I’ve put everything I own in a box to the left

A friend and I started chatting about Ivanka Trump’s absurd G20 appearance, and it all kind of spiralled. Here’s how my side of the conversation went:

If I wasn’t so horrified by everything their government has been doing over the past few years, I’d have second hand embarrassment. It’s as funny as it is fucking upsetting.

It honestly just makes me angry, and it’s hard not to be furious at strawman legions of ignorant small town white dudes in my head who voted him into power. But there was obviously more to it than that, and I’m scared that it really is leading to a dystopian future of sorts. It’s gruelling to watch it happening in slow motion, and it’s a total vortex. We can all see each other split into defined silos and we’re just letting it happen. We’re losing touch with one another. It’s even harder in Ontario, because we’re all breathing the same air and I don’t know why their Ontario is apparently so different from ours.

A lot of these “clean the slate” bollocks and “cost cutting measures” are very much preying on general ignorance. Like, governments have debt. It’s kind of part of the whole deal. They’re investing on the kind of projects that amortise over decades. It’s very very hard to bankrupt a province, y’know? But people assume it’s like personal finance, where if you’re in the red it’s a more pressing issue. It’s not that we want to be in the red as a province, but it’s a known quantity in politics.

There’s so much dirty lobbyist stuff going on. Back pocket payments, new clandestine laws hidden inside other bills, etc. So you’ve got a series of businessmen getting into politics purely to make deals with their friends, and help all of their cronies make more money at the behest of those who think they’re being cared for. When it comes down to it, I don’t understand how their constituents think. Like, how do you hear “no jobs will be lost” then see so many jobs being lost and think “well they said no jobs would be lost, so I guess it’ll be fine.” How do you equate that and see business as normal?

It’s also people ad nauseum regurgitating talking points they inherited. I’m sure this very much includes myself. When it comes to divides along racial, sexual and socioeconomic lines, I don’t know how much they’ve examined their ideas, or if they’ve been passed down from their opinion leaders and taken as granted. Their parents or bosses said these things, and that became normalcy for them. Not that this is isolated to the right either. When it comes to the left, there’s a point at which we become sanctimonious, and having certain level moral obligations doesn’t recuse other shitty behaviour. Social media is an absurd echo chamber at times, which blocks out a ton of very valid dissenting views.

There’s this pervasive notion all across the left that I really hate. This idea that “now that I’ve learned this thing, I get to cast judgement on people who don’t know it yet.” Everyone’s always learning, right? And we can’t expect people to know stuff just because we do. I bet I’ve expressed a ton of shitty views even in the last year, let alone when I was 20. At the same time, I get a lot of internal friction with concepts of tone policing, etc. I very much believe in righteous anger and expression of feelings. I also believe that it often gets in the way of finding mutual connection as a method of sharing ideas. And I’m not gonna ever tell someone they don’t have the right to their valid feelings, but I can often see it running counter to peoples’ goals. Emotional labour is hard. Also sometimes doing it is in your own best interest.

I feel like there’s kind of a missing staircase in the discussion from the left standpoint. We know that there are so many kinds of privilege that people benefit from. A lot of marginalised people don’t have these forms of benefit, and the underlying notion is that those who have a ton of privilege should work to dismantle these systems to make things more equitable. I hear that, I get that, I beleive that.

ALSO, what we’re asking for is directly to the “detriment” of most of these privileged people. They’re giving up things, and for many of them the upside (increasing representation, giving opportunities to those who haven’t historically had access to them) doesn’t benefit them in a tacit way (or at least, obvious). Why would they want to help with something that doesn’t do much for them? How is that a viable tradeoff for a ton of people who don’t understand the nuance of why it’s important? To most of them, they’re just giving things up, and they already see themselves as victims, because we all do. For so many people, spreading happiness is not a motivating driver. They’re worried about themselves and those close to them, and strangers don’t factor into that equation. In their heads they want to tend to their own garden first, but the “first” aspect is a misnomer when problems will always be present. Life is hard.

