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.

 

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Shitfulness

Here’s a little story….

Two days ago I took my kid and neighbour’s dogs for a walk to the wharf. It’s a thing we like to do at the end of a long day of school and work. We just walk, chat and giggle about the silly dogs. It’s cool and calm down there. Periodically I shout BONDING.

There are other people around – fishermen, some kids on bikes…the usual early evening crowd.

Anyway, there we were, sitting at the wharf with the dogs when a boat pulls into the ramp. The guy gets out of the boat, retrieves his 4wd and then backs it down the ramp. His partner replaces him in the driver’s seat and he gets into the boat. Then he fucks it all up, the boat isn’t on the trailer straight. So he starts yelling at his partner. He’s shouting something about her not putting the car in the right place.

But he’s not just shouting, he’s standing in the boat, screaming at her, calling her a stupid fucking bitch and everything else.

How fucken stupid are ya?

Eventually she gets of out of the car and he gets in, pulling the crooked boat and trailer out of the water and up into the carpark. Then he stands in front of her, with all these people around, and berates her, telling her how fucking stupid she is.

She’s humiliated. She says, quietly – I just didn’t feel comfortable with driving it up….

He screams at her face some more, then eventually she walks off. We too left the scene, but I dropped my daughter home and went back down to the wharf just in case I saw her and could offer her a ride, or cup of tea or a Howitzer.

Thankfully she’d gone. I like to imagine she went home, packed her bags and left him, but I’m sure she didn’t.

I’ve seen this show before but watching this as an adult though I realised there was another dimension to it. It’s something I’d never realised before.

Every single person down there was looking at that guy and thinking – what a fucking cock. He was basically standing on the back of his boat yelling out,

Look at me! I’m the most insecure little cock-smoker you’re likely to see for quite some time!

As we left the wharf he bailed up another woman and started explaining how stupid his partner was. I walked back towards him ready to say something like;

You’re a juvenile shit-stain who can’t take responsibility for your actions…..but I didn’t.

I should have maybe. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have made any difference, the guy would have gone home to his partner, and nothing would have changed.

Later, at home at bedtime I asked my daughter if she remembered that guy who was yelling at the wharf. I started to say some precious social justice shit like, it’s not OK at all for anyone to talk to anyone like that but then she said,

Yeah Mum, that guy was a total cock-smoker (words to that effect anyway).

She thought she was watching something totally abhorrent and strange, which is really all that matters.

Vote to marry a year ten brachiosaurus!

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To begin – this shit, from the ABC, no less. IT’S NOT A FUCKING VOTE, it’s a survey.

The whole point of a survey is so the government doesn’t have to have a vote. I note however that this article comes to us from ‘Hack’, the Millennial’s ABC, so one doesn’t expect it to be remotely accurate because, like, facts are like so, like lame or something, meh.

Second – the NO media campaign ads.

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Apparently these ads are going to be popular, because they have women in them. Women who don’t make any sense. Seriously, there are some coherent arguments against SSM (depending on your point of view) but these ads don’t encompass them.

Here’s a snippet of the dialogue;

If same sex marriage is passed it will be like overseas, where we don’t have a choice anymore….

That’s right, everyone will be forced to marry gay people.

Also, Concerned Mum of Tuggeranong (she’s the slightly cross eyed lady looking upwards towards the camera in faux penitence) says;

If same sex marriage goes ahead my year seven boy will be told it’s OK for him to wear a dress to school next year

Yep, that’s right – this survey will have far reaching consequences that may or may not bear any resemblance to the original fucking issue. Here’s the outtake,

If same sex marriage goes ahead my year seven boy will be told he can wear a fur-suit and marry a brachiosaurus! Won’t someone think of the children?

Quite. So let’s think about those children….well, while everyone was working themselves into a state about the ‘damage’ same sex marriage will do to children, these two stories emerged, one about toddler Braxton Slager who drowned in his foster carer’s illegal backyard pool, and the other, Braydon Dillon, the nine year old boy who was killed by his father in Canberra;

I heard Slager’s mother and father complaining vociferously about their son’s death on the radio. Apparently the state services had ‘let them down’. Even the Minister, Prue Goward, called them to apologise. The system is broken!

