It could be worse, people could be influenced by me

I feel old all the time. It happens with age, y’know?

Superfluous statements out of the way, a better way of qualifying it is that I feel increasingly out of touch with certain parts of society. I’ve been thinking of that absurd Gymshark line up over the weekend and having trouble working through my mental and emotional responses to it. I wonder if they’re indicative of being too judgemental or discounting large subsections of society unfairly. This is garble. I’ll try to do better.

I don’t Instagram. At a stretch you could say that I did briefly when I ran the Air Bud Pawdcast social media account. Really though, I posted and didn’t bother to look further into the platform. I’m not much of an image based person. I like reading and audio a ton, but there wasn’t a ton of appeal at looking at photos. This is no admonishment of anyone who uses the service, it’s just not for me and that’s fine.

I feel deeply unsettled by the rise of Attractive People Fame. Don’t get me wrong, attractive people have prospered since the beginning of society. This in itself is nothing new. It’s not like I woke up in 2018 and suddenly discovered that celebrities were pretty. Attractive People Fame takes this to another echelon. With the rise of the Kardashian Clan and the words “social media influencer”, being famous in itself has become a career trajectory in a whole new fashion. I’m not breaking ground saying this. There are a lot of people making money for being popular and attractive. There are corporate tie ins and sponsorships. These people a) being alive and b) using products has become a very visible avenue of advertising. I’m not trying to stand on a rickety pedestal and say this isn’t work. I know that a lot of effort goes into scheduling posts, cultivating an audience, reshooting and retouching photos until they’re perfect. It’s a real job with a ton of hours and thought. This isn’t my issue.

Cult of personality has become a career in a whole new way. Yet again, I don’t see that in itself as an indication of crumbling societal values. Take me as an example: I follow a lot of Dan Harmon’s stuff. I was a big fan of his show Community and began listening to his podcast Harmontown way back in The Year Of Our Lord (aren’t they all?) 2012. I’ve paid actual dollars to go to live podcast recordings. I bought a limited release book that his ex-wife put out of his Tumblr writings collated. I met him and got him to sign my book. I’ve interacted with other Harmontown fans in the online community. I’ve met some of these people out in public; When I was visiting Portland and sought out fellow Harmenians because I thought we might have similar interests. It’s not blind adoration. I don’t personally see Harmon as an aspirational figure in all manners. He has issues and views I don’t agree with. I do, however, think that he’s an incredibly good writer, is hilarious, talented and unbelievably sharp. I like a lot of what he does and the kinds of guests/friends he brings onto the show.

It might be a personal bugbear, but I have a ton of difficulty reckoning with Attractive People Fame. This might be rich coming after the past paragraph, but Attractive People Fame and its societal influence feels different to me. I don’t listen to Harmontown and ache to be those people. I’m not out there buying the products they shill to keep the lights on. I’ve met Harmon and other show members a couple of times, but it’s not why I follow the show. It’s entertainment, and the way its errant observations bring joy to my life can’t be understated. My mind sees Attractive People Fame and it worries me. Why? Because it seems irredeemably predatory.

Attractive People Fame is enormous in younger demographics. Teens and tweens following a collection of Influencers and their daily lives. I’m talking Instagram Models, Fitspo people, etc etc. It’s an industry that’s driven by aspiration porn. It’s telling these impressionable kids that this could be them. They could be hot, rich and successful by imitating these people. They see glimpses of these Attractive People at their best. They see all the rewards, but not the hardships.

They don’t see the 50 takes required to get that perfect shot. They don’t see the intentional angling of the model’s thumb right below the label. They don’t see the meticulous diet complete with calorie counting and a-z macronutrient content worked out. They don’t see the personal stresses and anguishes behind the scene. They don’t see the marketing team creating spreadsheets of release schedules. They don’t see the sales people hunting out sponsorship opportunities. They don’t see the Attractive People being told exactly how to cultivate their Brand. They don’t see what it’s like for your personality to be A Brand and how all consuming and dehumanising that is. They don’t see the hundreds of thousands of kids who don’t make it and spend their lives chasing a dream that’s so far out of their reach. They don’t see that no matter how many products they buy to emulate their role models, 99.9% of these kids will never be their heroes, never be friends with them. They’re a revenue stream to an industry which is so much larger and more brutally cynical than the heroes they look up to.

