearing on the original author’s intent, but may produce something of value nonetheless. And sometimes it just produces rarefied bollocks. Latour appeared tickled at the scale and hairyness of them. 

I digress. What is so intriguing to me about Polynesian navigation is that although the concept of a side reel star chart is relatively easy for the Western brain to apprehend, based, as it is, on the idea of celestial bodies moving from horizon to horizon, the rub is longitude. Westerners use time (speed) from a fixed point (Greenwich) to estimate how far around the globe they have travelled. And, of course, this method required an enormously complex and unfailingly accurate, seagoing clock (H3), with its famous bi-metallic strip. In short, it involved what might charitably be referred to as endless dicking around on boats.

Polynesians quite clearly had a method for estimating longitude that was extremely successful, many thousands of years before Europeans, or indeed, anyone else it seems (although this is contested). Indeed, there are two main theories. One of them is also a form of dead reckoning, measuring distance traveled (the same method that the pre H3 clock knickerbocker set used with varying levels of success) triangulating your position by comparing the prevailing ocean current and leeway against the wind and starting point. It sounds simple, but of course is extremely complex. The second theory is one that is perhaps lost, and is based on an even more complex knowledge of the stars. 

For me, what was most striking, when first reading about Polynesian settlement across the Pacific many years ago, is that New Zealand and Hawaii were the last to be settled. Obviously I knew about Aotearoa, but I had always been told that Hawaiiki was the ‘homeland’ and that the original founders had set off from there. 

But even with my limited experience, I could immediately see that this was unlikely and felt silly to have it pointed out. Polynesian waka sailed upwind to colonise the Pacific, and could easily and safely sail about 75 degrees off the wind, with the knowledge that the downwind run was a quick way to get home. Hawaiiki is well outside that 75degrees, (and so is New Zealand). Their boats had outriggers, and a rudder to steer them upwind further, but even so, travel to NZ and Hawaiiki was probably achieved last because of the colonisation of the Pacific – shorter distances to travel. It’s a long way from Micronesia to Hawaii. 

I suppose what came as something of a surprise to me is that I was so invested in what was essentially a fairy tale. No-one ever really said to me – Hawaiiki is Hawaii, but I think, just from the small amount of knowledge that I had, it seemed like it was. 

I suppose that was a lesson.

I love the history of the 20th century attempts to piece together an account of navigation techniques. It’s a testament to how hide bound we can be in terms of our models of how things work, our epistemology I suppose. It seemed almost inconceivable that one group of people could estimate longitude without (essentially) a chronometer. This was really only ‘discovered’ (rediscovered) in the 1970s, by direct experience – a bunch of salty sea dogs set out into the Pacific and navigated their way all over the show, without western instruments.

It’s very much worth thinking about how we come to know things and what stands in our way.

Well, I missed a day, in the ‘take your own advice and write something each day’ challenge that I freely dictate to others.

I hope no-one expects these little posts to make much in the way of sense or add anything meaningful to the dialogue. To wit; yoga and turbo chargers.

Any decent yogic guided meditation can also be readily repurposed as a smoko room pissing contest about turbo chargers;

Today’s guided meditation for bogans is about breath work.

Sometimes it feels like we can’t inhale enough air. Inhale. Draw it in, imagine the cool air coming deeply into your body. Go outside if you need to to find cooler air. Cool air is more dense, it has more volume. It is energising and powerful. It is powerful. You are powerful. Ignite your power. 

Sometimes our air is limited. We feel limited. Plant your feet widely upon the earth, and listen to the whistling of the wind and your compressor.  

Spooling up. And…..relax. 

Start at about eight to ten psi of boost and work your way up from there.

It’s important to remember to honour the process of slowing down too. Sometimes we stop too fast.  All that pent up pressure and energy drops away, it has nowhere to go. Watchful listening reveals the fluttering or chattering of birds’ wings, and the vanes of your turbo. Take the time to check-in with your blow-off valve. 

Spooling up…and relax

Ease into it. Take it gently. Don’t throw a code. 

And that’s today’s daily guided breath-work. Thank you for joining me. Have an amazing day everyone and remember, Mercury is in retrograde!

See what I mean?

As I was driving back from work this morning, where I experienced ridiculous, counter productive ‘covid safe’ measures I pondered the rigorous, uncompromising efficiency of the Carnot cycle. Everything is accounted for. There is no ‘waste’, only heat. Carnot efficiency has no time for counter productive measures.

