Clutching my pearls and thinking out loud

I’m seeing a lot of this lately; pile-ons from young women in Twitter, claiming that men who call one another ‘soft cock’ or ‘pussy’ aren’t just crass, they’re evil or mentally unhinged, with masculinity so toxic it melts your vegan nailpolish at 100 metres (and smells like Lynx and packet macaroni – be on guard, womyn).

In other circumstances, this ‘pile on’ – where the hysteria reaches epic proportions and otherwise sensible people find themselves making frankly ridiculous claims about the mental health/motivations and/or personal hygiene of someone else – would be called out for being over the top.

The fact that it isn’t demonstrates a complete schism between the classes. I’ve heard many, many men refer to one another as soft-cocks and pussies. Generally speaking it is a gentle form of giving one another curry. It is not, as the hysteria would suggest, an incitement to commit war crimes (generally war crimes language is more subtle. It often includes terms like, ‘operational’ ‘sustainable’ ‘negative’ ‘maximise’ and ‘neutralise’. This masculinity smells less like Lynx and more like Polo for Men).

I have worked in male environments before, with men who might be called working class *gasp*. I am familiar with their strange and exotic ways, a familiarity that I can only assume does not extend to the woke twitteratto, above.

I know language matters. I am not undermining the sexism that this kind of language reflects – a social order that is rapidly changing. Yet I struggle though to connect this kind of sexist language with severe violence against women – which is the basis for this extreme, clutch-my-pearls hysteria against it. Calling someone a pussy does not make you a murderer.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot lately. My personal is my political. And I think my personal is different to these twittering women above. Unlike them, I suspect ‘personal’ includes experience with ‘the working class’. Many encounters have shaped my view, including this one;

I once worked in a place (all men) where one employee (I’ll call him ‘Neil’) regularly used the services of a prostitute. Neil was married with teenaged kids. His wife was aware of the arrangement. Although he held a relatively senior position in our little hierarchy (he got to choose the workshop radio station four days out of five and had access to the welder for personal use, both privileges bordering on minor royalty) he was always on the outer. Several years previously Neil had made one or two derogatory comments about his wife’s sexual organs. These comments were eventually relayed to me when I started. Although he was treated with some decency, he was not respected. I wouldn’t say shunned, but definitely regarded very differently. Worse.

The language in this workplace would feed the Twitter outrage machine for a year. Terms of endearment included; Cunt, fuckhead, soft cock, pussy. Men routinely derided one another’s sexual abilities and capacities. Except Neil. Neil was left out of it.

Terms that alluded to one’s sexual prowess (or lack thereof) were acceptable. Interestingly, terms that derided one’s cognitive abilities were not OK. No-one was ever called a moron. That’s a key difference between classes – slagging off one’s mental health or abilities is completely OK for the twittering middle classes (I guess it doesn’t matter how thick you are if your parents are rich, Queenwood will get you over the line and you can pretend you got there on merit). It’s not OK for everyone else.

Men who are sexually violent have a peculiar attitude to women. It is not denoted by calling one another’s masculinity into question by calling them softcocks. You know it when you see it. Looking back on it, I was never, ever left alone in the workshop with Neil. Everyone else – no dramas, just not Neil.

Men who are violent towards women belittle them, often in subtle ways, and often in front of other people. Thinking that masculine violence is underpinned and heralded by smutty talk just demonstrates a class division between middle class young women and working class men (I’m not even comfortable with the term working class because it’s so problematic in both economic and cultural terms. It’s also universalising and therefore feels derogatory).

The whole point of this navel gazing is of course so we all stop talking about this;

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Heat

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To understand Australia and Australians, one must understand heat. Heat is more than just a temperature range. Heat is a cultural regime. There are right ways to talk about heat, right ways to understand what it means to be really hot.

I’ve now lived in Australia for a long, long time, in Sydney, Newcastle and the south coast (of NSW). Here are some random observations about heat.

There are two types of hot – Normal and Hot Days.

