Retributive justice and its discontents.

So, disclaimer; this was written as a hot take at about 3 in the afternoon on International Women’s Day. I am aware that at the time of publishing – it is not, in fact, still IWD. 


Today is a great day, today is International Women’s Day. Today is a celebration of the continued movement for the equalisation of the playing field between the sexes around the world. At least that is what today is supposed to be. Unfortunately, there are elements within professional well-intentioned organisations that subvert and destroy this outcome. These elements, through a continued misunderstanding of what it is to be a feminist, fight for a retributive system of justice to be enforced upon the patriarchy that has held them back for so long. I ran into this in my own professional sphere this week and it so deeply disquieted me that I was moved to putting this piece together – oh well, I’ll get around to talking about Residual Self Image next week it seems.

In any case, I was putting together a guest list for a high level IWD event to be held in Brisbane earlier this week and canvasing my workplace for attendees – I approached one of the members of my team and we exchanged the obligatory jokes about the touchy nature of the event for some and I relayed that I had been brutally shot down by my boss last year when I tried to organise a similar event for International Men’s Day. The response I got from this person honestly shocked me “It’s what you deserve after being blessed by the patriarchy for so long”. I was stunned – surely this was a joke this person was intelligent, funny and charming, surely, they couldn’t hold such a troglodytic view of the world? “Surely you can’t honestly believe that retributive justice will solve the equality issues that we are facing?”  I asked. “Men need to be brought down a few pegs in order for Women to achieve equality”. At this point I politely made some noncommittal sounds and prefabricated phrases to extricate myself from the conversation before I got fired up and made an ass of myself in the workplace, particularly to someone who was more senior than myself.

This isn’t the first time I have run across this opinion in Australian popular culture or even within my own organisation and I can’t sit back and say nothing anymore. Now very explicitly, I am not trying to take a single thing away from IWD or the associated feminist/ egalitarian movement. I am trying to draw attention to fringe elements of the movement that have the potential to significantly hinder the continued progress of gender equality through poison and malice.

With that in mind – Broadly speaking as a society we expect that our laws mirror the values of the society that has constituted them. In Australia, we have a preventative / rehabilitative view on justice, the intent of punishment enforced by law is to prevent harm to the broader social group and try to rehabilitate members of our society that have lost their way, wherever and whenever we can manage it. The intent is not actually to punish unnecessarily, so it shocks me to find that on social issues such as gender equality there are elements that seem to ignore this broad social contract and attempt to bring about equality in this ‘zero-sum’ fashion. Now I am not so naive as to think that there aren’t elements within both the left and right spheres of political and cultural discourse that would implement retributive justice into law if they could (bring back the death penalty for instance – the ultimate expression of such justice). However, I am certainly convinced that the so called ‘feminists’ who push for retributive justice to be enacted upon men in order to level the playing field would cry out with a vengeance if such systems of justice became the social and legal norm.

My key point of contention with retributive justice is that it brings about a new injury for someone with every implementation. Every time someone is punished in kind for a slight it breeds a new source of resentment and suffering. We see this, not only in domestic laws but also in international humanitarian laws and the laws of armed conflict. Globally we agree that ‘an eye for and eye’ – does, in fact, leave the whole world blind. We simply cannot continue to allow fringe elements within the push for gender equality to continue to undermine the whole movement trough such narrow minded and destructive means as retributive justice. Not only are they hurting others, these people are hurting themselves by holding on to outdated and outmoded ideas that can only result in a cycle of dominance and suppression between the genders maintained rather than eliminated.

Instead of pushing the ‘mighty’ off their thrones, we ought to build new thrones for ourselves. The arguments that continue to rage about equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome aren’t going to go away any time soon – there is still far too much hurt left in people’s hearts, globally, for that. All I can do is ask you, my readers, to follow the golden rule – Do unto others… It honestly is the only way we will ever see true equality and true intellectual, spiritual and emotional peace between the genders in this world. One of the best ways I have ever seen this put forward was by The Doctor. The key is to forgive people, to forgive and let people know that they can build a future with you, together. That is what I ask of you all – the next time you catch yourself or a friend/loved one decrying ‘The Patriarchy’ or admonishing ‘Feminazis’ stop, and remember that in the ideological space that gender inhabits, words are bullets and they are continuing to fuel the cycle of ‘violence’ raging across the globe. Don’t let yourself be an unwitting solider in a war that you don’t want to fight.