We need to be vaccinated to enter our building. That’s a good measure. And, we must sign in. Also defensible. Good so far. And, we need to wear masks. There is no stipulation about what kind of mask though. So, many wear thin, loosely fitted cotton masks. I wear an N95 mask because if I am going to wear a mask, not wearing one that is effective seems like an insult.

Good so far. Now, we don’t have to wear masks in offices. OK fine, there are only a few people in each office, sometimes just one. But the air con system is connected to the rest of the building, in which there are many people. I turn the air con off in my office or lab and open the windows. The air outside is around 22c today,. I estimate that as a mammal I can tolerate a range of temperatures from around 15c to 30c indoors. At the moment, the outside temperature during the day rarely gets above 30c. Air con is unnecessary.

Here’s where it gets really stupid. All staff of my organisation are required to be vaccinated to enter the building. Periodically, there are people from another large organisation who use our building. They are not required to be vaccinated. Or wear masks, if today’s experience is anything to go by. So half of the people are following the ‘rules’ and the other half are not. And everyone, except me in my un air conditioned cave hewn from thousand year old basalt, is breathing the same air.

I’m starting to view almost all other ‘Covid Safe’ measures now for what they really are – sops for the unvaccinated. Why should I care, right? I’m reasonably healthy and can lay off the chainsaw juggling for a year or two while the health care system collapses? Because I also happened to see a middle aged woman today who is profoundly disabled, being helped along by her two care workers, both of whom I know are unvaccinated (because of gossip). These two might as well be weaving her remote control wheelchair in and out of the traffic on the four lane carriageway out the front of the building.

Maybe I’ll go to work next year.

Once again….

I haven’t written anything on this blog, or anywhere else, for months. I’m busy I suppose, but also side-lined, bright-lined and maligned by the endless task of interpreting statistics about disease and the lack thereof. Shifting paradigms.

Increasingly I’m drawn to two orthogonal poles. The first we might broadly refer to as ‘science’ – the shambling, iterative, dirty net curtain of rationality and causality. The second is more sociological or cultural – the idea that there are patterns, fashions, if you like, that characterise different intellectual epochs. These are slippery and developed in concert with their constituent technology. The best example of course, is the current one, our kind of technocratic rationalism, running on the fumes of utilitarianism with the inferred certainty of a kind of social Carnot cycle. In this model, we take scientific rationalism and apply it, writ large, to social problems.

As a fashion, we’ve been subject to this model for quite some time. Bureaucrats carefully but assuredly ‘pulling levers’, feebly adjusting the fuel mix of the economy in the vain hope that it will overcome its chaotic wobbliness. I suppose this is neoliberalism – the promise of certainty, stability in the face of an economic rationalism that perpetually threatens to end it all.

The model is anywhere and everywhere, the language of rational management, the bloodless accounting of society’s ups and downs. Consider the enormous and still flourishing network of ‘mental health’. An institution is sanctified and legitimised once it reaches a certain size and begins to upholster its processes with the baubles of ‘wellbeing’. One is ‘at risk’, then ‘assessed’ then, ‘assessed for risk of immediate harm’ then assessed for one’s ability to ‘engage with processes that might engender a meaningful shifts in outlook’ and then, and then and then. Of course, to those experiencing the pointy end of whatever institutional shafting the Random Shafting Generator has selected for them on any given day, this window-dressing is offensive. And that’s the point. It is, as they say, a feature, not a bug. It shifts blame to the victim, while assiduously ossifying the power of those who seek to create a seamless integration of professional and personal. The shiny-bummed carpet baggers.

Your personal is your political, and your political better get the fuck on board.

Examples abound. Just two days ago, the NSW state government declared a massive increase in funding for Headspace. This is a service that ‘deals with’ mental health issues amongst young people. Only, of course, it doesn’t. Being well acquainted with a former manager of Headspace, I can unsurprisingly inform you, Dear Reader, that Headspace does absolutely nothing for the mental health of those who seek its services. Because it provides nothing. That’s the point. It sits there telling young people who are distressed because they feel alienated from their lives, their families, their nature and their culture, that they have mental health problems. Young people who’re expected to find their way in the world, stumbling along on a diet of chicken salt and Fortnite.

