30 July 2011

Review: Colour Me Mine, Summer Hill

The idea of baby showers has always rather horrified me. Matching word games and nappies with melted chocolate bars to emulate baby poop? No thanks. But I wanted to do something with friends before welcoming my progeny into the world, so we went to Colour Me Mine ceramics painting studio at Summer Hill. I've been meaning to visit for many years, but just never got around to it, so this seemed like the perfect time.

We booked a private room for the occasion; usually painters are seated in the main shop area, though there aren't many walk ins, avoiding that sat-in-a-train-station feeling. The sitter's fee is $12 per person, with pieces to be painted priced on top of that. At $20 for a coffee mug, this makes it a kind of pricey way to acquire homewares, but at least your place settings will be unique. Pieces range from small candy dishes through to toys, money boxes and even a water cooler (which I have my eye on for next time).
Once you've picked out your pieces and paints, staff gave us a very very long explanation of differing paint techniques that can be applied. Generally the staff were helpful without being intrusive but this is perhaps one aspect of the experience worth changing - we were all keen to start painting (and eating the food I'd prepared) and really could have asked if we needed help with anything specific.

Not happy being described as "simple"



Anyway then we were off to paint. It's lots of fun. A simple piece can be completed in a matter of minutes - my mother managed to complete two dishes in under half an hour - but with three coats of (fast drying) paint required for each colour area, larger pieces can take quite some time - especially for DH, who in his usual style with menus, couldn't decide what to paint. Eventually, he opted to create a noughts-and-crosses set for our kid.

The paint colours are displayed on a tile which has already been fired, showing how they'll look on the finished piece. It's just as well because the paints go on pastel - slightly disconcerting when your planned red cat dish goes on a pretty pink (although my cat would probably prefer it that way).

Once you're all done, pieces are left behind to be fired in the kiln, which takes a few days; they'll call you when your stuff is ready (somewhat inconvenient if you're not from the local area, like my family). The finished pieces are vibrantly coloured and stunningly glossy, nothing like the chalky pastel things you were working on. The studio has lots of stencils and tips for painting, so you don't need any particular talent to produce a lovely piece (although some of the artier finished creations on display made me want to weep with envy).


So whilst it's slightly expensive, I'm keen to go back; the experience itself is fun, and you get to create truly one-of-a-kind creations. Now if only we had room for a water cooler...

Colour Me Mine
1/50 Carlton Crescent
Summer Hill 2130
(02) 9797 0888

26 July 2011

Dark Times

It was a weekend of bad news. How much sorrow can we take? How much horror can the brain process, how much hurt? The news came out slowly on Saturday, Australian time. Bombing in Norway, the first reports said, a few casualties. It seemed very sad but one of those events that happens in far-off cities from time to time; local group of loons trying to make a point. But then word came through of a shooting, at a summer camp. Summer camp? These were kids. And the death toll rose and rose - 17, in the fifties, at one stage reported in the nineties, now revised back to 76, offering some very little cold comfort. The stories were horrific. A gunman posing as a police officer, pretending he was there to perform security checks and shooting the assembled teenagers; impersonating a rescuer to coax frightened survivors out of their hiding places, then opening fire; shooting victims as they tried to swim to safety 600 metres away. The brain reeled, unable to cope with the sick reality of it all. Who did this?

Sections of the media turned to their usual suspects; al Qaeda. It must be Islamic terrorists. Andrew Bolt was quick to assert that the attacks must call into question Norway's immigration policy. As it became apparent that the gunman was a right wing extremist, there was the inevitable switch of focus. Well, the conservatives harrumphed, he's obviously a lone crazy. A nut. Nothing to do with us. Although, they added...you can understand, really, why people are so angry at their governments these days.

Can we make this clear? The Utøya attacks were fuelled in a climate of right-wing hatred sprouting all over the world. Do you think it couldn't happen here? Of course it could. The right-wing media in Australia is fermenting right-wing bile to a disgusting extent. One of the country's most prominent broadcasters, Alan Jones, states that the Prime Minister and leader of the Greens should be drowned in sacks; an audience member at a town hall meeting tells the Shadow Treasurer that he wants to take up arms against the government, and Hockey says he understands without a word of dissuasion; 70% of newspapers in this country are owned by News Corp which openly peddles its right wing agenda. Of course, this is a democracy, and people are free to hold differing views; that's not the context we're discussing here. I'm talking about the anger people are entitled to feel against the government being used as justification for violence and bloodshed. In the tumult being thrown up by the shock jocks and right-wing media, a massacre such as this would come as no surprise. "But we're angry" is the justification being parroted again and again.  Being angry does not make this okay. Those of us on this side of politics saw 12 years of a government who slashed public services, demonised asylum seekers and lied that they were throwing their children off boats, ran the country into the ground economically in the name of budget surpluses, went to war in defiance of the wishes of 70% of the population, referred to the hundreds of thousands of citizens who marched against the war as mobs...we saw all this (well actually everyone saw it, but the right wingers didn't care) and I don't remember the fury from the left then. Where were the death threats, the screaming headlines? None, because as angry as we got, we understood violence is not okay. The right wingers demanding an election to have their say are the ones loading the shotguns when they don't get their way.