Normal heat is just that – everyday, regular heat. People sleep under cotton honeycomb blankets – the type New Zealanders only ever experience in hospital. By 10am it’s pretty hot and probably time for a swim if we’re being honest. If you haven’t gotten shit done by 11 it’s not going to happen. 4pm is when people start emerging again, falling into the ocean for a swim or surf and then home for cold beers and multiple cucumbers. This heat is sometimes referred to as ‘disgusting’ or ‘revolting’.

Also, night-time temperatures become an issue – they’re even reported in the news – because if kids aren’t sleeping, no-one’s sleeping. This feeds into the pervasive, slightly sexist cult of the suburban family, which is something else I’ve noticed in Australia. There is a lot of talk about family and kids here. I’ll perhaps look into that another day.

Generally though, life carries on as normal. People go to work, kids play in the playground, dogs lie around and pant. Only the greetings change, from, ‘Morning’ or ‘How’s it’ or Gidday’ to ‘Warm enough?’.

Hot Days, on the other hand, are fairly rare. Anything upwards of 40c is actually hot. People remember how many Hot Days there are every summer. This is our second summer without any ‘Hot Days’ (so far). The summer before last, however, we had three or four Hot Days.

People also remember what happened on those days. Examples include;

– The top of the avocado sacrificed all its upper leaves

– there was a bushfire up behind XYZ

– James’ new girlfriend made him mow the lawn in the middle of the afternoon, because her parents were coming for Christmas, and he spent the next three days close to death.

– The thrust bearing on the Pajero let go somewhere near Braidwood (Braidwood’s climate oscillates between Cryogenic Death and Anvil Of Sun. Best avoided under any conditions).

– Auntie Michelle went into labour

I remember one particular Christmas/New Years in Newcastle when the temperature got to 47 a couple of days in a row. We drove to the beach with ice packs under our armpits, worrying that the car would catastrophically overheat (it didn’t). A fire broke out behind Newcastle, and we bobbed up and down in the waters of Stockton beach, with about a thousand other people, wondering whether the dirty orange glow had consumed our houses.

There’s a kind of dull panic that sets in around 40 degrees. The streets go quiet. Blinds go down. Animals and birds fall silent. People start checking the ‘Fires Near Me’ app. Plants shrivel and tomatoes literally cook on the vine.

In coastal NSW, days above 40 are fairly rare. This is because the main cause of hotness – westerly winds bringing heat straight from the desert, is usually kept in check but the coastal sea breezes that relegate it to the unmentionable western suburbs. Sometimes, though, the flow is strong enough to push the heat through to the coast.

The other type of real heat is homegrown – simply a lack of air movement. Sydney especially suffers from this, the heat island effect cooks the city from the ground up.

Every used car in Australia smells like B.O. All of them. People sweat openly, they stand in the post office or supermarket, the perspiration pouring off their chins and down the back of their calves. Everything slows down. Sometimes there are flies. And when there are flies, they are everywhere – on your face, climbing up your nose. Babies hate them.

For me, it’s not hot until I feel that first bead of sweat running down my belly.

I like the heat. I chose to live in Australia, and I knew what I was getting into. Now, where’s my beer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

We never had water like this under a Labor government.

We’re currently experiencing a king tide.
This morning ABC radio interviewed a meteorologist about the rising water levels.
“Yes, it’s about the distance from the sun. So we should be seeing the water recede nearer the end of the week. There’ll most likely be some water dropping into the weekend”.
Most likely? Should be? Ahhh, this isn’t actually meteorology.

Is 2018 The Year of the Mandal?

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It’s holidays, and we’re in the midst of the annual migration of well-laundered baby boomer men. They’re at The Beach, enjoying Leisure with their Family.

At a certain age, men wriggle out of the last vestiges of their adult form and return to a pre-pubescent larval stage. They begin to wear children’s velcro sandals.

Initially scientists assumed this was due to the Mandal’s superior level of comfort and versatility, however this theory was quickly disproved. Unlike children’s velcro sandals that roughly follow the child’s footprint, Mandals extend at least three centimetres beyond the toes, providing a large footbed that frequently trips the wearer, compounding the their lack of proprioception due to chronically swollen feet. Congestive heart failure is a tricksy beast.

Initially it was assumed the wearer had simply purchased a sandal that was too large – exhibiting the boomer’s deep and unremitting fear of any level of discomfort, no matter how minor, in everyday life. However, closer inspection reveals that the Mandal is in fact designed to extend out the front of the foot. The sizing is correct.