The media intimated that the toddler should have never even been placed in foster care. His mother said she didn’t want him placed in foster care, and that she was already the primary carer for other older children. Surely he could have stayed in the loving embrace of his mother?

But let’s be clear-eyed about this – FACS don’t remove toddlers because Mumsy doesn’t have the latest Wiggles DVD. In fact, a recent report showed just how hard it is to get FACS to do anything at all,

It shows in July 2012, the St Mary’s office closed 60 per cent of “risk of serious harm” reports without assessment due to competing priorities, while in June 2013 at Mt Druitt 86 per cent of reports were closed without assessment.

I’m prepared to entertain the idea that FACS thought the toddler was in immediate danger if he stayed with his mother.

It’s worth noting, given the statement above, that  FACS in Western Sydney might appreciate a lazy 122 million dollars, but no, we need it for the government sponsored survey that’s going to tell us exactly how bad it would be to officially recognise gay people who are already raising children perfectly well, as married.

Which brings me to Bradyn. I was thinking about him as I heard the ‘No’ campaigner telling ABC’s Patricia Karvelas that the best environment in which to raise children was with a mother and a father. Bradyn Dillon’s father hit him in the head,

…multiple times between December 2015 and February 2016.

The final beating, which caused previous brain injuries to re-bleed, was sparked over an accusation Bradyn had stolen lollies from his father.

Dillon had just beaten Bradyn with a belt as he was bent over naked on a coffee table.

“Bradyn told the accused he didn’t want to live with him anymore and that the belt did not hurt,” the documents said.

Dillon then forcefully hit and kicked his son in the face and head.

Bradyn’s mother had contacted authorities multiple times to report this abuse, although for some reason Bradyn couldn’t go and live with her. I won’t speculate as to why. Once again, we witness the failure of authorities to protect a child at risk. 122 million probably wouldn’t go astray there either.

Then, still on the subject of children, I see this morning that the Catholic church has come out against same sex marriage. Yep, the catholic church has defined gayness as an act of moral turpitude. Let me get a pen.

And final salvo in this weird, stupid and offensive campaign that seems to know no bottom, goes to the frankly weird campaigning of the Greens – I received an email from them with the subject line;

You’re enrolled to vote YES!

This is ridiculous. IT’S NOT A FUCKING VOTE.

The Greens shouldn’t tell anyone they’re going to vote yes, it’s smug and presumptuous, and finally, people who aren’t enrolled might think this means that they are, and therefore not bother to check (yes, the email came before the cutoff to update your enrolment details).

Opposing same sex marriage because it might damage children is patently fucking ridiculous, as there are thousands of gay men and women raising children already. People’s ability to provide a loving home isn’t dictated by their sexual orientation. It just plain isn’t. You might oppose it for other reasons – mainly due to western-judeo christian something-or-other and that’s a matter of religion, but the ‘community is just thinking-of-the-children’ argument rings hollow in the light of the horrors above.

If you’re that fucking concerned about the welfare of children, put all your efforts into stopping parents from hooking into the methamphetamine. 122 million dollars might help with that.

 

 

 

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.

 

51% of university students sexually harassed!

It’s a good line isn’t it? Certainly got everyone’s attention. Here’s the stat;

Around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. A significant proportion of the sexual harassment experienced by students in 2015 and 2016 occurred in university settings. For the purposes of the National Survey, incidents which occurred in ‘university settings’ included sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred:

• on the university campus

• while travelling to or from university

• at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, and

• at university employment.

Experiences of technology-based harassment were included where some or all of the perpetrators were students, teachers or other people associated with the university…..

When incidents of sexual harassment which occurred while travelling to or from university are excluded, the Commission found that 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

So, 21% of students experienced some form of sexual harassment on campus, or in a ‘university setting’. I’m not prepared to consider public transport a ‘university setting’. After all, when was the last time you were expected to pay for trips with massively inflated dollars twenty years down the track?