To claim the horror in Norway was divorced from political ideology ignores the reality of the targets. The shootings occurred at a summer camp for supporters of the ruling, centre left Norwegian Labor party. The shooter targeted the country's future leaders from the left and the children of the current leadership; young people who held the ideals of tolerance, multiculturalism and social justice so despised  by the right. To target the children is an act intended to destroy hope itself. And to Norway's eternal credit, they are not allowing hope to be destroyed. They have vowed not revenge, but more democracy. The Mayor of Oslo has vowed: We will punish the killer together, and the punishment will be more openness and more tolerance. Democracy does not come from the barrel of a gun. You can't threaten your way into power then claim you represent the will of the people. Conservative commentators are rushing to excuse the far right from any responsibilities for this atrocity, such as in this offensive piece by Peter Hartcher. Conservatives are the masters of double standards, and can't see that the blame for these events much lie partly with them for stirring up hatred and lies.

If only the right wing sprouters of bile would take a look at themselves for a moment, and stop the ferment of hate before a tragedy happens here.

~~~~~

Still processing the events in Norway, news came through of the death at 27 of Amy Winehouse. It's a measure of the life Ms Winehouse led - or the media coverage of that life, anyway - that reaction to her death was not cries of "Oh my god, no. Really?" but "Oh. Well, that's a bit sad". Unlike the unexpected horror and devastation of the Norwegian attacks, this had a sad inevitability to it. You felt petty for considering the two events in the same way.

Amy Winehouse was no manufactured pop puppet sprung to fame from a reality TV show, polished and packaged and presented to the world with the stunning lack of originality; nor was she a starlet famous for being famous. She was, as Russell Brand touchingly wrote in this memoir, a f**king genius. But Brand's piece is also a reflection on addiction, and that's how Winheouse had been viewed in recent years. An addiction, not a woman, not a musician, her demise as inevitable as the jazz greats who proceeded her. Addiction and genius go hand in hand, the line goes, the former dwarfing the latter in the public mindset.

But in reality addiction signifies nothing. Not genius. Not even pain, often; many addicts come from happy lives. And most addicts are not idiots. You know what you're doing. "Drugs kill" warnings are beyond a joke; yeah, you know that. It seems worth it, the mundane reality of life overruled by the shimmering escape of the substance of choice. Sure, there's the stage where life becomes a support mechanism for the addiction; you need it, but you don't enjoy it. Did Ms Winehouse ever reach that level? We'll never know. Maybe she left delighting in the joys of a high, still. There will be no more music, everyone reminds each other. But more than that, there will be no final, successful trip to rehab; no memoir, no rounds of the talk show circuit. No standing ovation at the Grammys or Brit awards as she collects her Lifetime Achievement award; no OK! magazine cover as she held up a rosy-cheeked toddler and declared she'd finally found true happiness. Maybe she saw that future, and didn't want it. We'll probably never know, but maybe she knew what she was doing and chose to walk away.

22 July 2011

The Hypothetical Tony Abbott

1:30pm, Sunday, 31st July 2011. The courtyard of Parliament House, Canberra. The Leader of the Federal Opposition, The Honourable Tony Abbott, is addressing the assembled media. He is flanked by the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, and the Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time here on this beautiful but very cold Canberra Sunday. I wouldn't have dragged you from your families on a Sunday unless the issue was of great import, and that is what we as a nation are facing now. So I will get right to the point.

"In recent months, this great nation has become heavily divided on the issue of a pricing scheme for carbon. Make no mistake, the science is in; climate change is happening. The question we have been grappling with is what action Australia, as a nation, should take in the face of this issue.

"Whilst Australia is a first world economy and part of the global community, we are nonetheless small carbon emitters on a global scale. We enjoy a strong economy which is built on the hard work of the miners and industries allowing us to enjoy prosperity. I believe and always will, that the economic security of our workers should take precedence over making changes to our economy which will cause hardship for Australian families whilst having little impact on a global scale.

"Recently the Prime Minister Julia Gillard has released details of the Australian Labor Party's plans for a carbon tax. This tax, by targeting industries generating much of our Gross Domestic Product, has the potential to devastate our economy; causing large job losses, decreases in our export figures, and much hardship. I took the position that as this tax had the potential for such harm, and was not put to the voters at the last election, that the Australian public deserved a fresh election to have their say on the matter.

"However, the divisions in our society over this issue have become too deep, too hateful. Much of the agenda of the current debate is being set by certain sections of the media. Following the scandals of News Ltd in the United Kingdom, we can no longer accept this organisation from dictating terms of our debate in Australia. This anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric has seeped through to other quarters of the media. The insults are becoming too personal. Death threats are not an acceptable part of the political landscape in Australia and we must never allow them to be.

"In light of this, and bearing in mind the unique situation of our current parliament, what I am calling for is a new national unity. Without constitutional precedence for a fresh election, what we need at the moment is  national consensus. In a democracy, it is the role of elected representatives to take advice and make decisions on behalf of the voters. In recent days, myself and my colleagues in the shadow cabinet have been receiving briefings from Australia's top economists and climate scientists in order to frame our position. This brings me to today's announcement.