Of course, for those who do, in fact, have mental health problems, like schizophrenia, no help exists at all. It was ever thus. The ex Headspace manager mused about the amount of money that could have been spent on young people with schizophrenia, were it not all being soaked up by the dangly-earring set, feeding teenagers a quaintly June Daly Watkins/Margaret Thatcher habitus.

I’ve digressed. Because this, ‘mental health’, was only meant to be an example of the broader style, or fashion, of thinking and talking, in which we are training ourselves. The technocratic rationality. At times is becomes visible for all – the anti vax debate is a particularly current example. On the one hand, the simple, modernist and muscular public health logic dictates the best outcome for the most people. On the other, a supreme adherence to individualism, fostered by what is now 30 years of neoliberalism, and cosseted by the rude good health guaranteed by previous public health measures based on the aggregated self, now illustrates the extent to which people grapple with the invisibility of government and their own (in)significance.

It feels clumsy to lump this way of thinking into BN (Before Neoliberalism) and after, but it is easy to delineate some key differences, through the prism of public health. We imagine the state is invisible, imagine our lives as governed by our own hard work and good fortune. Of course, this is sheer folly. The average Filipino works just as hard, if not harder, than the average Australian. Our Australian cards sit on the top of the economic deck because of our position in the ‘first world’, or ‘global north’. These benefits are almost entirely due to our government’s ability to consolidate influence within the global financial markets, either to create wealth from wealth, or to capitalise on wealth we ‘produce’ (commodities). At no point is there a direct linear relationship in which we can compare the output of an Indian, Filipino or Nepalese worker and an Australian in the same position.

I’m not going to get into a long-winded account of global currency markets, but it’s enough to say that our government’s role in our welfare and wellbeing is mostly ‘international’ rather than domestic. And yet it is the domestic politics with which we are the most familiar. This is how our governance is presented to us. Hot Mess Gladys and the endless handwringing over the intergenerational inequities in the housing market.

Public health is also invisible, unless there’s a crisis. Our wellbeing, the security of our nation in terms of ‘burden of disease’ is only relevant in broad terms.

I remember, many years ago, reading about risk and public health, from Nikolas Rose, who, ironically, is a biologist. What occurs (and this is because I can’t recall if it’s his idea, or perhaps my own that was generated through interaction with his work – suspect the former) is that risk helps us to imagine ourselves in the aggregate – it is a tool through which we might be controlled. Talking about our bodies through a prism of risk is something Foucault got hot and bothered about too. We can think of ourselves as entities disseminated through multiple strategies of risk. We’re all familiar with this way of talking and thinking about ourselves.

‘Smokers have a 50% chance of dying from a smoking related illness’

In this way, we might imagine ourselves as a collective, constantly shifting the levels on the risk amplifier we share with everyone else. Certainly, this was an element of neoliberalism – the utilitarian model applied to bodies as a means to control and moderate them, and to perfectly integrate them within a model of ‘productivity’.

And this is where fashion comes in. Because I am now old enough to recognise when this went out of favour, with the rise of identity politics. It happened with fatness. Partly, this was to do with over-reach. The model was overfitted. Risk was attributed everywhere, to everyone. The model got lazy. I remember the first debunking of the ‘Obesity Epidemic‘. Supposedly, obesity was causing high rates of diabetes and other poorly defined problems. The pendulum swung back, people began to question lazy data science. And, most importantly, there was a growing focus on the social consequences of ‘epidemics’. Who is affected and why? Who gets categorised, and what does that mean for them? What are the implications of being labelled fat?

We witnessed a shift in thinking, away from the rational, bio-deterministic models of social control, partly due to sloppy science, and partly due to the rise of the individual. Identity emerged; we began to hear terms like ‘fat shaming’ and the reclamation of physical attributes as identity (reclaiming the term ‘fat’ for instance). This is an interesting shift, a revocation and refusal of the bio medical model that sees humans as barely functioning meat-sacks on the fritz.

And then, we can trace the rise of the ‘victim’ narrative, salvation through identity. The rise of the virtuous disability, as yet another way to claim power.

Underneath it all, to me, these modes of thinking all retain one thing in common; they serve the same power that they always did.

That’s enough crapping on for one morning.