In Defence of Games.

Recently I picked up a new Nintendo Switch for my Birthday and with it The Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild.  Now Zelda is a franchise that I go way back with – it is a franchise that will sell me a platform, I have bought 2 separate Nintendo portables in my years to play just 1 Zelda title. So, needless to say I have wanted to pump a great many hours into the experience. It brought up a discussion between my partner and I that pops up from time to time. My partner has playfully teased me on several occasions – almost always when a new Hearthstone expansion is released and/or when I get a title I have been waiting months for (I’m looking at you Complete Edition of Horizon; Zero Dawn) – about being ‘Addicted’ to this title or that and it has always stung just a little. This is an issue I have dealt with at several points throughout my life and I wanted to take the time to look at my own experiences with the darker side of game addiction and why it isn’t all bad.

Now up front – by in large I have a complex relationship with the terminology ‘game addiction’. It is not so much that I think it does not exist, I have spent enough time logged into World of Warcraft in my life for that argument to hold exactly no water with anyone who knows me. Rather the majority of my issues with the term arise from it’s over use and incorrect usage by people, generally not gamers themselves, to describe the specific type of fascination that is displayed by people engaged in gaming.

Games have always striven to be ‘immersive’, it is a term that has existed as the gold standard within the industry for decades. Little by little games, broadly, have achieved this goal. It used to be that only the truly extraordinary games could achieve immersion through a suspension of disbelief in the player. But now as technology has advanced the bar has dropped in terms of the technical prowess required to create a truly engaging simulation. On top of this the industry has matured and developed its own internal lexicon of systems and shorthand and the general gaming public become more and more ‘literate’ in these systems thus it takes less time to convince a player to ‘buy-in’ to these systems. All of these factors combine and create an environment where the median game is capable of being enthralling if only a limited capacity and the best the media can offer are truly inspiring masterpieces. It is this that I am referring to when I describe a ‘specific type of fascination displayed by people engaged in gaming’ the product of decades of research and development in order to grab a player’s attention resulting in an experience that demands total attention.

A number of years ago now I saw this amazing video from James Portnow; one of the lead forces behind the excellent YouTube Chanel Extra Credits – definitely go check them out when you are done here. The video was the end to a multi part episode on Game Addiction and it is an absolutely heart wrenching 25 minutes for anyone who has ever gone through similar experiences but it is 100% worth the watch.  The moist poignant point that Portnow raises in the piece, at least in my estimation, is that “The world will always welcome you back [from game addiction] – It will reward you for applying the types of behaviours that games train into you”. This is the thing that I am not sure many people see or can understand just yet, video games are still such a young media by compassion to even film, let alone the other visual arts. The type of focus, analysis and understanding of systems, and more importantly systems of systems, that games can engender in players is truly and remarkably invaluable in today’s society.

As our organisations become increasingly managed and complex it is important that we employ people who can navigate the layers of guidance and policy and understand how key systems of management and leadership interact to create corporate direction. Games are amazing teachers of exactly this. Understanding that the weather simulation system in a game directly effects a number of other key systems such as travel, combat and crafting teaches people to look for systems that interact with one another. In addition to this the type of patience that ‘grinding’ takes is an excellent way to render oneself rather immune to boredom from conducting repetitive tasks; or at the very least a key demonstration of just how willing one might be to conduct such tasks if the outcome is desirable enough.

In addition to this there is the type of ‘head fake’ learning that Randy Pausch talks about in his famous last lecture. Learning when you don’t think you are. Developers use common elements of history and myth and religion to form the basis for many of their settings and this type of information can spark interest in people. One doesn’t need to look far at all to see this exact phenomenon in the Assassin’s creed franchise, whose recreations of locales like Rome and Venice are so good you can actually navigate the modern day by having played the games.

Now I am not suggesting that going through an addictive phase with a game is required in order to reap these benefits, certainly I would urge everyone to live a balanced lifestyle after years of imbalance in my own. However; I am saying that the type of engagement that games ask of their players does not go unrewarded –  the peripheral learning opportunities are vast. Despite asking a fairly totalised for of attention during play, games give back in many forms not just entertaining but training and educating all at once.