I see kids eschewing valuable life skills and experiences in order to aspire for something they don’t realise is entirely beyond their reach. I see kids developing eating disorders or dangerous health initiatives in order to have these perfect bodies. I see kids desperate to be noticed and adored without an understanding of the pacts that come with fame. I see a level of superficiality qualified as a goal that opposes true human connection and understanding. I see values shifted to an extent that growth really will suffer. I see a future with a much larger quotient of adults who will eschew compassion for Their Brand.

I already saw a 5-8 hour line comprised of thousands of individuals, waiting to be let into a warehouse with 19 different clothing items so they could take photos with Attractive People leading lives they themselves will never come close to. I’m not scared of who these kids will be, I’m worried for the people they could miss out on becoming.

Which is what I’m sure a generation said when MTV created VJs.

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More like “cumtries”, because they’re a load of wank, geddit? Also, am I 12?

I’m in a pissy, unrelatable, First Year University Student mood. Blame coffee.

For some reason today I’m inexplicably mad that people think nations exist. They don’t. They’re just very popular memes. A “country” as we see it is a fictional concept. It’s a handy way of collectively grouping a series of people who settled on a landmass and then telling them what being part of that group entails. It’s all fabricated. It’s a very functional method of rallying people behind a cause or getting them to follow orders. Want people to go to battle for something imaginary? Tell them they’re fighting for nationhood. The enemy force? They hate your claim to your nationhood, so you should die to defend it. But wait, the enemy force is a cluster of individuals galvanised in the same manner, also fighting in the name of a fairy tale. That’s all it is. If you tell it often enough and in an impassioned enough manner, they’ll start to believe it. There’s no real reason why a person born in Canada would be innately polite. It’s a social construct. Just read Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”. While we’re at it, gender and money are also fictional concepts that gained a lot of ground because they’re useful tools for controlling people.

I’ve always fucking hated the idea of nationality and patriotism. They don’t make any sense. I was born in New Zealand, so I was told that I had a natural connection to those around me. A shared consciousness. Why? Our heritage all comes from different places anyway. The only reason why any kind of collective identity exists in a hypothetical sense is because we’re told it does. We’re told that being a Kiwi means you like rugby or that if you’re a real American you have faith in a fucking gaudy piece of fabric emblazoned with stars and stripes. Why? If you hate flags, are you not a true American? Maybe you’re more into stonework than fabric or something. I don’t like sports, I’ve never lived on a farm, does that disqualify me from being a true New Zealander? It’s fucking insane.

Also while I’m on this tear, I can’t believe how long it took me to realise that “The Star Spangled Banner” is a fucking terrible national anthem. It’s a convoluted mess. The song is difficult to sing for those who aren’t exceptional vocalists. Why would that be appropriate for something that’s meant to be accessible to millions of people. Much like the majority of American culture it celebrates exceptionalism and individualism, while effectively telling anyone facing difficulty to go get fucked. If you can’t sing it, too bad. Guess you should’ve been born with a better voice. Oh, you don’t have the exorbitant amount of money necessary to pay for health insurance? I guess you just go bankrupt or die. Too bad. Oh, you can’t afford talented lawyers to defend yourself legally against the ill deeds of large corporations? Whoops, sorry. I guess you don’t have rights after all. Justice has a high barrier to entry.

The worst thing about all of this fictional nationhood bollocks is that it takes advantage of the needy and less fortunate. Of course it’s not the rich and powerful dying on the front lines or forfeiting their right to life and liberty over unpaid hospital bills. It’s those who don’t know any better laying themselves down for an ideal that’s only used to manipulate the powerless. It’s no wonder that American patriotism and Christianity are often so inexplicably linked. They’re archaic systems of control that lead the most vulnerable to follow the desires of those who aren’t.