Addendum, By the way, I note that Nikolas Rose has shifted his interests to the ‘psy-disciplines’ and is, unsurprisingly, friendly with Foucault.

Clarity

As I get older, things that may have previously seemed complex or sophisticated become remarkably clear and simple. In the last two days;

  1. The burlesque stripper hired to perform at a tech industry awards night in Adelaide this week, prompting walk outs and complaints from women attendees. The stripper claimed her show was ‘burlesque’ – a kind of ironic performance piece where she engages with the tropes of female objectification and sexiness in a humorous way. Thing is, a performance is necessarily about its audience. And in this case, the audience sees a stripper. She can tell herself whatever story she likes about motivations, but her work is received as soft porn.
  2. While explaining the measurement of degrees of freedom and F-tests, I realised it’s simplest to think of a t-score (for instance) as something that measures the variability of the existing data points (and distance from a mean) but also estimates all the possible locations of the data points. Really this is degrees of freedom I suppose but it helps me to think about it differently.
  3. New Zealanders get on the radio and bullshit like there’s no tomorrow. ABC Radio National Breakfast interviewed the head of a sports shooting group in Christchurch. The host asked why there were so many guns in NZ, more than one for every three people. The answer? “NZ is an overwhelmingly rural and agricultural society”. 86% of kiwis live in cities or other urban areas. New Zealand’s population has been majority urban since the establishment of ‘urban’ (about the 1920s). This is national-myth making.

 

Phew

I have a passing interest in economics and policy. At times, this has led me to examine some of the key theories about history and economics, including Marxism. Today we’ll be talking about Cultural Marxism  *cue hysteria*

Cultural Marxism is the idea that economic Marxism failed (where’s my revolution, it was here a minute ago etc.,.) and so now lefties are attempting to dismantle the current social fabric with a different type of Marxism – the Marxism of culture. Or so the critics would have it. You’ll be familiar with this idea; Cultural Marxists are promoting the death of the family and western social structures through the devious propagation of silly ideas like gender theory and identity politics. Thirty years ago, the same thing was said about feminists, that was until right wing pundits realised that the only thing that served capitalism better than one person working outside the home was two people working outside the home.

Undaunted, these shrill lunatics continued to maintain that cultural Marxism is a threat to humanity. Feminism has been replaced by issues such as ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘trans-visibility’. Yep, it’s scary stuff, this cultural Marxism. Apparently we’re teetering on the edge of a society-wide apocalypse because a bunch of bored, screen-sallow shut-ins think that everyone cares very deeply about the cut of their trousers.

The corporatist oligarchy is shitting itself.

And that’s my point. Because if anything, the wobbly juggernaut of Western capitalism loves cultural Marxism. After all, if young adults are keeping themselves entertained competing to see whose dignity and humanity has been, like, super-impugned the most, they’re hardly likely to organise to take collective action against the forces who stand to fleece them the most.

Cultural Marxism is Gen Y’s Marxism – tangling itself up in narcissistic irrelevances, while the real machinery of global capitalism marches on. Cultural Marxism is the Marxism you have when the real thing is too dangerous. Cultural Marxism’s key sponsors are likely to be The Capitalists themselves. After all, this form of Marxism doesn’t bite. What’s not to love?

There’s another reading of course – that capitalism has won. After all, nothing screams, ‘conspicuous consumption’ like the idea that you might fetishise (and monetise) your very gender.

It’s all deeply silly.

Assault 

I was in the middle of telling someone I’d never been sexually assaulted or harassed as an adult in a way that made me feel limited or frightened, when I remembered a couple of unwanted gropings.

I’m not going to reconstitute them here, but it made me realise something; There is a right way and a wrong way for women to talk about sexual harassment and assault. In short, we must position ourselves as victims. Sure, we talk a lot about being ’empowered’ by speaking out, perhaps with some kind of pithy hashtag (take THAT patriarchy!) but there are some reactions we can’t have.

I was in a club in Kawana, QLD once when some guy reached around from behind me and grabbed my tits. It was quite painful. What I was meant to do was ‘leave the venue feeling shaken’. What I actually did was react quite instinctively and violently. I won’t glorify the details but I didn’t leave the venue feeling ‘shaken or disempowered’.

It’s clear to me that it’s not cool for women to behave like this, and I often wonder why. Why are we conditioned not to belt men who assault us?