Still, 21% is quite a high rate but then it apparently includes being harassed over ‘technology’. Does this mean a vaguely smutty/insulting remark in response to something (equally offensive) that you’ve posted on Facebook is sexual harassment? If that’s the case then I think 21% is remarkably low.

No matter. 51% is a great statistic. Especially on Twitter.

Things got pretty…

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Here are some numbers for Mr Stepney and those like him.

– The survey polled around 30 000 students, yielding a standard error of around +/-0.4%. 30 000 students could therefore be considered a representative sample.

– Annabel Crabb is a well known and respected Australian journalist. She has 437K followers.

The main problem with this survey is that it’s biased towards those who would take the time to fill it in. In other words, it’s more likely to attract those with some experience of sexual harassment or assault.

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!

PR is a feminist issue

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First page of results…..

TOP STORIES

Self identified fat woman who makes a living out of complaining about her treatment, complains about her treatment! On one of the top women’s websites in Australia, no less! As part of her book tour!

It’s almost as if Mamamia’s Mia Freedman deliberately inserted a needle into the festering boil that is women’s fatness for publicity!

Perhaps Roxane Gay is a savvy media manipulator too. After all, she made a name for herself by claiming to be a Bad Feminist, thereby staking out the territory of a Good One, as if that’s something we can all agree on. And yet even that confected ‘controversy’ ran out of steam eventually. Thankfully she had narcissistic body-shaming to fall back on.

Consider her move to refuse to be photographed for her interview, prompting Mamamia’s article’s title;

“Why, for the first time, I have no photo from my interview with Roxane Gay”

Who could have seen that coming?

In other words; ‘Women of Australia! Google images of Roxane Gay immediately! Pay a lot of attention to her body! She’s really fat! This is her point of difference between all those other feminists you’ve grown tired of!’

Apparently Gay actively cultured her fatness with the goal of making herself sexually ‘untouchable’. This assumes that not having ongoing sex with a man is the cornerstone of self-negation. How can I be human without the sexual gaze of a man to validate me?

This is a master class in PR, and mamamia knows it.

Women’s fatness is underpinned by two key tenets;

  1. The idea that fatness is a choice
  2. women’s bodies are public property.

The choice element suggests morality, combined with the public property element this means everyone gets a say! You could not design a more clickbait-y topic. In fact, fatness is such a public issue that everyone’s now chucking their two cents in. This ‘shitstorm’ has kicked off predictable opinion pieces from women moaning about the seamless integration between their bodies and their feelings.

Many rail against the ‘false’ kindnesses that have come their way;

Oh, people tell me I’m beautiful to them! I know they’re well meaning, but it’s so exhausting. 

‘Exhausting’, in case you weren’t aware, is the new term for ‘I’ve decided to interpret all the kind things you say to me through a lens of my own self-hatred. I’m so offended. Perpetually offended. Poor me. I SAID, POOR ME. Is this thing even on?’

I’m fucking exhausted.

Look, I couldn’t give a rat’s clasper about mamamia. I don’t read it because it’s schlocky bullshitty clickbait, designed for the echo chamber that is boring, neurotic upper middle class white ladies who spend their days imagining they’re ‘balancing’ their careers when instead they’re at the park trying not to spill smoothie on their Country Road pashmina.

What fucks me off is the idea that this is is being touted as feminism. Does feminism mean paying enormous attention to the relatively minute differences in our appearances? Or competing in the I’m-more-offended-than-you Olympics?

This is the most effective kind of alienation. If you’re constantly telling everyone they can’t engage with you because they might do it wrong, they won’t engage with you at all.

The key point here is that if we’re all endlessly fascinated with our bodies we won’t be paying much attention to anything else.

But I would say that wouldn’t I? No-one ever says anything mean or hurtful about me. No-one has ever told me how to live my life, what choices I should make. No-one’s ever judged me on my appearance, or the choices I make with my body. Nope, plain fucking sailing here.