Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas is fun

Christmas Day Running Sheet

7:30am   Get meat out to come to room temp
               Unwrap presents

8:00am   Pre-heat oven & prepare pork roast

8:30am   Put pork in the oven - check every 20mins for crackling
               Put water on to boil for pudding
               Clean up after breakfast

9:00am   Start BBQ for turkey
               Put the pudding in to boil - check every 30mins for water level
               Make the glaze for the turkey
               Baste turkey ready for cooking
               Put rice on to cook for stuffing

9:30am   Put turkey on to cook - check every 20mins for consistent temp & basting
               Make the stuffing
               Clean the punch bowl

10:00am Peel & cut up potatoes, pumpkin, orange sweet potato, white sweet potato, purple sweet           potato & eschallots.

11:00am Start to put out nibbles

11:15am Put the potatoes in the oven
               Keep putting out nibbles

11:45am Put the pumpkin, sweet potatoes, eschallots & stuffing in the oven/BBQ.
               Set the table
               Mid-cooking clean up

12:00pm Check meats, get them out of the oven/BBQ and cover with foil to rest
               Finish setting the table.
               Make the punch

12:30pm Turn all the veg
               Put the water on for peas
               Start carving the ham

12:45pm Start carving hot meats
               Put the peas on
               Make the gravy
               Put the wine on the table

1:00pm Set out everything for people to serve themselves
             Serve smaller kids

1:30pm Get the pudding out of the pot & unwrap it
             Clear plates & set off dishwasher

1:45pm Unwrap presents with guests
              Sit & chat for a bit

3:30pm Organise & serve pudding
              Sit & chat for a bit

5:00pm Guests leave, start cleaning up.

9:45pm Put the last of the essential things in the fridge.
             Give up & head to bed

I didn't do all of this - there were a few things I wasn't even really involved in, and lots of people did lots of stuff. Crash did most of the BBQ work, and other people did stuff as they arrived. My sister and I work well together in the kitchen to pull the last of it together to serve, and she made the punch.

Tomorrow I'll find out what the kids got for Christmas, and help with all the things they wanted help with.

Next year I'm unwrapping the presents and then going back to bed. The family can eat the left overs from the Carols.


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Marking the occasion

16 years today, and I spent the night listening to 70s music. There wasn't a song I didn't recognise, and only a handful I didn't know the words to. I may have no musical talent, but my love for music has everything to do with you, Dad. There'll be tears before bedtime.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Living as the default

That article by Julian Burnside really triggered some light bulbs for me. Not so much the stuff about asylum seekers - that's no surprise - but the stuff about alienation and not feeling heard.
But there are many people in our society who have, at least in their own minds, disappeared. ... The more they complain, the more they are ignored; the more they are ignored, the louder they complain.
Burnside talks about people in specific circumstances feeling like they are not heard, but the interwebs are full of middle class white men (and women) yelling loudly, behaving very much like the people Burnside describes as having mental health issues, or problems not recognised by the law. However, the MRA people, the "Fuck off we're full" people, and many of the other "What about me???" folks don't have mental health issues or specific circumstances of the type Burnside describes. I think they may be suffering from living life as the default.

As a white middle class straight man, the standard discourse is about you. However, since you are the default, it doesn't mention you explicitly. Most of the voices you hear, day in day out, represent you. But since you hear them day in day out, you don't hear them at all any more. This is also true for white middle class women like me, on issues other than women's issues (and even then - women's issues are framed largely from my perspective).

As the default, you are defined by what you're not. You don't belong to any interesting culture (because you are surrounded by your culture - it's forced down everyone's throats, but you just don't see it). You're not gay (or bi, or trans*, or queer). You're not disabled. You're not a woman. All those people get a mention all the time. "Indigenous councils", "gay minister", "female politician", "disability advocates". Unless you are taught to see it, it never occurs to you that "marriage" means "straight marriage", that "politician" means "male politician", that "social values" means "white social values", that "employee" means "able bodied employee". Because you are the default. When no descriptor is added, we assume white, male, straight, cis, able bodied (and probably some other things too).