"I have spent this morning in talks with the Prime Minister, and informed her of our new position. In light of the opposing threats of climate change and damage to our economy, and in order to end the damage done to our democracy by hate-filled rhetoric, we will no longer ask for an election or oppose the carbon pricing scheme out of hand. Instead, what I have offered Ms Gillard is that we will work together with the government in framing the scheme so as to ensure that we can work towards the goal of reducing carbon emissions, whilst protecting the mining sector and those industries so vital to our economy.

"I am aware this stance will come as a shock to many of our supporters. The feelings against the carbon tax have run very high in recent times, and sometimes we, in the opposition, were incautious in knowing where to be seen to lend support. I'm sure all will agree that death threats and personal attacks go against the proud political tradition of this great nation. Our diggers did not fight for this country to see the level of discourse dragged down to this level. Through bipartisanship, working together, we can seek to mend the deep gaps which have opened up in this country. Working together, we can reach a balance. We must protect workers jobs now, and we must protect the future of the planet from climate change that could see the Earth our grandchildren inherit unrecognisable from the one we enjoy now.

"What we need now is consensus and acceptance. I understand there will be many questions arising from this announcement, however I will be holding only a brief question-and-answer period so that  myself and other members of the shadow cabinet can meet with Ms Gillard and members of the Federal Cabinet to discuss strategies moving forward [some mirth in the crowd]. We are all aware on both sides of of politics of just how critical these issues are, and are hoping to release a joint policy as soon as is feasible."

[Mr Abbott and colleagues are joined by the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard].

"Questions?"

21 July 2011

The Grass is Always Greener...

This morning I woke up with my hands completely numb, my feet swollen, unable to get back to sleep because of ligament pain. For a brief moment, I wished I wasn't pregnant, but getting up to go to work in a city skyscraper, then off to cocktails in a small bar. Then I caught myself - I used to have that life, and I didn't care for it at all. I've just been sucked into grass is greener syndrome, which seems to affect all those of us with a slightly pessimistic disposition; the belief that no matter what you're doing, doing something else would be more rewarding.

I've spent the past couple of years involved in community work and activism. People say it must be hard working with homeless young people but that's nothing compared with arguing with a council admin assistant who wants you to darken the stripes on the Mayor's tie in the mayoral head shot going in the council information column in the local rag which is your job to produce. Imagine your fifth phone call in an hour trying to explain that no matter the wonders of modern photo editing software, there is a limit to how much you can differentiate pale blue stripes on a tie against a pale blue shirt. That, let me tell you, that is the sort of day at the office that will drive a woman to drink. And I don't mean fancy cocktails either - I would come home a down a shot before dinner. Nurse, give me something to deaden the pain. No matter what I have to do at work now - convincing a teenager not to throw her education away, arguing with the Department of Housing on behalf of someone determined to live alone but not ready yet - at least it has a point. One day, when I'm gone, I might have made some sort of difference to the world.

So, I guess, does having a child. But I've had every pregnancy complication under the sun, and now have some sort of flu-like thing as well, and in my delirium I've convinced myself I'd like a return to something like my old life. Never mind that there was no hanging out in small bars - the cool people never asked me along, and I much preferred cocooning at home anyway - and the weekends were just awful, hours to fill with nothing but shopping for stuff I didn't need and drinking alcohol I could have done with out. Right now, all that independence and health - or at least, the energy to actually get up and head off to the city nicely groomed, and stay awake all day - seems pretty appealing.

What is it that makes us yearn for what we don't have, no matter how happy we are with what we've got? When I was childless, single, and earning decent money, I wished for a partner and kids. I've noticed that people with kids often view their childless days through rose-coloured glasses - remembering the weekends as a whirl of lie-ins, all day cafe breakfasts, and dinners out. They forget that these weekends may have only come along once every few months, and then you'd have to cancel because you were rostered on at work, or had to help a friend move, or were otherwise expected to drop everything because of the endless free time you were delighted to have filled by your partnered friends.

But this post isn't actually about having children vs the childfree life. I've been wondering about the phenomenon of wishing and wondering if life could have gone a different way, the natural "Grass is Greener" syndrome almost all of us experience. It's not just work for me - what if I'd stayed in Newcastle? Bought that flat? Travelled? Not mailed that letter? I'll never know. What about you, reader? What do you wonder about, what would you like to change?

17 July 2011

Crossing the great childless/parent divide

All my life I've been quite an independent sort of a person, venturing fearlessly into the world and doing battle with the grown ups on their terms from a very early age. God help you if you jumped ahead of the eleven year old Nico at the deli counter and tried the excuse "I thought you were with your mum." I've lived alone for a decade, forged a career, fought my battles and haven't let myself get (too) intimidated by anyone.

Until, that is, I found myself in the latter stages of pregnancy, with a crippling joint condition, and getting teary when DH heads off to work. Alone? All day?