I don’t like much of the above, but I think it’s real.

Nothing grows here

I need a post Pride holiday.

What a brilliant weekend of sunny, vibrant revelry. I danced, drank, dressed and dallied to my heart’s content. I did very little sleeping, and very lots of socialising. VERY. LOTS. I crashed a bunch of pre-parties, which were perfect occasions to meet friends of friends. I spent a ton of time moving with groups between venues, ordering Ubers and being the logistics fella who kept loose plans on track. I also spent way more time outside than I usually do, and I think that’s tuckered me out more than anything else. Today I have no time or capacity to give fucks. Like Van Morrison when he made that absurd contractual obligation album. I want to go home and zone out with food, however it’s taking all day for work to finish. Y’know, the work day and all…

I don’t know how many plain crackers I’ve eaten today, but the answer would astound you if I knew it. I’m reverting to primal urges. It’s only a matter of time until I throw a stick into the air and it morphs into a satellite. If this keeps up, I’ll probably end up making roast pork for dinner, then tearing it apart with my bare hands. I’m not even suggesting this would be a negative outcome. It sounds fun as hell. Hand held foods are the best type of foods, hands down.

My brain feels so flat today. I walked into the office in a fugue, and I’ve barely talked to anyone in my waking hours. Except, of course to tell them about Van Morrison’s contractual obligation album. It took a litre of coffee for me to regain some semblance of composure, if of course composure can be measured in how readily you rant about the improvised album Morrison recorded in a single day. I’m well-composed, by that margin.

Did you know that Van Morrison had a contractual obligation album? I didn’t know if I’d mentioned it. The thing is bonkers. The first few tracks are mostly identical, but swapping verbs readily. I’m sure there’s an elegant difference between “Twist and Shake”, “Shake and Roll”, “Stomp and Scream”, “Scream and Holler”, and “Jump and Thump”, that I’m just not discerning enough to notice. In this clusterfuck of a recording session, he does a song about ringworm. He does a song about going to the bakery. He talks shit about the label and their demands. It’s the epitome of sowing salt, and I’ve seen few moves so inherently salty.

Did you know that salt has no calories?

All this talk of salt is making me hungry. Maybe it’s time to put aside the plain crackers in favour of something a little bit flashier. Saltines, here I come!

I wish S-Club wasn’t stuck in my head

For the first time in a while, I’ve been feeling consistently okay about being.

Not “being” anything in particular, just being. I exist, I wake up every day and have a plethora of interactions. I learn more about the world around me. I’m finding it easier to put intention towards areas of choice. As if empowered somehow to rediscover who I am and who I want to be. It feels like a gift of sorts, standing in stark contrast to most of the past few years. The joy in simplicity isn’t hidden under layers of emotional debris. It’s sitting right there. At worst, I dig a little to find deeper meaning, or the inane complications hiding amongst the mundane. It’s not a struggle to look at the expanse of years ahead of me and crumble under their weight. Yep, pretty okay.

One of the defining harbingers of this mindset has been the ability to redefine my lens. When something goes wrong, if I can’t simply brush it off I’ll balance it out. Sure, I may have an initial negative response, but I cast my net a little wider to examine why that’s happening. Is there something about the situation that’s conflicting with my values? Are my values relevant in the given scenario? Or is it worth shifting my expectations, giving more leeway to the notion that things don’t have to work out in my favour? That people are more often ignorant than malicious, and being generous towards their intentions helps both of us cope? Assuming more of others, that things are less likely to be about me than I think? In short, the hallowed advice of “don’t take it personally”. It’s helping.

Coupled with the above mentality has been a willingness to accept that there’s probably more to everything than I see. That opening myself to opportunities instead of hiding behind a pre-generated negative mindset is helping more than it’s hurting. That things are scary/challenging sometimes, and that’s part of the process. As Chris Gethard reiterated many times in his book “Lose Well” (I’m shilling hard for it, but it gave me a lot. The only good thing to do is pay it forward), nothing will replace hard work. There’s no shortcut or quick fix, and things won’t come to you without it. Sometimes, even with it.