The strange result is that people whose voices are heard the most feel like they are not heard at all. I've felt it, and it's taken me years to recognise the bullshit that it is. The insight I gained from Burnside's article is the deep psychological effects of feeling unheard. Even though it's complete nonsense, the sense of feeling unheard is real. Part of the discourse needs to be to help people see how they are already heard (by other members of the default - this is not the job of the already unheard). To see the default they are soaking in. To say "Yes, you are being heard. Stop and listen, your voice is everywhere. It's not that your voice is invalid, or irrelevant, it's just that it's saturated the market." I've spent a lot of time dismissing people who yell like this, but that's only reinforcing their feelings of being unheard. I think perhaps I need to put more energy into listening to people, and showing them how much they are already heard. To help them see their visibility (as well as acknowledging any ways they, personally, might genuinely be invisible).

A large part of the reason this blog has been so neglected lately is that I've spent far more time online listening to other voices. A lot of what I've been interested in has been about race and LGBTQI issues (for no particular reason, it's just been where my readings have taken me), and I don't have much to say on most of it - it's all said much better by the people affected by the way the default treats them. It's frustrating to watch them being shouted down, and I don't mean this post to be some kind of apologetic to absolve those living as the default. There's still no excuse for not recognising the advantages you have in this world. However, it gives me a different way of thinking about approaching those people (of whom I have often been one), and I think that's helpful.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


You have been warned.....

I'm tired of stupid people. I'm tired of politicians who can't see past the results of the focus group. I'm tired of a mainstream media so blatantly pushing its own agenda that gossip is passed off as news, and discussion of the gossip as analysis. I'm tired of CEOs interested only in their bonuses before they bugger off to destroy another company, or more employees' lives. I'm tired of shareholders who don't even know what the companies whose shares they hold do. I'm tired of people so afraid that their lives might alter in the smallest way, that they're sticking their fingers in their ears and refusing to address climate change. I'm tired of men who think women are inferior. I'm particularly tired of men who think women are inferior but claim constantly not to, and blame women for accusing them. I'm tired of people who can't see that we can't address the gap (choose your own gap, it doesn't matter which) without asking the people on the other side of that gap what they need, and then actually providing it - and not out of charity, but because my world is better when your world is better. I'm tired of people claiming to wanti to save the world, when what they really want is to make the whole world like them. I'm tired of money and power and the desire to be on the guest list dominating the governance of countries. I'm tired of victims being held to account for not reacting the right way, or not fleeing via the correct mode of transport, or wearing the wrong clothes. I'm tired of waiting for this mess to implode, needing it to implode and being terrified of what will happen when it does.

I'm not tired of people who are listening, and learning and still fucking up. I'm not tired of people who say terrible things without realising it, and then learn and stop. I'm not tired of people who take a while to do that. I'm not tired of people asking me to explain why what something someone said was terrible (at least not the first five times). I'm not tired of educating myself, although it's a never-ending task. And I'm not tired of my kids' incredulity when they discover another one of the things I am tired of. I'm not tired of the hope that brings.

But I'm really fucking tired of the dark. The solstice can't come soon enough.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Body My Rules

A long time ago, when I first started reading blogs, I came across the idea of bodily autonomy for children. The idea that children should never feel that they are not in control of what happens to their body, even as babies. My immediate reaction was that this was a great theory, but doomed to failure in practice. When I expressed this thought on blogs* I got various responses, but mostly variations around the idea that you teach kids what they need to know about looking after themselves and they mostly make sensible decisions. Also, most responses came with the caveat that in circumstances where the child was choosing to make completely inappropriate decisions about their body (like the 18 month old who is refusing to have the pooey nappy changed), the best way was to give them a choice between agreeing voluntarily or being forced. I can see that this is better than just forcing them, but it reminds me strongly of being told as a kid "Wipe that smile off your face or I'll wipe it off for you".

Anyway, as my kids grew up, I found the idea actually worked very well, especially with my eldest. He listened to advice and, apart from needing to be reminded about it, mostly followed it. I've helped him defend his right to wear his hair however he likes and other such things. He needs to be supported in asserting himself and this philosophy has worked very well. I'd almost completely forgotten my initial misgivings.