Maybe I’m just bitter Laser Kiwi didn’t become the new NZ flag.

At this point, this project has basically become a second Facebook

Look, this is probably cheating, but I wrote this piece yesterday. I spent a really long time on putting together a rebuttal for a Facebook debate (it reads more like an essay) and I think I’m okay with posting it as my “today” piece. It centred around a Facebook friend’s “unpopular opinion” that being offended is a choice we make. That we should “grow stronger than any of your traumas and history and simply rise above it. Work towards better things.” That free speech should be fine up to the point where it causes violence. That hate speech, while disgusting and awful, should not be governed by hatecrime legislation. That people have the right to say whatever they want and face the consequences. I want to emphasise that I don’t think he’s a bad person in any way. I do, however, vehemently disagree with his opinion in this instance. I feel like I care strongly enough about it, that I want to have it publicly posted in this space. Here’s my response:

Cool.

You’re right that I disagree with your unpopular opinion. The reason why I don’t think dealing with hate speech is as “simple” as choosing not to be offended, or growing stronger than your traumas and history, is because not everyone is you.

You’re a physically able, tall, straight white male. You’re very capable of taking care of yourself. People of course are able to threaten you, but it’s much less likely than it would be for some others. Threats of a sexually aggressive nature are unlikely to be as impactful to you as they may be to a physically smaller person who presents with varying gender or sexual orientation. People of course are still able to physically attack you, but it’s less likely that people would engage in violence against you for fear of reprisal.

Of course you have been threatened in your life. I’d argue that very, very few people have gone through their life without physical, verbal or emotional abuse. You also say that you’re a bouncer, which is a position that comes bundled with the potential of abuse. You enter into that situation knowing that it’s an outcome. There’s a level of consent there that says, while you don’t necessarily welcome it, you understand that it comes with the territory. You make that choice when you take on the job. What about people who don’t consent to facing abuse?

What about outside of your job. How often would you face bouts of abuse in any form? I’d wager that the frequency or incidence at which you face this abuse is exponentially lower than it would be for some others. How are you to gauge how hurtful and oppressive hate speech feels when you most likely very rarely face it? What about sexual threats? I’ve had numerous femme/NB friends tell me about the constant barrage of unwanted sexual attention. Sometimes it’s loud and frightening. There’s often a disparity in physical dominance. My girlfriend told me she got hit on four times the other day and it made her feel uncomfortable and unsafe. She said that wasn’t even a high number. What if that was happening to you every day, multiple times a day? What if sometimes the manner of the other person was so threatening that you were afraid for your life?

What if you were of some minority in a workplace where hate speech was allowed? What if the use of it by even one co-worker on the regular made you feel frustrated or hurt? What if it was multiple co-workers? What if your boss spoke to you like a lesser life form because of your cultural background? What if you felt threatened by this behaviour and felt unsafe in the workplace? What if people with higher status than you felt that it was okay to try and make you miserable on the regular? Sure, you could brush it off, swallow the pain and just go on with your life. It’s just work, right? What if it followed you home? What if you were being belittled in the supermarket or other social spaces? What if people decided they didn’t want you around and felt comfortable expressing that? What if there were just some bars and restaurants where you knew you’d be regularly harassed? Or parts of town? Would that be something you could “simply rise above”?

Look, I’m gonna pull the Jew card, not because I especially want to invoke Godwin’s Law, but because it’s relevant to my day to day and I think it might be a decent way of highlighting how it’s not as simple as being bigger than words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a physically able, straight white male too. Still, when someone uses the word Kike, it makes me feel fucking terrible inside and out. It reminds me that there are a lot of people out there who think that I don’t deserve to live. That word reminds me that for a lot of people, my personhood, achievements, personality, deeds, friendships and romantic connections are less important than the fact that I’m of Jewish dissent and as such, would be better off dead. This transcends people not liking me, this is ‘you should be culled’ territory. These sentiments exist out there and I know it, but I’m not always reminded of them. Which is a good thing, because despite being a physically able straight white male, I know that if these sentiments were given enough support, I would be given cause for concern.