I’m sure this all sounds very lofty, but in so many words I’m on an upswing. I’m doing exponentially better than I was. Taking medication for my depression has lifted a lot of the strain and allowed me to take my life back. I stepped away from it for a while, and I’m uncovering so much that I left behind when I did so. I have a back catalogue of catch-ups that’ll see me through to next year. I have places to go, things to see, people to hold closely. I have stories to live and all the time in the world to tell them. I have another shot, and that didn’t seem like an option a few months back.

So I’ve got a lot to feel okay about.

Back in the saddle for a bumpy ride

Be proud. I went and did an open mic set all on my very own. It went fine.

I guess the meds are doing something, because I woke up on Wednesday wanting to try out some new material. It’s been a while. The last time I did a set was at the insistence of my therapist. I did the set, things went fine. Then I was too depressed for months and found the drive to get back up was beyond me. I knew that while I wanted to really try my hand at improving, it wasn’t gonna happen if I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone and do something about it. So I did nothing. Consistently. I realised that I’d first tried it out maybe 10 years ago, that if I’d kept at it I’d be a lot better by now. But I wouldn’t get better at all without actual practical experience. So while it would be tough to sign up for open mics, stay out late listening to white dudes make shitty rape jokes, and deal with potentially mediocre sets for a while, it’d be a necessary evil.

Last night I had no real plans. My girlfriend was gunning for a burlesque game show, but I wasn’t in a burlesque mood. My friend runs an open mic that’s within walking distance from my home. I’d never been, but I knew that if I did bomb hard, I could very easily run home and cry. Always have an escape plan. I looked up some jokes I’d been considering telling. I worked over some of the wording, and practised one in which specific wording would lift the performance. I weirdly didn’t feel as nervous as I had in the past. This was all low stakes, just a Friday night open mic at a bar. My friend was hosting, and I had every hope she’d put together a pretty friendly room. At worst I had backup plans to go drink with friends afterwards. Plus it was a venue I hadn’t tried before. It’s cool to take the temperature of new places.

I walked in 5 minutes after sign up, and joined a line of white dudes. Assumptions confirmed. The scene hadn’t changed all that much. By the time I got my name on the list, I was 13th. After all the booked spots, and with a show that rightfully pushed non-cis males to the front, it’d be a while. The show started at 9.30pm. Spoilers, but I didn’t get on until around midnight. Once again, the scene hasn’t changed.

It was a mixed bag. I tried to sit up front so that comics would know they had someone listening. For the most part, the bar was filled with dudes just waiting to do their material and leave. Most of them weren’t listening to whoever was onstage. They were just thinking about their own sets. However, as other attentive comics did their sets and left, it was basically just me sitting up the front while a rowdy bar talked over whoever had the mic. Rough. I felt awkward being so close. Still, I tried to give everyone the respect they deserved for getting up and giving it a go.

I felt pretty shitty for the people who got drowned out. They had some great jokes, and probably felt like they were pounding sand talking to a bustling room. One of the female comics got a temporary reprieve by calling out one of the dudes at the back. “Hey ________” she started “should I tell everyone how you’ve been blowing up my Facebook? Maybe shut the fuck up, or I’ll start reading your messages verbatim. I’ve got time.” Hell yeah. People filtered out, the room quietened down. By the time I got on, people were at least half listening.

The set went well enough. I’d had two beers in the two or so hours I’d been sitting there, so I was a little looser than I’d expected. Still, I didn’t step on my own toes or fuck up any punchlines. I naturally fell into a very singsong-y Rhys Darby style delivery. Was it pandering? Some. Did it catch people’s attention? It did. All of my jokes landed, and got somewhere between a chuckle and a laugh. For such a sparse room, I was pretty happy with the reception. I’d written notes on my hand, and this morning I still have the following scrawled but faded:

  • Winter Gloves
  • Video Game Saves
  • Hakuna Matata
  • Ghost Crowd
  • Office
  • Kegels
  • 50 Cent

Maybe I’ll try this again soon. See if it sticks this time.