Beautiful Scars

So before beginning in earnest I want to preface this blog as I have with some other content in the past with the statement that this is not representative of any deeper trauma that I am currently viscerally struggling with, I am just using my particular virtual street corner to try and untangle some of the more worrisome knots in my own emotional space.


A few weeks ago, my partner’s mother asked me about the meaning of my half sleeve tattoo. Now the actual content of the tattoo from a visual standpoint is almost the least interesting part of this thought – but if you need to contextualise this idea in the same way I have, go find an Instagram account and search for The_Brave_Bothan (yes it is my online handle). For those of you too sensible or lazy to go looking for my IG, I hope the following description will suffice. The Tattoo is of a Dragon coiled about a sword on my delt, flowing down into a stag’s head whose antlers wrap my bicep, on the inverse side of the arm there is a wolf’s head, placid not snarling. The whole piece is tied together with dotted alchemical symbols and illusory 3D effect cubes. I told my partner’s mother that it had many meanings, but mostly, I thought of the three animals (if a dragon is an animal) as my totems. Things that represented me on a deeper emotional level. I also pointed out that I enjoy wearing my heart (Hart) on my sleeve, but she failed to register the fantastic joke…

Now all of the above is at an incredibly surface level, while true, it is far from the best answer I can give to the question, which I must admit has been rattling around in my brain for a while now. So here goes; more than anything else my many tattoos capture an emotional moment in time for me. They capture a powerful and devastating emotion and channel it, physically, into being. Through the effort of an artist and paid for with my blood, my tattoos are a way of magically making a memory that I could never before see or touch, real. This is exactly as ritualistic as I honestly think tattoos are – they really are a kind of blood magic to me. Certainly, there are enough instances of cultures placing magical reverence in tattoo ceremonies for me to think that they were onto something ancient and powerful that our secular society has forgotten.

The thing that tattoos do first is hurt – not a lot, mostly (unless your artist saves your elbow for last in an 8-hour session, the sadistic bastard 😂) but they do hurt. An old American slang term for getting a tattoo was ‘getting cut’ – and this is incredibly appropriate, because tattoos are at their core, beautiful and societally acceptable scars. Now this is of importance to me because I still bear other far less ‘acceptable’ scars. I used to cut to cope with my pain, not because I wanted attention from anyone, I was very, very good at hiding them even on my forearms and other obvious spots. It was honestly the best way from me to feel. My experiences with childhood trauma left me numb, I fled into the works of the stoic philosophers and read them with the misguided passion of a youth, forcing all feeling and emotion out of my heart until I was a husk who only had the sensation of cold steel to instil even the merest flash of feeling into himself.

When I finally turned 18 and worked out I could pay someone to cut me and people would admire this, they even called it art I was amazed. It was a dream come true. No longer would I have to hide my pain and shame from the world I could walk openly and proudly down the street and invite people to gaze upon a physical representation of all of the deepest, darkest pieces of myself. It was an explosion of catharsis. Of course, I got more and more tattoos; I poured more and more of my pain out onto my skin and it felt unbelievably good.

But there came a time when I had to face facts, I wasn’t coping well with my pain – I was spiralling downwards by continuing to put my pain new places without really addressing it. Skipping over the more morbid details of the interviewing time, I spent more or less in a depressive stasis, perhaps the topic of a future blog. Over time and through lots of professional help I began to open up about my pain and those experiences that had so deeply scarred me. It took years and more tears than I thought I had left in me, but eventually I got through to the other side and I haven’t gotten a ‘sad’ tattoo in a number of years now. Now at this point some readers may, fairly rightly, lean back and wax lyrical, about how foolish tattoos are and that their permanency is never good and this is one more story of regretting tattoos. Aaaaaaaand I’d scoff and have to explain that no – I am still deeply in love with every single tattoo I have and to a lesser extent with those regular ‘unsightly’ scars on my arms. I have on a number of occasions even gone so far as to say I’d consider myself entirely boring, plain even, without my ink.