I rise above a lot of it. Whether it’s jokey comments reinforcing stereotypes or my culture thrown out as a casual disparaging epithet that remind me that for some people, a religion that I don’t even follow is a large component of how they view me. That for others, noticing that aspect of me is enough to want me to be killed. I’m not an incredibly sensitive person, (despite how it might sound from the fact that I’ve been pointedly debating for hours) I’m really not. For the most part I live my life without major issues or cause to feel threatened. I have a pretty positive outlook a lot of the time. I try to be a friendly person and kind to strangers. I truly believe that people are more often ignorant than malicious and as such, I try to assume the best of most people/outcomes.

Still, it’s very hard to hear some of the recent alt-right sentiment and not feel at least a sliver of doubt that, if given more weight or the wrong people running with the sentiment, the floor could cave out and society could turn on me. That the words could become more than just words and people could act on them. That it could reach the tipping point where more of society decides that violence against me is okay than those who oppose this idea. That the overwhelming sentiment is that I’m a lesser life form and I don’t have the right to personhood. That it’s like killing an animal or something. That I don’t deserve the same rights as others.

It’s very rare for me to feel this way, because it’s not often reinforced. People are discouraged against this kind of hate speech, so the rhetoric stays bubbling under the surface. How often do I feel this? Not often. Most days and months go by without the thoughts even entering into my head. In fact, they come up so infrequently that for the most part I can ignore them and brush them off. It’s because hate speech is discouraged that it’s 99.999% easier to choose not to be offended, as you say.

I have a ton of resilience. If I faced hate speech day by day, I don’t think it would be as easy to be as resilient. I think that if people openly used racist words against me day in and day out, that my resilience would crack and it would be harder and harder to not be offended. I would be reminded a lot more often that a lot of people would be quite okay with me taking a gas shower. That my family, too, should all be dead.

But because hate speech is widely condemned, I don’t have to deal with all of that.

I honestly don’t think that most people out there are antisemitic. I do think that hate speech has a habit of multiplying negative sentiment. I think that people who have no horse in this race could be swayed to follow the hateful rhetoric. I think that a lot of people with these extreme feelings would feel strongly enough about it that they would try to amplify hate speech into hate sentiment, that things that were just words would become more than just words. I feel like the absence of hatecrime legislature would not lead to situations in which it would be as easy to rise above and not be offended.

I can envision these scenarios being played out over a myriad of cultural/sexual/gender identities that don’t affect me, but I sure as hell don’t want others to have to face a higher likelihood of dealing with this kind of thing. That sounds like a lower quality of life for all of us.

All that discussion and not one “statues of limitations” pun? Maybe it is a sign of pending nationwide collapse

I got into a Facebook discussion(/argument) today about the removal of a Sir John A. Macdonald statue from the steps of city hall.

He was Canada’s first Prime Minister, a symbol of colonial rule and his tenure led to a lot of violence against the Indigenous population. A Facebook friend posted this article from its sculptor. One of the points that brought me into the discussion (among wider things) was this.

“I feel that we must know where we came from to understand where we’re going and why. Context is important. If we begin erasures of history through the sanitization of anything mildly distasteful to any one person from our public spaces, I feel it does more harm than good and could lead us to some truly dangerous ground.”

I responded.

Sure. At the same time, as we all evolve we get to choose which aspects of ourselves we choose to highlight. We decide what best represent who we are and were, right? When I was 16 I loved System of a Down. I was obsessed with them. These days they don’t resonate with me much. I’m not gonna ignore how into them I was. I’m not gonna go delete them from my ipod or pretend I didn’t listen to them on repeat for a few years. At the same time, I’m not gonna bring up how into them I was when I first meet someone new. Why would I? That’s not who I am now.