Better starts somewhere

It’s 2019, and it still feels like the world doesn’t really know much about New Zealand. We’re seen as a three-way cross between Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords and Lorde. So basically, Lorde of the Conchords.

What the international community doesn’t know, is that secretly, deep down every New Zealand male thinks he’s MacGyver. I’ll explain.

There’s a phrase in Aotearoa, “No. 8 Fencing Wire Mentality” (or as its otherwise known, “Good Ol’ Kiwi Ingenuity”). It Is Known that there’s nothing a Kiwi bloke can’t accomplish with a spool of versatile No. 8 fencing wire, and a little bit of outside the box thinking. The adage has informed an adventurous spirit as part of our national consciousness that pushes New Zealanders to enthusiastically try new things, push boundaries and create solutions we didn’t know existed. It’s truly a wonderful part of our culture.

Put together a big rubber band and a ravine et voila (that’s French for “Good on ya mate”): You’ve just discovered bungee jumping. Or combine some nitrogen and alpha particles you had hanging around to split the atom, as Ernest Rutherford did. It may have taken a while for advanced technology to make it down to Enzed, but we’ve always been lifehackers through and through.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for the tragedy we suffered yesterday. MacGyver was great, but even if he were armed with No. 8, he couldn’t fix this. The Christchurch mosque shootings were a devastating attack that have irrevocably rocked the country’s foundations. We’re all wounded, angry and confused. In the wake of the shootings, amongst the sincere goodwill and love for our fallen brethren, has been resounding shock. There are a couple of refrains I’ve heard. “How did this happen?” “This is not who we are.” I’ve heard the prominent shooter referred to as an Australian first, almost underlined as if to say, this was not our fault. We didn’t do this. To distance ourselves from it. Because that makes things easier.

There is nothing easy about this. Much as we want to distance ourselves from this horrific loss of life, we’re all at some level culpable. Because while we may not have done this, we have not done enough. But we need to. I know we’re all hurt, and it doesn’t seem like the time to have a hard conversation, but we have no choice. We need to do more.

We need to talk.

It feels like the resounding logline of our fair country has always been “we’re not as bad as other places”. Sure, with settlers came conflict, disease and war, but we moved on. We signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 to move forward as one nation together. Whenever accusations of racism have come our way, we’ve pointed elsewhere to redirect the sentiment.¬†Look at the United States, at Australia. Now THEY need to sort themselves out. We have to look back at ourselves, and the nation we need to be.

People have been saying “this is not who we are” ad infinitum. It’s the most understandable thing in the world, but it’s also a lie. Every time, I hear this is not who we want to be. By recusing ourselves, we’re continuing to live in the illusion that this is not our problem. It is. Now is the time to listen to the voices that these terrorists tried to silence. Instead of being defensive, we need to open our ears and hearts to those who have had so much taken by this harrowing assault. Following the actions of March 15th, their words will be amplified. When minority voices detail their experiences, we have no choice but to listen. Because we’ve ignored them for far too long.

Did you know that incidents of hate crime are not recorded by the police? We’re all too quick as a nation to decry the actions of Neo Nazis, to preach our nation’s history of racial harmony. Yet when a co-worker makes a sly racist comment, we’re all too quick to ignore it or look past it.¬†Yeah, but he’s not actually racist goes the sentiment. Dave says some dumb stuff sometimes, but his heart is in the right place. Maybe it’s not. I’m not saying it can’t be, but clearly there’s something behind the comments. We need to listen. We need to talk with Dave and Bruce to figure out where these views come from, and we need to help them understand that what they’re voicing is not okay. That we’re all human beings deserving of love and respect, irrespective of our culture. That racial superiority is a myth perpetuated by narrow minded bigots. That thinking less of another does not raise you above them. It just makes you small. Because this is all part of who we are. This Ethnocentric rhetoric didn’t sprout from nowhere. It’s been feeding for generations, since the first European settlers arrived in our country. Thinking it doesn’t exist because it’s not prevalent is naive, and we’re too clever for that.