The guy in the pub was embarrassed, and so was I – people thought I was some kind of uber-violent trashbag, the likes of which we usually only see on reality television or perhaps scragging it out with another junkie outside the train station. When was the last time you saw a media representation of a woman giving some chap who groped her a bloody good hiding? And yet we routinely see men doling out lazy punches left right and centre. Maybe we’re more sensible, maybe we think through the consequences. Maybe we’re less drunk (I was sober as a judge that night in QLD).

Food for thought.

 

My inner critic.

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Interesting or troubling? This article popped up on my facebook feed.

I’m wary of articles that suggest that caring, loving parents should constantly fret over ‘doing it wrong’.

The article itself even acknowledges this pressure – referencing the ‘Shitty Guilt Fairy’ before racking up a couple of lines of coke for the aforementioned fairy.

I’ve got some issues;

First; the author tells us that we shouldn’t tell our children off in a negative way. Here she is describing her daughter pretending to tell the adults off in a stern way,

I decided she must have picked it up from someone. But who? She spends most of her time with me and I know I don’t shout like that. I certainly don’t use that horrible inflection at the end of my sentences. Who the hell could she have picked it up from?

Then, in the car park of Pak n Save, she did that thing that I’ve asked her not to do a thousand times. That thing where she lets go of my hand and runs off. It scares the shit out of me for obvious reasons. Coupled with my fear is also my anger: she knows better than this. Our subsequent conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, you know not to run off in car parks. That really scared mummy!

Her: [eyes looking somewhere above the top of my head]

Me: You know you must hold my hand when we’re near cars!

Her: [eyes looking off to the right as she starts humming a little tune to herself.]

Me: What do I say about cars? You must hold my hand, okay?  OKAAAAAAY?!

Ugh. So that’s where she’s been getting it from. That’s one harsh penny dropping right there.

I don’t know about you, but I find hearing my own shitty communication mirrored right back at me through my angelic two year-old’s mouth particularly hard to swallow. I feel not just ashamed but also incredulous at how oblivious I was to it. I literally spent two weeks trying to work out who she’d modelled her behaviour from and I had ruled myself out almost instantly. I’m a conscious parent for God’s sake! I care about this stuff! I read parenting advice on communication! WTF?

The other particularly horrible thing is that I’ve had a successful career as a life coach for the last 12 years; I get paid to help people be happy. And there’s one major thing that makes all the difference to how happy someone is and it’s not about earning the highest income. It is our inner dialogue…

This inner dialogue eventually develops into your Inner Critic. You know, that little voice that beats you up, and says really unhelpful things to you like: Who do you think you are applying for that job? You suck at your job.  You’re a crap parent. You’re a lazy parent. You really screwed up today. It’s your fault your partner left you. I can’t believe you buggered that up again – idiot. Don’t be silly, why would they like you?

In summary, there are two main categories of feedback being played inside your head: Who do you think you are? And: You’re not good enough. If you pay attention to your Inner Critic for a while you will see this for yourself.

You can see how treating yourself this way has an erosive impact on your wellbeing and happiness and holds you back. Our aim in coaching is to transform the Inner Critic to Inner Coach. The Inner Coach is far from Pollyanna positive. We don’t want you going around giving yourself high-fives for making a sandwich, or looking in the mirror saying, “yeah, you shouted at your child – AWESOME!’ We want you to have a reasonable voice in there, a logical one, a kind one. You want to help yourself manage your life, make good decisions, and recover from adversity, be resilient. You want to learn from your mistakes and encourage yourself to grow. You want a reasonable, logical, truth-telling voice that helps you learn. You want to say: ‘Charlotte, that wasn’t your best parenting moment. I know you can make improvements.Why don’t we do it this other way tomorrow…?’

The question that everybody asks is why? Why does it evolve to become your inner critic, rather than your inner coach? Why does it evolve to be negative and not positive?

From my own experience and my work with clients, I subscribe mostly to theory that we model language from those around us and unfortunately some of those people weren’t or aren’t always kind. We learn to talk to ourselves in the same way we are talked to and around.

This last point means that we all do what my daughter did: we talk the way we got talked to. Our brains can’t help it – we have to learn language by modelling as there is no other way to do it. That same language eventually gets used to communicate to ourselves inside our head.

This means that way you talk to and around your children will become their inner dialogue.