Perhaps the explanation is cultural; the large, frontal extension resembles the suburban verandah? Or maybe it serves to maximise one’s footprint, a literal expression of the baby boomers moral purpose? Perhaps it is a boomer expression of ethnic identity, referencing a nostalgic time when Australia was cleanly divided into skippies and wogs. Australians of southern European extraction would not be seen dead in velcro fucking sandals.

The only threat to the Mandal is the burgeoning trend of NormCore, where hipsters are busily inverting the inherent ugliness of 90s Boomer-Dad-fashion. If you can’t buy their houses, gently mock their footwear.  Take that!

Racism for some but not others

This morning the ABC had a cracking good joke – an English woman rang in and told a hilarious story about how her son, who is married to a Kiwi and lives in New Zealand came across a car crash in which the two occupants of the car were critically injured. When the son opened the door the critically injured driver (tee hee wait for it) kept asking about his pit rit. Guffaw! Critically injured!

The announcer sounded a bit tired at this point.

Oh yes, she continued, he actually meant his pet rat! It was loose in the car and caused the crash in which the two people were critically injured! Hilarious!

Imagine if someone called the ABC and told the same joke about an Indian with a funny accent. Or a muslim.

I’m not particularly fazed by the NZ jokes thing – aggressive nationalism will always be mocked – it’s bloody good sport. However, I think it’s worth noting that this English lady obviously thought she was in good company, slagging off the New Zealanders. There was something quite smug about it. Or perhaps this is lateral violence, where the Poms can only take so much before they pass it on.

Artificial grief

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Straight to the pool room

There’s no shortage of issues to be concerned with at the moment, foremost of which is Australia’s energy ‘restructure’ that will have major implications for this country’s emissions…not that you’d know because no-one seems remotely interested in it.

What everyone is interested in is the ridiculously polarised debate over the detainees on Manus island. Honestly, it’s like the two sides of the media collude to create a brainless duopoly. Missing altogether is any mention of the real mandate of the anti-asylum seeker politicians.

It’s all very well to talk about how few asylum seekers are coming to Australia, or how Australia should admit those who’re currently being held in (or ‘released’ from) the Manus island detention centre BUT the main reason Australians continue to vote against asylum seekers is that they think if Australia admits everyone who comes by boat or plane then more will come.

I personally think Australia should take many more refugees than it does – we are currently engaged and complicit in fucking up the Middle East, and have benefitted massively from its general instability, now and in years gone by. Even the most cursory examination of history will tell you how this works. However, that’s my perspective and I know it’s not a popular one.

What needs to be addressed in the refugee debate is the perception that if more can come, more will come. I have only once seen an acknowledgement or discussion of this idea in the mainstream left media (in The Monthly, several years ago).

Now, it’s hard to imagine a more pressing issue than the status of refugees being abandoned in Papua New Guinea. Or at least that’s what I thought until I read our local newspaper this morning.

The front page featured a group of local fishermen petitioning for an artificial reef. It turns out that after 200+ years of European despoil there just isn’t quite enough shit cluttering up the bottom of the ocean. If only there were just a little bit more!

After all, it’s getting harder and harder to catch fish, so clearly there needs to be something that organises them into a more easily accessible area. And actually, while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the Marine Park as well. Because God knows, that thing has heaps of fish in it.

You might think this issue is a little mundane, but that’s where you’re wrong. Because the fishermen are not the only local group furiously sweating into their heavily branded baseball caps this week. There is another group of ‘concerned locals’ who’re being actively concerned in the direction of the Mayor. This group don’t give a shit about the artificial reef. They’re concerned about sea level rise – specifically, the lack thereof.

Our Council has had the audacity to suggest that the avalanche of scientific evidence regarding climate change is probably accurate. Sea levels are likely to rise. But not without a fight. Because nothing turns back the ocean like a group of crimson-faced fatties belligerently sweating into their nylon short shorts. It’s in the bible, somewhere near the back. Check the index for; ‘coastal inundation’, or ‘double-brick’.

Between artificial reefs and sea level rise it’s hard get a moment of peace.