What has happened to me? I don't need a man. I don't need anybody. But I was completely unprepared for how fragile and vulnerable the "good grief, I'm enormous" part of pregnancy would make me feel. I read Naomi Wolf's account of her experiences of the phenomenon in Misconceptions , and thought "what a load of sentimental nonsense". But when I go out now, the world seems big and scary and full of things - people - who can hurt me. I cling to DH's arm, hiding behind his body. And I dread going out alone at all. I've taken two hard knocks to the abdomen from careless strangers (both by "women of a certain age", and I hope neither of them have ever complained about kids with schoolbags on the train). Maybe it's part of the nesting instinct, a need to stay close to home. I just know I'm looking forward to in a couple months time, when I can stride fearlessly forward in my steel-capped Docs, and ram people with the pram.

At home for now though, we invited my sister-in-law and her partner around to show off the nursery. Like all cliched new parents, we have become convinced that anyone would find anything to do with our child as fascinating as we do, so I was a little startled to hear my sister-in-law say she was looking forward to being able to play with the baby and then hand it back, whilst my brother-in-law was taken aback by DH's proud and detailed descriptions of the baby kicking. I wasn't put off thinking they were rude, merely to realise I have squarely landed on the other side of the parental divide.

For so long I was one of the "kids? oh...no" people. The kids were fine; it was their parents I had a problem with. Seemingly unable to talk about anything else, they would talk about feeding and changing and routines and the Wiggles and I would nod and smile, pity them their dull lives, and escape as soon as I could to the nearest bar.

But now DH and I have become parents. We will bore anyone who asks, or even who doesn't, silly with our plans for modern cloth nappies and bilingual playgroup and attachment (to a point) parenting (whilst being very careful to not say we will do anything better than any existing parent on Earth). Today I've been painting furniture for the baby whilst DH is out buying blockout curtains for the nursery and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing. Sure, I still care about politics and social justice and train timetables from the 1930s. But somewhere between the first discernible kick and the ritual visits to Ikea and Bunnings, I lost my childfree innocence. I will never dance to "Blow My Whistle" by DJ Alligator with the aid of intoxicating substances at 2am in the same way again.

14 July 2011

Why The Carbon Tax Is Not Like The GST

"Gillard should call an election on the carbon tax, we had one on the GST!" is one of the many cries from opponents of the Government's proposed carbon tax. The line runs that whilst Howard may have about-faced on his promise to never, ever introduce a GST, he bravely took it to the polls, won a mandate and we were all blissfully happy with the consumption tax.

Like so much elese in the carbon tax debate, this premise is just plain wrong. First of all, there were many issues in the 1998 Federal Election - the Asian economic crisis, the crippling cuts made by the Howard government to public services, the rise of One Nation and nationalism in Australian politics, even (hard as it is to believe now), the Republic. In a democracy, no general election is a referendum on a single issue; that is something more akin to mob rule.

Second, and slightly more critical to our argument here - there was no mandate on the GST. The Coalition lost the popular vote, 49.02% to 50.98%; only winning overall on number of seats. The Australian public did not vote for a GST or endorse it, and whilst Howard never made any pretence of his desire to introduce a consumption tax, it was never a done deal with these results. Without enough bums on seats in parliament, he was reliant on deals with the Democrats (ensuring their eventual demise as a political party) in order to get the GST through.

Gillard did promise not to introduce a carbon tax under a government she led, but she couldn't reasonably have forseen the outcome of the 2010 Federal election. In the end, we got what we voted for - no side could form a clear majority. This is nothing new, but it's nothing like the "GST election" that never was.

13 July 2011

Pro-Choice on Feminism

Are young women trying to impress Bob Ellis? Surely not, but why are so many of them falling over themselves to deny being feminists?

I could go down the path of blaming Lady Gaga. The redoubtable...Ms Gaga? or is she always a Lady? opined in 2009 ''I think it's great to be a sexy, beautiful woman who can f--- her man after she makes him dinner. There's a stigma around feminism that's a little bit man-hating. And I don't promote hatred, ever." Apparently Ms Gaga is in Sydney at the moment. Perhaps amongst her busy schedule of nightclub visits and appearances on A Current Affair (you want to talk about hatred?) she could take some time to brush up on feminist history and appreciate she couldn't be where she is today without the actions of the feminists who proceeded her. But I don't want to pick on Gaga specifically. She's not alone in her views; I hear so many young women preface statements with "I'm not a feminist, but...". Why has feminism got such an image problem?

It can't be that the work is done. The basic feminist issues - equal pay, equal rights, more just treatment of sexual assault cases in the judicial system - are agreed upon, if quietly, by the majority of the population. But we see drastically different images of what feminism means. The media presents a distorted picture; feminism is asexual, angry women proclaiming their superiority to men in the Murdoch press, high-flying career women banging their heads on the glass ceiling in the Fairfax press, so determined to be inclusive of minorities it can feel irrelevant to "ordinary Australian mums" in academia. Still, I think most women would describe themselves as feminists. For those who don't, it's the hatred thing that probably puts them off. I've also heard it said that feminism has made things worse for women. Until recently, I was unaware that there are large numbers of stay-at-home mothers amongst young women, who are quite happy in their situation and have no plans to go back to work, even once their children are older. These women feel under attack from feminists, and some yearn for the days when it was a given. some feel that women are better instinctively able to care for children. I don't think anyone's attacking them, but a few stay-at-home mothers want to deny all women the choice they have had. It's not something I would ever do, but go nuts, volunteer at the school or research the family tree or drive the community transport vehicle or whatever you like. Just recognise that this is a choice you have, and thanks to feminism you also had the choice to do a civil engineering degree and live alone till you're 43.