As I have moved forward and found more effective ways to put the pain of my childhood behind me, rather than just outside of me, I have grown to more deeply appreciate the truer magic of tattoos. They don’t just externalise trauma for me, in the way I first experienced. Whilst they do still bear the indelible memory of their inception, that will never fade, they have come to represent my climb through life. They have come to represent my climb out of depression and out of the past that defined my entire existence for far too long. Now that I see them more fully, the true beauty of my tattoos and by extension of all painful scars, shines clearly to me. By having a beautiful physical representation of that pain and the moment it was made real to me, I can see how far I have come and be proud. I can see the beauty that pain has wrought not only in the artistry of scars that form my tattoos, but also in myself.

I cannot change my past, the people in it or what those people did to me – or more disturbingly in some cases, what I did to them. But I can continue to grow, I can continue to get better. Better than any of them thought I could or would be. Better even than I could have dreamed possible as a child or a teenager or a young man crying and praying for it to all go away. Every day I wake up and when I look at myself I see a roadmap of where I have been and how strong I have become – and I smile.

The Chaos of Serendipity

So, I was driving a few weeks ago I had a thought. Now this isn’t in and of itself a particularly notable or rare phenomenon, but hey we had to start somewhere alright? I was listening to a song I hadn’t heard in years and was recalled of how I had first become ‘introduced’ to the tune (for any wondering the song was ‘In the Sun by Joseph Arthur). I had first encountered the song through ‘Scrubs’. This in turn led me to think about how perfectly timed the entrance of that show had been into my life, specifically into my psychological development. It had been humour in a humourless place. An emotional guide on how to maintain a sense of the joy in life even at the heaviest moments we experience, which is a lesson I still find invaluable to this day.  Overall, I felt incredibly lucky to have been introduced to ‘Scrubs’ exactly at the moment in my life when I had been.  I’ve always been fascinated by the random chance that seems to govern our lives, so my thoughts drifted to the largest and most unlikely of happening in my life to date. How I met my partner.

That meeting was recounted in full right here in an earlier version of this blog, however after considering the relatability of the tale and the bulk it added, I was unhappily prevailed upon by kindness to my readership to cut it.  Suffice it to say the tale involves dramatic and unlikely hospital admissions, life and death struggles with weird medical conditions and 8 hour dates in art galleries, enthralling!

So, returning to the present train of thought. I found myself enamoured with this idea of serendipity and chance. Now whilst these words do have separate meanings; chance being a largely neutral term and serendipity having an air of romance suffused into it. They are largely used to describe the same phenomenon – the unlikely or uncontrolled sequence of events. Soon I realised that another word commonly associated with this is luck, both good and bad. As I continued I found I knew many, many words we use to describe this same phenomenon and the differing emotional inflections they each had. Serendipity for love, luck for financial gain, chaos for the truly bizarre, tragedy for the truly horrid. It was apparent to me that at the centre of it all was the absurd lack of predictability in life and the universe. Which of course excited my existential sensibilities to no end.

I have pondered this train of thought on and off for some weeks now and have come to regard these names as a kind of magic, or at least a modern attempt at magic. You may or may not be familiar with the school of the occult that deals specifically with ‘true naming’. Effectively, the idea suggests that each entity or thing in the universe has a secret ‘true’ name that will give it’s knower power over that entity or thing. Simple enough for me, it certainly has flavours of several strands of religious and mythological traditions baked into it. It seems to me that by attempting to brand the chaos and serendipity of the universe we are not just pigeon holing things for the sake of ease. We are attempting to control their outcomes, or at least their recollections and later influence over our lives. By branding what is effectively a pure manifestation of the chaos at the heart of the universe as serendipity we attempt to make it more palatable, more rosy, friendly and comfortable. We store it next to our happiest moments and derive comfort from it as the years roll past. This stands in direct opposition to a more honest reading of the events as mere dumb luck or improbable chance. Such a reading would serve to make one feel insignificant or powerless against the scale of all that had to occur for that one entirely improbable occurrence to eventuate just as it did.  By allowing ourselves this kind of ‘reverse control magic’ we shield ourselves from the harshest of reality and its unknowable nature and chaos by feigning control over it. It has been pointed out to me when giving this explanation to people that the secular version of this ‘magic’ is a legitimate technique used by people suffering from anxiety to move phenomena from an external to an internal locus of psychological control in order to rationalise our experiences.