Then along came Second Born. I spent a lot more time defending other people's bodily autonomy from him than worrying about his bodily autonomy when he was little. In fact, we're still working on that. Then last year he was introduced to the phrase "My body, my rules" through the child protection stuff they did at school. It seems like such a sensible meme. But Charlie has an Aspergers brain, and therefore an amazing capacity for taking things literally - especially if it works in his favour. So now Charlie is using "My body, my rules" to justify not cleaning his teeth, not sleeping, not going to school, pretty much not doing anything he doesn't want to do at that moment. Or rather, he's trying to.

Reasoning with him doesn't work. If I explain these things are in his best interest, he claims he's thought it through, and decided the benefits are not worth it. His body, his rules. When they told him that, they didn't put any caveats on it. They didn't point out that his parents have a legal responsibility to ensure his health, education and so on. They didn't say that at some point his choices may be reduced to "do it by choice or be forced to do it." Because from a child protection point of view, that would completely undermine the whole thing. Unfortunately, from a Charlie point of view, he's been handed the ultimate pass. Or at least he thinks he has.

So in the end, I'm almost back where I started. Respecting children's bodily autonomy is definitely a good theory. I'm surprised to find that it works better in practice than I thought, with some children. Other children, however, have more than enough understanding of their own autonomy and need to be reminded that they are not yet adults, and as such need to have some decisions made for them. It all depends whether you have a child who will clean their teeth once they understand its importance, or you have a child who will refuse to clean their teeth just because they can.

*I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all the bloggers on whose corners of the web I said ignorant things and asked stupid questions. I would also like to thank all those who responded with patience that was above and beyond. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Missing You

People pretty commonly say they miss someone every day, even many years after they've died. I think I've said it myself, but for me it's not true. I don't miss Dad every day, and it's a good thing too. When I do miss him, my chest starts to implode, my throat tightens and I sob hopelessly. After the tears is the inevitable headache. It's exactly like I'm back in that Thursday in November fifteen years ago. If I missed him every day, I'd be of no use to anyone.

Time hasn't softened or mellowed the pain, it's just allowed me to put it away most of the time. For some reason, though, I've been missing him a lot lately. Maybe it's because he's got four grandchildren now. The youngest is starting to talk. It's such a cool thing to watch language happen. The eldest is shaping up to be a pretty good musician. Dad would have been so proud, and probably claimed the credit somehow. The next oldest, I think, would have adored him. Their senses of humour would have connected and I suspect Charlie would have just been comfortable in his company. Grandchild number three is starting school and the journey to being a real person. They all have to do it without him. I think this is the bit where I shout "It's not fair!" and shake my fist at the universe.

Maybe also, it's because the kids are getting older. I don't need to be constantly alert to where they all are and what they're doing, so I have more brainspace for thoughts not entirely connected to keeping all the balls in the air. I'm not sure I've got the emotional reserves to keep this up though.

It's not that I can't think of him or talk about him, it's that I can't miss him. Not too often. I want to just wish him back into our lives. Granted, Mum & David (her partner) might find adjusting to a poly relationship a little tricky, but while I'm wishing people back from the dead, I think this is a minor detail.

Dad, I'm missing you, and it hurts.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Cultural diversity vs feminism

[Cross posted at Hoyden About Town]

The global coverage of the horrific death of a woman from Delhi has certainly shone the light on the difficulties of navigating universal women's rights in a world where cultures are not all the same, and are certainly not equal in power. As usual the Oz has lead the way in how not to discuss women's rights in cultures other than one's own. 
Where are the beacons of truth and light to save Aboriginal women? Why do Aboriginal spokespeople persist in the same policies that have failed to civilise Aboriginal violence? (Like India, we must end misogyny - behind the paywall, but Googlable)
It's tricky ground. On the one hand, if the white, Western world speaks up to condemn the violence (and by implication, the aspects of the culture that produce it), it's the voice of the cultural hegemony. On the other hand, not speaking up is implicitly condoning the appalling status quo. I quite firmly believe that it's not anyone's job to force change on other cultures, but it is our job to enable the changes that are being called for from within. This is a rather grand and delightfully vague statement of position, I realise. It needs some practicality about it. The first step is one that people from all minorities have been asking for for the longest time - to listen. To hear the voices of the women oppressed, and when appropriate, repeat and amplify them, but not editorialise them. Not a big ask, but apparently one that Gary Johns from the Australian has grasped. In answer to your question, Mr John, the "beacons of truth and light to save Aboriginal women" are right in front of you. They are Aboriginal women. The rest of Australia's job is to empower them to save themselves.