Throughout history, countries change and grow. Canada changed its flag and that’s now how its represented on the world stage. Does that stop the old flag from existing? Nope. But we’d rarely prominently display it, ’cause it doesn’t really showcase who we are now.

Part of progress is deciding what patterns make sense in a renewed context. Like you say, context is important. For some people, the statue represents an all consuming kind of colonialism that’s deeply upsetting or in some causes traumatising. Is that the state of mind they should be in when they’re entering city hall? To be confronted with those ideas/ideals before engaging in civic activity? Recognising that some people have those feelings, is it useful to have that kind of open display moving forward?

When you talk about slippery slopes and 1984, do you see this action as pretending this all didn’t happen? Because erasure of those notions would involve an all out inversion of Canadian society. I do agree with you that history has an important duty of reminding us of both successes and failures. The way I see it, getting rid of this statue doesn’t a) cause every other sign of the past to fail to exist or b) mean that we’re going to terraform the past to ignore it all going forward. In my opinion, it’s just easing a point of contention or stress for some people that struggle with it.

Would you have different feelings if they took the statue and put it in a museum instead of destroying it? Moving it to somewhere it could be observed by choice?

Discussion continued and another article about the sculpture removal was posted. I responded.

HOW IS REMOVING A STATUE ERASING HISTORY? THE PLAQUE THAT WAS PUT UP DOESN’T SAY HE NEVER EXISTED. HOW IS A BRONZE ARCHON OF A PERSON NOT GLAMORISING HIM? DO PEOPLE EVEN UNDERSTAND WHAT HISTORY IS AND HOW TIME WORKS? NOT HAVING A PHYSICAL REPRESENTATION OF SOMEONE DOESN’T MEAN THEY CEASE TO EXIST.

Like, if having a reminder of this dude is so important to you, draw a picture of him and put it on your fridge. Frame excerpts from books that mention him. Whisper the name of every former Prime Minister before you go to sleep each night.

What about the notion that we became a nation once Canada was formed, rather than immigrants taking over lands belonging to indigenous peoples? Is that historical erasure? What about landmarks around Toronto that had significance in the culture of decades past being systematically turned into Rexalls and condos devoid of local flavour? Is that historical erasure? What about constant gentrification pushing out the former residents of areas in favour of wealthier inhabitants? Is that historical erasure?

If one shapely piece of bronze displayed prominently in a public place was all that stood between history existing or not, would that really be a solid history worth preserving? How fragile is Canadian history? Should we all be worried?

Why is everyone so quick to jump into slippery slope arguments? That’s a slippery slope to believing that the world is totally without nuance and that we’re only a step away from a total collapse at all times. That’s simply not true and seems emblematic of the increasing divide between political orientations. The world is not black and white. There are so many colours and even shades of those colours.

Also why do people have such a fucking hardon for statues? They’re not that cool.

 

Of course, like all online discussions we just talked past each other and nothing of value was accomplished.

Were ’87 French youths “Mal” content?

Hot take, I think the Michael Jackson video “Black or White” holds up.

It’s silly and audacious. The Macaulay Culkin part is cute and takes the Twisted Sister motif in a 90s direction. The dancing to this day is still excellent. The special effects look dated, but that’s only natural. The message, while missing the nuance of modern discussions, has its heart profoundly in the right place. No matter who you are, the colour of your skin or where you were born, we’re all human. We’re all in this together. I don’t think Michael solved racism in 1991 by dancing, but it was a splashy, bold statement from someone who was undoubtedly a phenomenon. “I’m not going to spend my life being a colour” is a great line about dehumanisation. The song isn’t remarkable so much for the entirety of its content, but how it delivered that content in an undeniable massively digestible manner. I mean, he transformed from a literal black panther and performed acts of passionate protest.