But all is not lost. There is a delightful symmetry here. Because, on the off-chance that protesting sea level rise does not hold off the inexorable creep of the ocean, our local coastline is set to acquire a rather substantial artificial reef, complete with brick-and-tile patio and floor mounted swivelling bar stools. That’s right, most of the region’s waterfront properties will eventually fall into the sea.

The fishermen would love it for the snagging opportunities alone; ‘Fuck, Bazza, I’m snagged on the rotunda’ would enter the lexicon, a development that is certainly overdue.

The fish would love it too – they could lay their eggs in the entertainment unit and hang fibreglassed humans above the bar.

Why I’m not rich is beyond me.

Depression and anxiety; The new racism

It’s been a hell of a few weeks. Clearly I am suffering from stress. It could lead to depression, or perhaps anxiety.

Or perhaps I’m just busy and under pressure. Perhaps I’ll just harden the fuck up for a bit and see if that helps.

First; a warning. This is just some out-loud thinking. Sorry if it doesn’t make any sense. I’m stressed etc.,.

Yesterday I heard Frank Furedi speaking about freedom of speech on Radio National. I’ve not heard of Furedi since I was an undergrad student, about 20 years ago. I liked his work then, but have shifted in other directions since.

Yesterday, I listened to him argue that Western universities are increasingly self-censorious. This is because, under a neo-liberal consumerist model, they’re competing for students. There are prizes for the least confronting course content.

Education has become commodified, of course, but it’s happened in weird ways. University is no longer an adult stage, it is a continuation of a cosseted larval form, where endlessly fretting parents shuffle continuously build a fuzzy little ‘happy bubble’ around their children.

Every year the numbers of university students applying for special consideration on the basis of ‘stress’ or ‘depression and anxiety’ increases, as students pathologise the normal pressures of life in the adult world into an ever-expanding rubric of ‘wellness’.

Furedi often writes about this cultural turn but for me it was refreshing to hear someone validate what I myself have said so many times. In fact, I usually go one step further. I think we are encouraged to focus our attention on ourselves so as to avoid looking at the structural inequities and problems that may affect our ‘wellbeing’. This is one of the key ways that neo-liberalism works – it is the cult of the individual; If you can’t make life work, it’s because you’ve got something wrong with you. You have an illness. I’ve moaned about how this insidious cult of wellness operates before.

Here’s the thing; All capitalist systems require a certain degree of labour market elasticity. This is what the NAIRU (Non Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment) refers to. It is simply the rate of unemployment that can be sustained before inflation rises.

In the old days, the easiest way to secure churn at the bottom of the labour market was simply racism – you brought people in to your country and then stigmatised them so they would remain at the bottom. The decline in Empires (something that really only happened with the recession in the second half of the 1970s) has made flat-out racism more unpalatable and immigration much harder to manage. But the market still needs a bunch of people who will buy things but can’t work all the time.

Depression and anxiety is the new racism.

There’s another dimension to Furedi’s comments about education and feeble-mindedness, however. The commodification of a university education under a neo-liberal model has seen a dramatic increase in university enrolments. I’ve written about this in the Australian context before. My point is, universities are now accepting students who are completely unprepared for a university education.

One of the one hand, it’s predatory lending – inviting students to buy a mediocre education where they barely scrape through a general degree, with the help of multiple concessions to ‘stress’ or ‘depression’, is a bad thing.

But I’ve got mixed feelings about this. I myself left school before School C(ertificate*), and hit university in my early 20s. I was hopelessly outgunned. But, after a year I worked it out and did rather well thankyouverymuch.

So I’m cautious about suggesting that university entry requirements should be tightened as it may exclude those who might genuinely benefit.

I’ll leave that there. Apologies for lack of coherent thought.

 

 

*School Certificate and Bursary were the two main qualifications one could earn at school. Bursary (silly name, as it didn’t come with money) was roughly the same as HSC, undertaken at the end of Year 12. Only those planning to go to uni sat Bursary.

School C was the main qualification and you sat it at the end of Year 10. Can you imagine today’s year 10s sitting a series of exams at the end of the year? The stress! You’d be weeping into your chai latte.