So, saying, ‘No! Don’t run into the traffic!’ will give your child an inner critic. An inner critic that screams; ‘Hey, loser! Run into the traffic!’.

You know what? I’m not buying it. Almost everyone I know was brought up with ‘No! Don’t do that!’ usually promptly followed by; ‘Or you’ll get a smack’. As the Dunedin study tells us, almost all children of the 1970s were brought up with physical punishment – almost entirely gentle, but physical none-the-less. And yet, most of the children in the Dunedin study turned out fine.

Which brings me to the author, a ‘life coach’ whose experience is wrestling people’s ‘inner critics’ into submission. Let’s talk about selection bias. Life coaches do not deal with people who think they can solve their own problems.

When you’re dealing with losers, improvement is a relative function. It does not prove the author’s ‘theories’ as useful for the rest of us.

Let’s be clear. It’s bloody great to have an inner critic. No, not an ‘inner coach’. An inner critic. Sure this critic can get out of hand. But it can also tell you things you don’t want to hear, but really, really fucking need to. Your inner critic gives you guilt, shame, fear and heartbreak, all of which are far more motivating than anything your lame-o “Inner Coach” could come up with.

Your inner critic will enable you to work harder towards your goals. It might enable you to be more considerate of the other people in your life. Tenacity is the result of a robust debate with your inner critic.

We have turned to a world of wooly booly psycho-babble that places the individual at the very core in every facet of life. Personally I think this is an effective way of depoliticising young people, as we turn critical thinking inwards like a perverse 1980s board game;

Hey, young people, make sure your identity matches your sexual preferences AND your gender! Come up with your own acronym to win the game! 

In this way young people internalise the message that they can control themselves, but nothing else. It is designed to replace political activism with faux activism – to wit, endless comment threads about who is more disempowered/outraged/wronged than who vis a vis gender/identity/personhood.

So, there’s that. But then there’s something more worrying about this article.

The author tells her toddler that her actions ’caused Mummy to be scared’.

Two year olds have enough trouble dealing with the concept that they have their own thoughts, feelings and sense of self. This is a completely non-controversial stage of child development. (It’s also the cause of much toddler angst and trantrumming).

The toddler struggle is working out when and how to be responsible for their own actions (as opposed to being simply part of someone else). Telling a toddler that they’re also responsible for Mummy’s feelings too is cruel.

Apparently, during these ‘telling offs’ the author’s daughter looks above her head, and then off to one side, and then starts humming to herself. This is completely consistent with a kid who is too young for the cognitive pressure of being responsible for an adult’s feelings.

Mummy is very, very important. And now I’m making her scared. I need to modify my behaviour so she isn’t scared. But it’s really hard to modify my behaviour. I’m working on it, but man, IT’S HARD. Cos I’m TWO.

Hey toddler, it’s your fault if Mum goes tits up. No pressure, kiddo.

 

This article is aimed at middle class mothers, who’re already at the pointy crescendo of Mummy-guilt. Hey, Mums, forget everything you know about mothering (that your learned from your own mother…..FIRST THE GINGER CRUNCH, NOW THIS!), you must change how you speak to your child. Every single utterance must be monitored, lest your comments become potting mix for the devastating inner critic. But hey no pressure!

The author also tells us that telling your kid off is bad, but gives no alternatives. I mean really, aside from telling her toddler she’s scaring her, I thought her admonishment was completely fine; DO NOT BUGGER OFF IN THE CARPARK is pretty straightforward.

So I’m wondering if the author is an adherent of the new fashion for ‘no negative talk’ parenting, where children are never told no. Bad behaviour is addressed by distraction,

Darling, I can see you really love the plasma cutter (validate their experience), but look at this! It’s tickle me Elmo! (distract child from imminent emasculation).

Of course, the no-negative-talk parents are middle class working parents, so they’re probably not the child’s primary caregiver anyway.

“Here’s his organic snack box and filtered water. Now, we don’t tell Oliver ‘No’, as we’re nurturing his inner coach, not his inner critic”.  

Good luck with that. Kids learn ‘negative talk’ pretty smartly in a maxxed out daycare centre.

 

 

 

 

 

Things we don’t talk about….

No, sadly it’s not sex. Everyone talks about sex like it’s running out.