Well, financially permitting - I won't get into feminism and socialism today. But if feminism somehow disappeared tomorrow, many of the rights we take for granted would go with it. Maybe a little basic feminist history should be added to the high school syllabus (I'm sure kids would just love that). But something has to be done, anyway. The more a few women say "I'm not a feminist", the more it undermines us all.

11 July 2011

Where I Weigh In On The Carbon Tax

It's been a tough few months for those of us on this side of politics - trying to defend the carbon tax without the firm details of how the thing was going to work. Yesterday all was revealed -  a carbon price of $23 a tonne applying to the top 500 polluters only, exemptions and assistance for high emissions high trade industries (worth $60,000 a job to the steel industry), generous compensation for just about everyone.  I'm outraged.

Outrage is the emotion du jour. It would hardly have mattered to great heaving slabs of the population what the details of the carbon tax package were, they were against it. Tony Abbott appeared on Neil Mitchell's Melbourne radio show this morning, declaring Tony Abbott: "I am here to attack the carbon tax, not to explain it." Mitchell replied "But you have no detail?". Laughter. And we see measured, thoughtful responses like this one from the Herald Sun website (and being the responsible journalists they are, I'm sure they've reported this and provided the IP address to the AFP). The generous tax breaks make no difference - they simply don't believe Gillard or Labour on this.

In light of this, I'm pretty disappointed myself. Since whatever was announced would have been rejected, I would have liked to see a carbon tax that would have hit all households not solely relying on government benefits for $10 a week at least - and not handed it back. Seriously, if you can't afford just over a dollar a day for the sake of the planet, your budget is seriously skewed somewhere. If you really, really can't afford it, then you'll make changes in your budget to reduce your consumption - which is what needs to happen anyway. Miranda Devine would have you believe that despite climate change being a leftist fantasy, most families are doing every last little thing they can to reduce their environmental impact. Nonsense. Look at all the pleasure drives, loaves of bread put in plastic carry bags, misused recycling bins, lights on at 1pm, all over the country. Petty little things yes but they all add up. How much prosperity as a nation do we need? We've gotten this far on an orgy of overconsumption and overpackaging, and now it's time to put the brakes on just a teeny little bit. We don't even need to slow down, just accelerate slightly less.

And the tax can go to infrastructure projects, renewable energy, replacing the jobs that thew doomsayers are convinced will be lost and building the public transport everyone agrees they cannot possibly lose. I have no idea why Labor hasn't gone down this road. If everyone is going to hate you anyway, why the caution? why not take steps to really make a difference?

Too bad if you're sick of all this - the media blitz is in full swing. Sadly when it comes to the future of the planet, it seems many people's first thought is "how will it affect me?". The Prime Minister is looking to assure, and Abbott to terrify, "Australian families". How do you get to be one of these families, I wonder? As a mother of almost-one, I don't have (nor do I intend to) the mandatory three kids you need for the Murdoch press to seek your opinion on this issue. DH doesn't drive a ute or work in a trade, we don't have a mortgage, I'm not and won't be a stay-at-home mother, and of course we don't live in a marginal seat (actually we do live in a marginal seat. But the margin is between Greens and Labor). Both the major party politicians and the press only care about a certain type of family. But that's nothing new.

I think Mungo MacCallum has said it best so far - "the primary objective - the great moral, political and economic challenge of our times - is to be all but submerged in an indiscriminate pandering to the greed and self-interest of as many people as possible." But we'll see if the government can pull this off. They've got two years, if they don't give in to Abbott's megalomanic demands for another election. I guess it's a start.

07 July 2011

Of Cows and Climate (or, Only Our Jobs Matter).

Those who dig animal abuse can crack open the finest sparkling wine - live animal exports to Indonesia have recommenced! (I know they wouldn't drink champagne - they're all about Australian jobs). The live export trade, halted after May's Four Corners report highlighting abuses in Indonesian abattoirs, was suddenly on again last night thanks to the Gillard government caving into pressure from industry lobby groups - without anything actually changing in terms of animal welfare. Cows in their death agonies just don't speak as loudly as $300 million. WA Premier Colin Barnett has echoed sentiments frequently expressed about the trade, that whilst "something needed to be done" on this issue, a ban was going too far. I'd like to know what they would have liked the Federal government to have done - given the Indonesians stern glances? Made tut-tutting noises? No, the ban was the right thing to do, and I admired the government for it, and am disappointed but not surprised that Gillard et al have given in to pressures from industry at the sake of humanity yet again.

The eternal cry when these situations happen is "what about the jobs that will be lost?". The cries rise to unbearable shrieks when the issue of a carbon tax - let alone, god forbid, scaling back of the coal industry - arises. Right wingers are terribly concerned about jobs, you see. Disdaining education as they do, any thoughts of retraining are summarily dismissed - "what are these poor blokes who've worked in forestry/mining/slaughterhouses all their lives supposed to do?". Jobs must be preserved at all costs - I'm sure they'd kick whaling off again if they thought they'd get away with it.

Yet funnily enough their compassion only stretches so far. They only care about jobs for people like them. During the GFC, when approximately 100,000 Australians lost their jobs (I was one of them) the chorus from the right was strangely silent. These were professional jobs you see, city dwellers (shock horror!) - not people they knew. There was no compassion for the bankers, the accountants, the advertising executives. They decried the bailouts and stimulus spending which prevented the economy from crashing down in a steaming heap. But now, well, cows and carbon levels can go to hell.