I don’t think of Michael Jackson often, which is weird considering he singlehandedly sparked my interest in music. So much of his later years were plagued by rumours and hearsay. An individual obviously suffering from mental illness was grossly taken advantage of. It’s hard to imagine in the aftermath of his passing, but back in the early 90s there was nobody cooler. Thriller remains the top selling album of all time. He transcended pop star status to become an icon. No question. Consider it from the perspective of a sub ten year old. He transformed into robot and plane. He was a gangster, a bloody zombie. He told us all to love one another. He used his platform to bring issues of inequality and racism to the forefront. I may have thought that “Man in the Mirror” was a song about an evil doppelgänger, but that’s on me.

Michael Jackson’s History tour was my first ever concert. I lost my fucking child mind. It was such a spectacle, an affirming experience. He went though innumerable costume changes, there were massive props. Other kids got to go onstage for one of the numbers. I stood in those stands, with my tiny binoculars, and I marvelled that the evocation of cool was breathing the same air. I was inspired to think that if he could stand up there and bring joy to so many people, well that was something to be goddamn celebrated.

I don’t know if there’s been another Michael Jackson. I know for sure that nobody is gonna touch the 66 million album sales that Thriller reached. People don’t buy albums anymore. The nature of marketing has changes so much that we’re sold every big act as the biggest on Earth. For all I know, little kids look at Beyonce the way I looked at Michael. I mean, this is in every way a spectacle. I sure hope they do. I think we all deserve figures to look up to that teach us all to be better. For all the kvetching people do about pop music and how it’s shaping our children, there’s so much potential. I can only imagine the way the world reacted to Childish Gambino’s “This is America” was pretty damn similar to the reception of “Black or White” in ’91.

Go on, load up some MJ and see how you feel.

Life’s a lich and then you die. Better pack a phylactery

Apparently I could have a fractured wrist.

It’s convoluted, but I went to a walk in on Sunday. Got an x-ray yesterday. Today the results were faxed to my GP. My GP is on holiday, so another doctor called back with my results. Supposedly it’s fractured and I’ve made an appointment tonight to have it checked out. Pray for Mojo.

With my feeble limbs-a-flappin’, I’ve had idle time for idle thoughts. While trying to sculpt a dumb lich pun yesterday (as you do), I wondered about being a lich. Would that be an enjoyable (un)lifestyle? It could be all sorts of snazzy to have mind control, immortality (tied to my handy phylactery of course) and the ability to summon skeleton friends. Thing in, liches are undead. I don’t think they need to eat, sleep or have sex. I’m not sure where the boundaries lie, but do they have internal organs? Muscles and tendons? A heart? You can have all the power in the world, but from the perspective of a human, what good is power without the pleasure it can provide? I’m not a rich person, but I imagine people do it so they can enjoy the finer things in life. To some people I guess this would be respect and admiration, or the ability to abuse your station in order to manifest your desires. I don’t know that this particularly appeals to me. I’d love to have access to all the best things, but not enough that I’d give up my connections or desire to struggle. Without conflict, these things have precious little meaning. I’d want to feel creatively actualised, following pursuits or passions. More than that, I’d want love around me. Do liches love? What warms the cockles of the icy space where their heart once was?

This is a thought experiment, so we can go further. What attributes would I love to have? The ability of flight? To be able to swim the depths of the ocean? Endless stamina? Telekinesis? Cool light-up body parts? A chitinous exoskeleton? An incurably curious mind? Mental alacrity? Super speed? What would I give up of my humanity for them? What would I not want? When I start putting words to what I have to lose, I’m coming up short. Like the original thesis, it’s all the stuff I feared losing to lichdom. My brittle bones? Tactile sensation? Taste buds? Soft skin? Tenderness? My capacity for heartbreak? Memories? Emotional resonance? It reads like a list of what it is to feel. To be human.

Could I give up humanity?