Gun laws will change. Online white supremacist dialogue needs to be closely monitored and acted upon. Otherwise why the hell did we hand over our privacy to the Five Eyes Network? We need to call out systemic inequality, and the organisations who benefit from it. We need to call in those who show signs of alarm, and help them towards a more inclusive path. We need to lead by example. Rather than pointing out how we’re not as bad as other countries, we need to become how we see ourselves.

This should not be who we are, but for many of us, it is. Many of us don’t understand how the smallest spark of intolerance can catch alight, stoking the flames of hatred. We need to come together as a nation and stomp it out. From the ashes of a terrible disaster, we need to rise anew. We need to have difficult conversations, and work to make our country the great land we believe it can be.

It won’t be easy or quick. No. 8 wire can’t fix this, but we can. We have to.

Hate is waste in any form

We’ve lost sight of our humanity.

I don’t know what words I have right now that make sense, but I do have a lot of feelings. First here are some facts:

  • At least 49 people were killed in Christchurch earlier today.
  • They were Muslims attending ritual prayer. People of all ages and genders. Children too.
  • 49 people are dead.
  • This was a planned, coordinated, terrorist attack.
  • 49 people were slaughtered.
  • One of the central terrorists was galvanised by far-right rhetoric that’s been stewing for years. Internet literate, he was a denizen of 8chan and the like. He released a manifesto littered with memes and references, in-jokes for the ‘chan crowd. He announced his intentions in advance and posted the information on 8chan’s “pol” board.
  • 49 people routinely living their lives no longer have them.
  • This white supremacist live streamed his attack on Facebook for the world to see.
  • 49 individuals no longer exist, after white supremacists marched into two mosques and murdered them while they prayed.

Those are facts.

There are a ton of feelings going around the internet right now. Outrage, disbelief, sorrow and pain. Why does this keep happening? Why here? This is not who we are. I’m not sure what to make of it all. I know that this is the largest terrorist act committed in New Zealand history since the Aramoana massacre of 1990 took 14 lives. New Zealand is not a country known for radicalism, hatred or faith based violence. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Like any colony, there have always been undercurrents of ethnocentrism and race based hatred. Racism is alive and well by any name, whether or not it’s getting airtime. Of course we’re shocked at the gravity of this situation, at the meaningless loss of life, the violence and suffering. The sad, sad truth is that this has always been there, bubbling under the surface.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because we’ve all been complicit in letting hate live. I’ve heard the words “bloody Maoris” uttered without irony. I’ve seen conservative pundits like Duncan Garner espouse notions that non-white ethnicities are getting free rides, taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen commenters on local news sites bemoaning “diversity hires”, promoting a meritocracy without an understanding of how systemic racism undermines true equal opportunity. Unchecked privilege running rampant. I’m by no means saying any of these people wished anything like today’s tragedy to come into being. I am saying that we have no right to wash our hands clean of the consequences, when we’ve allowed racist sentiment to go unchallenged.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because of money and power. Because we know that there’s a link between publicising white supremacist terrorists, giving them airtime, and encouraging copycats. Yet we still show their photos, print their names in block letters, publish their manifestos. We give them the attention they so crave, and other would-be terrorists see them. It emboldens them to know that if they acted in kind, they’d become a martyr for scores of others like them. Yet the media still gives in depth information on who exactly it was that perpetrated these terrible tragedies. Because it drives clicks, and more engagement means higher advertising dollars. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook still allow the relentless hateful rhetoric of the alt right to be broadcast unimpeded. Make no mistake. Anti-Islamic sentiment is hate speech, just as Anti-Semitic, Anti-Black, Anti-LGBTQ+++ and any other speech that denigrates people because of their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality is. But all of this speech, furthered by demagogues such as Alex Jones, Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump, is hate speech that emboldens hateful people to reaffirm their beliefs. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook allow this speech, because they know it’s immensely popular and it makes them a lot of money. Sure, they’ll develop algorithms that seek out and delete comments about white men, but comments¬†by white men are all open season.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because this hateful rhetoric is being used by politicians to appeal to their constituency. Sure, party leaders like Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer won’t directly spread this hateful rhetoric by name, but they’re all too happy to consort with the far right in an effort to garner their votes. Conservative leaders will not openly condemn the actions of Neo Nazis, because they know that these Nazis are part of their voter base. Yet they’ll share the stage with hatemongers like Faith Goldy and refuse to denounce them as the extremists they are. It’s clearly more important to get into a position of power whereby you can manipulate laws to serve your business interests, than to oppose hatred and spread acceptance.