~~~~~

I was disturbed recently to read that apparently, the Greens want to tattoo the foreheads of, if not actually gas, climate change deniers. My feelings were hurt - I'm a Greens member, and I've been to meetings, and no one mentioned these policies to me. Why had I been left out of things again? A little digging however revealed what's actually going on - they were referring to this column by Richard Glover regarding the tattoos, and Jill Spinger's piece in the Herald Sun about the gassing. How very odd. Now it seems anything a supporter of a carbon tax writes in jest is official Greens policy. Now, from Ms Springer I don't know. But Richard Glover doesn't even vote Greens (though I enjoy his writing nevertheless). He's not employed as a journalist by the SMH - his weekly column appears not in the News section, but in the arts/entertainment lift out Spectrum, for goodness sake. All this should have tipped readers off that Mr Glover perhaps wasn't being entirely serious, but no. And he was subsequently the target of death threats. It must be very sad to have no sense of humour or perspective. Or Maybe right wingers just hate all life, except their own. I don't know.

04 July 2011

Not Welcome Anymore

Oh, Bob Ellis. And to think I loved you once.

Ellis is truly of Labor's old guard, with his legacy of eloquent humanistic writings about the inner workings of that party and Australian politics. However, he hasn't been coping in recent years with the decline in the relevance of the Australian Labor Party, producing increasingly disjointed and even offensive pieces in his blog on ABC's The Drum. Today however he has outdone himself, with this disturbing piece on accusations of rape made against political figures. It's all feminists' fault, complains Ellis, that great liberal and left leaning political figures are brought down by these mud-slinging woman. Feminism is killing the left.

There's so many things wrong here, from Ellis' apologia for rape - he never acknowledges the complicity or illegality of his heroes' actions - to his assessment of the political potential of some of his touted victims. The former far outweighs the latter in gravity, of course. But I'm particularly incensed by Ellis' view of women in political situations. Women are not a part of the left movement, not human beings of equal value; they are a distraction from men's real work. Ellis may be an anachronism in his views on this, but he's not a rare one; it's a sentiment frequently expressed in blogs and writings - there are "people", and then there are "women". Two separate things. Women are a sideline from the real action, the important men's business. In Ellis' worldview, feminism is not the vital part of progressive that I dearly believe it to be; it is at war with it. Ellis has written beautifully on human rights; apparently to him women's rights are not human rights, women's rights are at odds with the greater good of humanity.