I recently ran into a friend who has had gastric surgery to address her obesity. She was happy, very happy. Being obese saddled her with misery and social stigma, the likes of which I can only imagine.

Obesity is framed as ‘your fault’, but obesity – and by that I mean, proper obesity, not just overweight – is almost entirely the fault of something other than the triumph of the will. I’ve ranted about this before, but the idea that we are in the throes of an ‘obesity epidemic’ is often read to mean we’re a nation of irredeemable fatties.

Everyone loves a spot of moralising but we’re moralising in the wrong place.

The real causes of risk of obesity (note, I said risk, not direct cause) are pretty well known. The more fat you’ve got, the more leptin you’ve got. At a certain point you’re brain gets tired of listening to leptin and becomes resistant to its messages.

Yeah, you’re full. BORING. 

And, the more you eat, the bigger your belly gets. The bigger the top of your stomach is, the more ghrelin it produces. Ghrelin tells your brain you’re hungry.

And then there’s insulin.

Fat cells generate hormones. Getting fat is like an accelerator – the fatter you get, the fatter you become.

The answer is clear right? Don’t get fat in the first place. Step away from the chiko roll. Except what we should be saying is; step away from the baby bottle. Because formula fed babies turn into fatties before they even get a chance to puree a big mac and squirt it into a sippee cup. Their brains are set up to become fat before they can roll over. They ingest far more protein than breastfed babies. They’re hardly ever actually hungry, because formula ‘fills you up’. In other words, the amount of protein in formula makes them feel full for longer. This is why formula fed babies sleep through the night. This is why childhood obesity is such a predictor for adult obesity – regardless of what you eat, your body will tell you to eat more because you’re genuinely hungry.

It’s not all about formula. It’s food too.  Generations of babies grow up eating western food – high in protein, fat and sugar. Yeah you think they’re eating well, but actually almost all processed food has added sugar, or is processed in a way that human bodies will recognise as sugar.  Obviously, there are hard ways to address this problem – you can lose weight, a lot of it, and this will change your body chemistry, making it easier to stay thin. But it’s extremely hard. Not just ‘oh I don’t really feel like it hard’ – extremely hard nigh on impossible. 

Why don’t we ever hear about the clear link between formula feeding and obesity? Well who can breastfeed every twenty minutes when they’re at work?

Disclaimer – I was a formula fed and I turned out FINE!

The real reasons cannabis remains illegal?

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There’s been an increase in anxiety surrounding the legalisation of marijuana in New Zealand, lately, mostly due to the impending election. Medical cannabis will eventually be completely legalised, certainly, as it’s just another medicinal drug. However, the debate over medicinal cannabis is frequently conflated with legalising recreational pot-smoking/consumption.

To be clear, smoking pot is widespread and more or less tolerated in New Zealand, unless the police have some other reason to discriminate against you. Keeping marijuana illegal is just another way of giving police the discretion to arrest people they feel might be ‘trouble’.

Forget stigma, this is the main reason it remains both commonplace and illegal. Sure, there’s probably a voting block of boomers who believe that pot is meth’s aperitif, but mainly it remains illegal because it serves a convenient purpose.

The other thing I find interesting is the way this debate is playing out in the mainstream hard-left media. Apparently, the government adds fluoride to water supplies to keep the populace dumbed down and quietly apathetic. Yet the government won’t legalise marijuana?

I grew up completely surrounded by marijuana, and knew many, many MANY people who smoked it all day, every day. If you want a relaxed, apathetic populace, we should add cannabis to the water. Or the next best thing.

To be clear, this does not mean that all people who smoke pot will be apathetic loseroos, of course it doesn’t. Most people use it like they’d use any other kind of drug (like alcohol) – to have a nice time. It’s not a permanent arrangement. If there’s one thing we know, as a recreational drug for ‘sometimes use’ it’s generally well tolerated, safe and nice.

I’m not pro or anti pot – I don’t think it’s particularly dangerous, but it’s not without its risks. Changing your brain (getting high) has all kinds of effects, not matter how you do it. It all comes down to how we judge the effects.

For instance, some people think it’s fun to get a skinful and bash the shit out other people. This is their idea of a ‘good effect’. I think it’s a crap effect. Likewise, some people believe there’s merit to mooching about in your trackies all day – I’m one of them – while others think we should be contributing to the future of humankind by spending ten hours a day mining coal. Each to their own.