Maybe I lack conviction. Perhaps it’s having been encultured with a human perspective. It’s possible that I don’t possess the ambition to think on a large enough scale. I’m not sure I could give it up. I love my humanity. The knowledge that I’m fallible is what keeps me trying. None of this is worth anything if you don’t have to sweat, bleed or cry for it.

I suppose that’s worth an injured limb or three.

Who’s the Better Man? Eddie Vedder or Leon Bridges?

It’s nice feeling indomitable again. After sinking to the depths of a mental parabola, I’ve come out the other side with a renewed vigour. I’ll run with this momentum for as long as I can. Maybe the runner’s high can keep me aloft. Anyway, let’s sprint to the next paragraph.

A friend was hosting an event for the Red Cross. It was the kind of thing I’d normally let pass me by, but a mutual friend was keen to go. My girlfriend and I were meeting her for lunch, so after the meal we went on down to check it out. You know what? I found it quite compelling. Here’s a thing. Compassion fatigue is a big force in my life. I scroll through Facebook and Reddit daily seeing just how terrible the world can be. I’ll see a number indicating fatalities or misplaced refugees and there’ll be no difference in my head between 20 and 200,000. Numbers are black and white, they mean very little to me without colour to flesh them out. I’ll hear about a tsunami in some developing nation and it’ll blend into all the other terrible stuff that happens to places that aren’t me and/or don’t play host to anyone I know/love. It’s easy to ignore atrocities when they’re so far from your day to day experience.

This event was fascinating. I dunno, maybe I was just in an inquisitive mood. I get like that sometimes. They had one or two doctors who’d worked in an ERU (or Emergency Response Unit) floating around a space that’d been outfitted with various screens and audio components. There were pictures of the Bangladesh environment in which the Red Cross had administered aid. Talking to one of the doctors, I was able to construct a greater understanding of the scope and scale of the organisation. I had no idea that the Red Cross had 190 different international organisations around the world. I was curious to hear how they distributed aid. Apparently they’ll often have specific jurisdictions or areas in which they’ll tend (Canada deals with North America, etc). Outside of this however, if they have the resources and are interested in sending aid to an area outside of their jurisdiction they’ll get in touch with national outposts closer to the affected area. They’ll then facilitate the type of aid the area needs and how to make it happen.

The ERUs I mentioned earlier are basically mobile hospitals. The setup cost of each is about $3,000,000. This allows for equipment, personnel and capacity for training. They’ll be prepared for setup, which takes around 12 hours altogether, then they’ll be all ready for operation. The idea isn’t just to get into an area, help for a bit, then leave. What they end up doing is creating a hospital, then skill sharing. They’ll pass on knowledge to local medical professionals (and to be clear, the doctor I talked to emphasised, these people have medical experience. The knowledge they’re passing on is how to use all the particular gear the Red Cross is equipped with. It’s not like they’re coming from a place of elitist ethnocentrism). The end result is that after the Red Cross have pulled out, they’ve ideally left a self-sustaining facility that can then skill share and pass on that knowledge.

What I thought was even more interesting is that there are a shortlist of ERU varieties and a limited number of them. Water and Sanitation, Logistics, IT/Telecommunications, etc. What’s more, specific countries have specific types of ERUs. They might only have one complete unit they can send out, but these countries do have experienced personnel locked and loaded to send off to other ERUs if required. So say Canada sends a Rapid Deployment Hospital, New Zealand could send their Communications team to help smooth the relief effort, disseminating vital information, etc.

I don’t want to come away from this experience sounding like I’ve become a walking evangelist for The Red Cross. My friend did make a point of emphasising that there are a myriad of various NGOs all doing valuable work throughout the world. That the notion of helping is a bigger cause than the PR of making sure you get the best photo ops. It was cool to see that some people (better people than I, even at my most indomitable) are giving so much of themselves to those in need. I doubt I’m about to start monthly donations, but it was fascinating to gain perspective on affairs that I usually would look past.

I don’t know that I’ll become a better human, but maybe I’ll listen to Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” a couple of times.