This is where the rush to blame the woman in political scandals springs from. In his heart Ellis believes that women have no business messing around in politics. They should keep to the sides and keep their mouths shut. His views aren't welcome in this society any more, and I hope (though don't entirely expect) to see him lose his position with the Drum as a result. It's kind of heartbreaking to see such things thought, said and written down, and from someone I once greatly admired (and personally signed copies of whose books I have on my shelf) nevertheless.

~~~~~

Just a quick word about our new poll question. I highly admire the work of the Anti-Bogan, who exposes the racist, misogynistic and homophobic things said on Facebook and puts them on the public record. By definition your average racist isn't very bright, and a lot of people saying these things list their employment details along with their statements about how all Aussie they are and how great the Nazis were (we fought the Nazis. They lost). It so happens that sometimes these statements are brought to the attention of said employers, and people have lost their jobs as a result. So, I'm asking if you think this is okay. Should people be fired for statements made on Facebook - they may be the support of their family but that doesn't excuse breaking the law, or are they entitled to their views away from work - bigotry's awful and all, but not worth losing your job over? Voting closes on Saturday...

03 July 2011

(Very) Trying To Conceive

From time to time now, I'll get a familiar twinge in my lower abdomen and think "oh, it's that time of the month ladies look so forward to". It's only when I try to head for the bathroom and am confounded by my massively pregnant abdomen that I realise no, I don't have my period. The confusion even after all this time is understandable though when you spent most of a year Trying To Conceive (TTC).

Because it involves sex (but not the careless, abandoned, sexy kind), and temperatures and charts, and hoping for something that could happen tomorrow or may not happen at all - you just don't know - TTC isn't something that people talk about much. I can't even imagine the heartache that comes with the decision to try IVF, or the agony of deciding not to do it when you want a child. I'm talking though about the bog-standard TTC, which you must try for at least a year at my age before accessing any sort of professional help. A year isn't a long time to try, you're told. I know it's true - it certainly seems so now, and churlish to complain when you know of women on their fourth year or trying - but it seemed so at the time.

Someone said that in a way, each month of unsuccessful TTC is like losing a 4-week pregnancy (as you're counted as about 4 weeks pregnant by the time you miss a period and get that elusive positive pregnancy test - the BFP of your dreams). It's true. A year isn't very long, but you don't know it will only be a year. Your body doesn't stick out a little flag saying "ok, you're menstruating this month, but chin up - just three more of these to go then you'll be knocked up, I promise!". Especially not when you've been using contraceptives for fifteen years trying not to get pregnant. Especially not when, in your youth, you had a different result without trying, and now you desperately want it to happen and it's not, you blame your actions back in those days.  You ask yourself, is this some divine punishment from a god I don't believe in? Have I rendered myself infertile through my debauched lifestyle? Is there only so much vodka one can consume before you pickle your eggs?

Every month is a roller coaster. You start off with a sense of optimism, hope and saucy underwear, getting down to business at just the right, carefully determined through temperature charting, times in order to increase your chances of conception. Then there's the dreaded, anticipated two week wait. You might have been lucky this month - you don't know. As the days progress every little symptom is analysed - do I feel sick today? Need to pee more often? Am I a little tender? (Measuring mood swings isn't really an option if you're a psycho hose beast like myself). I would mostly refrain from drinking during this time, adding to the heightened sense of unreality (although it was good preparation for things to come).

Then the dreaded cramps, and blood, and you know you've failed this month. (I nearly wrote AF, or Aunt Flo - hanging around on parenting forums makes use of cutesy euphemisms seem natural and not like a 1950s textbook for young ladies). What did we do wrong? Was it that day I was too tired? Catching the egg comes to seem like using a Skill Tester machine. There's tears, and drinking to console yourself, and you resolve next month to chart your temperatures more carefully, and enjoy your partner's company in that special way more often, whatever it takes.