Obviously, this sensation of chaos can also be combatted with faith ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ and such. Now I will not deny those who would use this explanation their comfort. Certainly, chalking the manifold nature of life’s Chaos up to a deity has its appeal. By giving every manifestation of that chaos, good or bad to one, or many deities, it removes the requirement for the human psyche to rationally explain those unexplainable patterns, correlations and chances that are required for a life to emerge just in the fashion that it does. The fact that through history we have seen a pendulum swing from polytheism to monotheism and back without ever losing the ‘mystery’ of deific control, to me is merely further evidence that it is this inability to comprehend the nature of the universal chaos that gives rise to religion.

At the end of it all though when I look beyond faith, beyond rational traditions of magic, everything gives way to the terrifying beauty and horrible majesty of the cosmos. Chaos, serendipity, luck, chance, tragedy all of it is unknown and unknowable and to attempt to put it all together is to be driven mad. To quote Lovecraft:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.





So, as we ring in 2018, I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect on the newest face of the New Year’s resolution – #newyearnewme (#NYNM). This #NYNM is likely already in your ‘most maligned bullshit of 2018’ mental pigeon hole and fairly rightly so… Only the most ‘Basic’ of humans use such a trite and saccharine method to express their deep and heartfelt desire to change, surely. But here is the rub – we all have that low and persistent desire to grow and learn and be better today than we were yesterday.

We all have that feeling, in the deepest darkest recesses of our mind that we aren’t quite as good as we could be. It is why the concept of the New Year’s resolution is so instantly accessible to most of us. Why then does this not translate well into the social media sphere? Why does #NYNM fail so completely to elicit an empathetic response in the broader social consciousness? This cognitive dissonance has been gnawing at the back of my mind for the last few days and refuses to leave.

I was thinking on this and initially I wanted to dismiss all of the #NYNM ‘resolutioners’ as being ‘weak’ for needing prompting to bring about change in their lives. I wanted to solve this problem easily by criticising them for needing the death of a year and the birth of a new one to rouse them from their complacency. But when I really examined this premise I was forced to face facts, that I too had been subject to similar apathy and sloth when faced with the requirement for my own change.

When I was depressed and obese it had been the gift of an original FitBit Flex (for Christmas) that had finally awakened within me the knowledge and desire to bring about the physical and mental changes that largely defined my life.

I have been forced to accept that the #NYNM movement and I shared similar levels of external influence in initiating our respective evolutions. That wasn’t an easy realisation to swallow, knowing that I could never again earnestly enjoy a meme of Arnie looking despairingly over a packed gym and decrying the unwashed masses of #NYNM ‘resolutioners’. But it is the right standpoint to view this issue from – for better or for worse, very few of us manage to successfully self-initiate change of a lasting nature. It is almost always the words, or gifts of a friend or family member, a new financial or domestic situation that really get our respective ‘balls’ rolling.

As enlightening and challenging as this personal realisation was – it still didn’t get to the bottom of the #NYNM problem – except in secret it had.  When I really sat down to examine the problem it hit, square in the face. #NYNM is an impossibility. My personal changes had been improvements, rectifications of deficiencies and similar, not ‘evolutions’ not a replacement of the old ‘Me’ with some new and improved ‘Me’.

#NYNM it is not something I think anyone really honestly wants, or is capable of. The traditional New Year’s resolution has been about changing one or two minor aspects of one’s life in order to live a better more complete happy existence. Conversely, the immediate connotation of #NYNM is that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “New Me – completely different from old me, old me is horrible and childish and completely bleh!!!!”. The idea that once you have come to such an epiphany that you could completely divorce yourself from ‘old you’ in order to achieve #NYNM is entirely without merit. More disturbingly, it shows signs of the invasion capitalistic ideals into our deepest personal spheres.

Now that was an alarming paragraph, let me explain.

The idea that we would ever want to completely do away with the entirety of our being in order to be reborn – a glorious phoenix arising from the ashes of our own demise – is truly preposterous. Anyone capable of such a thought is clearly a mostly rational actor and more than likely has a concept of self and identity through time. The idea that one could ever meaningfully engage with the concept of a philosophical ‘death’ in order to initiate change simply flies 180 degrees in the face of reason.

The contrast between the more traditional resolution mindset and the emerging trend of #NYNM shows that the cultural zeitgeist has begun to more fully adopt a mindset of disposability. Rather than taking a slow, deliberate, painful and honest assessment of our personal shortcomings, flaws and insecurities in order to engage in an equally slow, deliberate and painful program on self-betterment. We would much rather just throw out old damaged ‘IPhone 7s’ me and switch to new amazing and awesome ‘IPhone X’ me.