Which brings me to the point of this post - I've been meaning to write about this for years. That empowering thing is also very vague, and it requires a lot more than listening. I doubt there is one approach that will work everywhere, but I'm sure it doesn't come from policies. People always resist change imposed from more powerful groups - whether it's from a dominant culture or government that has little daily relevance to the cultures it governs. However, that doesn't mean that external cultures and governments can't assist change. One model for this sort of change comes from Monique Deveaux. In a paper she wrote in 2003[1], she outlines a deliberative democratic approach to helping cultures change themselves. The rest of the world only helps provide the framework, not the agenda.

One of the most significant issues in interculture relations is whose voices are heard. A government may attempt to enable multiculturalism by granting or denying cultures specific rights, but Deveaux argues (fairly uncontroversially I would have thought) that this can’t be democratically legitimate unless cultural group members are involved in the decision making process. Further, acknowledging the importance of intragroup relationships, representative members of all sub-groups must also be involved. Deveaux offers a complex model, in which pragmatism is more important than idealism. Representatives must argue on the basis of their own stakes rather than for the common good, to ensure that motives aren't hidden. As a result, compromise and bargaining are encouraged over moral consensus.

This approach addresses a number of issues. With each party coming to the debate with a personal position, rather than a moral one, there is less chance of oppressed minorities perceiving the negotiations as a threat to their moral identity. With each sub- group personally represented, the decisions about cultural practices will be made on the basis of the “lived form of these practices” rather than that represented by group spokespersons or majority members. It also allows for each group to determine their own idea of gender equity - so there are no pointless arguments about whether an item of clothing is oppressive, for example.

Deveaux specifies that three criteria must be met for the process to be valid and effective: nondomination, political equality, and revisability. Very briefly, nondomination requires that no participants are co-erced in any way, political equality means “real opportunity for all citizens to participate” and revisability means that any decisions made may be subject to revision at a later date. Revisabilty acknowledges that change generally takes place gradually, and makes compromise more possible. Political equality clearly presents the greatest difficulty in a multicultural context, as Deveaux acknowledges.
Who can participate in political life is, for many, culturally determined. Often it is precisely the role and status of certain subgroups – for example, whether women ought to have a political voice – that is at issue. (p.793)
She proposes a range of solutions, such as state funding for cultural support groups and independent media to improve the general conditions for democratic involvement, as well as culturally specific solutions on a case by case basis. For example, in negotiations with cultural groups who specifically exclude women from political life, external women’s advocacy groups, preferably with demonstrable cultural understanding, may stand in place of the group’s women themselves. All of this seems eminently sensible, and importantly, quite achievable to me.

Deveaux was involved in implementing this in South Africa, where the process was used to negotiate dramatic change in customary marriage law. The process was designed primarily for the purpose of improving women's rights. In the first round, amazing change was achieved, but nobody got everything they wanted. They were able to compromise, because testing and revision is built in. Women were afforded the right to own property, to initiate divorce and violence against women in marriage was outlawed. They didn't win the right to take family law matters to the mainstream courts. Nevertheless, for a process of less than a few years, that's amazing progress.

 I really like the idea that no-one gets to claim the moral high ground, and that the process recognises both ongoing identity, and evolution of culture. I'm sure it won't work in all circumstances, and needs a lot of support to work where it will - but it seems to me like a good way for external, probably dominant cultures, to assist oppressed groups within cultures improve their lives, without imposing ideas of what that improvement should look like.
I'd suggest this kind of approach could work very well within Aboriginal communities - the women know what they need, they just need a framework to enact change. It may work within the various subcultures in India too. It'll certainly work better than white folks tut tutting at them.

1. Deveaux, M. ‘A Deliberative Approach to Conflicts of Culture’, Political Theory, 31(6), 2003: 780-807