After a while you'll try anything. By that last month - and our last month trying before we sought medical help - DH and I were both on pre-conception vitamins; I was taking ginseng, avoiding ibuprofen, and not drinking ice water on the advice of a Chinese medicine practitioner; and we followed a little scheme called the SMEP (too much information even for this post - Google if you must).

I've heard complaints from those who've been through the IVF process that first-person account books written about the experience, as detailed and honest as they may be, always have a joyous ending; the author photo on the back cover with a smiling toddler, the successful cycle when all hope seemed lost. No one wants to finance the book deal where things end with "it didn't work, and we couldn't go on, and we have to somehow get on with our lives". I resolved that if it came to it, I would damn well try to get my story published if it didn't have the happy ending, the last page recounting the sound of the cry in the delivery ward. It hasn't come to that. We've gotten our result, or nearly there anyway; I've the stretch marks and SPD and waking through the night as the countdown to birth is measured by a reassuring yet terrifying "not long now!" by well meaning onlookers. But I know nothing in my life will ever cause such uncertainty and fear and exhilaration and despair as the TTC journey. My heart goes out to those who were on this journey with me, and are still there. It's an extraordinary time, in good and bad ways.

01 July 2011

Happy Balance of Power Day!

"I for one welcome our new Greens overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a tweeter, I could round up others to toil in their tofu mines." - Twitter user citizen_cam

Well, Australia's problems are solved; today the Greens take the balance of power in the Senate. Alternatively, if you listen to the loony right, the sky will fall in (it hasn't yet, but it's not 11am yet) and this will "ruin our once great nation" (so many things have happened to "ruin our once great nation" according to conservatives, that it's a wonder that there's anything left of a functioning democracy at all - which they seem bent on destroying anyway). The Herald Sun have already gotten in on the doomsaying in unintentionally amusing ways.

What It All Means is not that the Greens are running the country. However, the Government won't be able to pass legislation through the Senate without Greens approval, if the Opposition tries to block said legislation. Hopefully this will see some real, effective measures in improving environmental and social justice measures passed through parliament. Those of us on the Greens side of politics can only shake our heads and laugh ruefully when it's claimed that the Greens and Labor are in some sort of alliance. The evidence speaks for itself; does anyone honestly think the Greens are in favour of offshore asylum seeker processing, let alone the cruel, expensive and inhumane "Malaysian solution"? The ALP has taken Greens support for granted for too long, even as they clamour to present the electorate with the smiling face of Howard Lite. Now we're in a powerful bargaining position in our own right, I'm cautiously optimistic this will come to an end.

So who are our new "Greens Overlords"?
  • Richard Di Natale - a former GP and Drug and Alcohol clinician from Geelong. He's worked in India on HIV prevention among drug users and has two Masters degrees in health.
  • Lee Rhiannon - former member of the NSW Legislative Council, journalist, zoologist and founder of the Coalition for Gun Control.
  • Larissa Waters - an environmental lawyer from Queensland.
  • Penny Wright - a solicitor and mediator from SA. She's worked as a Dispute Resolution Practitioner with Relationships Australia and is a former campaigner for human rights and the environment.
None of the new senators have a particularly high public profile, with the exception of Lee Rhiannon - or as she's often referred to, the controversial Lee Rhiannon. Ms Rhiannon has acquired something of a national profile in recent times for, along with the NSW Greens and in conflict with the national Greens, supporting the Israeli BDS boycott. This puts her at odds with Bob Brown, whom she has been touted as a possible successor to. Whilst I'm sure those who seek to discredit the Greens will try to turn this into "internal warfare threatening to tear the Greens apart", it's nothing of the sort and some disagreement can be a good thing. As much as we all adore Bob Brown, it doesn't benefit anyone for the Greens to be a personality cult. A true, functioning political party nurtures future leaders and accepts differences in opinion. We need to face the reality that one day, Brown will no longer be leader, and if we're to build a sustainable future we need to be expanding our horizons now. (It does seem like blasphemy to say this, though).

So I'm looking forward to seeing what transpires over the next few months. As well as ending offshore processing and introduction of a carbon tax, I'd like to see the banning of open-toed bootie shoes and TV ads containing the phrase "as a mum...". Hey, I said I was optimistic.