The truth is that today’s terrorism will be widely condemned back home in New Zealand. Most New Zealanders are not racist Islamophobes. Our country is one of immigrants, whether it was the Maori migration from Polynesia, British colonial settlement, Chinese immigrants ushered in to clean the last remnants of the gold rush, that random Frenchman who arrived and proclaimed himself king, or any number of people just seeking a better life for themselves and their families. We’re a wonderful ethnic melting pot, and our strength as a nation is only emboldened by encouraging newcomers to share with us their culture. We’re a country that is overwhelmingly filled with loving, caring people. We’re also part of the global community that the internet has created, and this means we have to be vigilant in condemning hatred in all its forms, no matter where it is.

We lost 49 of our own today, and that’s fucking devastating.

I have an instant pot, I’m not going anywhere

I was watching some CNN documentary on Netflix about sex all around the world.

It wasn’t particularly well made. Clunky, obvious edits, an obviously professional, but uncharismatic host. There was an episode on India and its sexual culture. They were talking to a trans woman about her life, about the culture that surrounds gender ethnicities in India that diverse from the “norm”. She said she used to be a software engineer, but post transition she’d been softly forced out. She’d taken up sex work as her only means to get by. I’ve got no moral quandary with sex work. It’s real work. I was sad at what had transpired, that she’d been more or less forced into it out of necessity, not out of an active desire to choose that career.

I thought about trans people worldwide, and how they so often suffer for something as arbitrary as gender. Why do people give such a shit about it? What even is gender, as far as people are concerned? For all the baseless pearl clutching over this notion that trans people want to assault others in bathrooms, that they’re deviants, etc. It’s all fear. It’s fear of inconvenience, fear of change. People don’t want to have to think about what words they use when addressing someone. They don’t want to be embarrassed by using the wrong pronoun. They’re afraid that they might be attracted to a trans person and, does that make them gay??? They’re afraid that the world they live in has grown and adapted, and it’s evolving to a point where they don’t feel like the centre of attention anymore, and that’s alarming. Or something, I dunno. Empathy isn’t always a breeze.

I’ve been listening to season 3 of Serial. I thought I’d give it time to finish, for the season to come to an end. To wait and keep my ear to the ground for blow back, in case it wasn’t great or took unconfirmed liberties. I heard no ill mentions, so I loaded it up. Holy hell is it ever damning of the criminal justice system. Season 3 is based around one court in Cleveland, and the cases that run through there. They talk with prosecutors, suspects, police, other citizens, etc, and try to present a top down view of how the system spirals between everyone it touches. It’s harrowing, hearing how minor convictions lead the marginalised into a life of crime. How the actions of the police are complicit in this system. So much brutality and coercion, with no regard for the lives they’re throwing away. Individuals losing years of their lives to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Innocents left to rot in the shuffle. The show has an obvious liberal bias, but even taking that into consideration, it’s mind-blowing how careless action on behalf of the system is perpetuating the behaviour it condemns in the first place. It’s not like “the system is corrupt” is newsworthy anymore, but that doesn’t stop any of this from being bracing to listen to. It’s totally unreal, and for so many people that’s very much the reality of their life. Who knows if bringing in a radio documentary crew and drawing attention to it has the power to change anything, but as a total bystander, I fucking hope so.

It’s quite the world out there. Maybe I’ll stay in tonight.