It is the growing influence of capitalist culture that has begot this change. This idea that the new year gives us an ‘out’ to throw away our concept of self and begin entirely anew, much as we would our smartphones, fundamentally ignores the fact that in order to feel true satisfaction in life we need to better ourselves. To iterate rather than replace, to grow rather than upgrade. More shockingly this the #NYNM idea seems to posit this theory of replacement without ever truly engaging with the harsh reality that we are building our new identity out of the same material we always have – the only material we can, to older ‘versions’ of ourselves. Without ever acknowledging that the IPhone X is really just an iteration rather than a revolution.

So, dearest readers, I implore you. Please when you see someone touting a #NYNM attitude, or god forbid an actual #, please show them some humanity and respect. Don’t just mock them in the privacy of your own home, chortling heartily at their ‘basic’ nature. Show them that what they are truly aiming at is self-improvement, not self-replacement.


So, over the course of the last year, whilst I have not been writing, I have not let my mind sit and go to mush. I have been devouring books. In multiple formats; both traditional, bound, fare and also audiobooks. Between the two media I have racked up in excess of 40 titles during 2017.

I’m a little proud of myself – my goal for the year was half that number.

These titles have ranged from Game of Thrones novels through to Guy DeBord and Stephan Molynuex and I am incredibly pleased with the intellectual results of this meandering. It has allowed me to develop in ways that I would not have thought possible 12 months ago. To critically analyse ideas and arguments in a manner in which I had not previously in my life.

When I was younger I was a prolific reader – primarily of pulp and high fantasy, Eddings, King, Jordan etc. This habit seemed to drop off during university as my reading became thoroughly directed towards my study – video games seemed a far more appealing abnegation activity after hours of reading heavy history textbooks. This is the first year since I started my very first tertiary qualification that I have found reading for fun to truly call to me again.

It is from this vantage that I have spied a particularly troubling phenomenon. Now I certainly will not claim to be alone or even early in this observation.  However, it has troubled me in increasing amounts as the year has progressed to see that those who I would consider intellectual peers are far less interested in diversifying their scholastic intake as they are with shoring up their ideological holdfasts’.

To expand – Earlier this year I mentioned to a work colleague – who until this time I had thought very highly of. This colleague had certainly impressed me with their ability to hold a conversation on just about every progressive subject matter – up to and including some of the more far out nutbaggy global conspiracy trains of thought – Rothschild dominance and all that. I was shocked, however, when I mentioned to this colleague that I was ½ way through Milo Yiannopoluos’ ‘Dangerous’ to be immediately inundated with pressure to explain why I had helped finance a hate campaign.

I tried to explain that rather than react to media pundit interpretations of Milo’s writings I was keen to interrogate the subject first hand in order to circumvent bias. Having been thoroughly convinced of the media bias in my country by the shameful reaction we have had to Cassie Jaye’s ‘The Red Pill’. This colleague waxed lyrical for nearly a full 10 minutes about the various logical fallacies in Milo’s work and the many ways in which he was entirely unworthy of my patronage of his literary endeavours. When I pushed this colleague as to how they were so knowledgeable about Milo’s positions and writings they began to reference several 2nd and 3rrd hand sources of response to the material.

This was the moment that my internal alarm bells kicked into high gear.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident across this year. Sadly it was not. Several members of my intellectual exchange communities have taken great pains to ignore and implore others to ignore large swathes of the emerging fields of argument, particularly in the conservative cultural analysis space. It seems that the echo chamber effect that has been oft discussed has begun to migrate from being solely the province of the anti-intellectual class within this country and take disturbing and fascinating route within the intellectual class as well.

I cannot begin to express how scared this makes me.

Whilst I cannot claim to be well and proper OG in my antipathy for this particular issue – having spent far too many hours of the last decade blissfully connected to the hypereality of the MMORPG sphere to feel at all secure or legitimate in such a position. I can certainly say that this last year has done a very great deal to convince me that I was right to make the swap from comfortable and safe intellectual wandering to ‘transgressive’ and ‘problematic’ inquiry.

We as a society need to spend more time focusing on ideas and arguments that challenge us in real and meaningful ways. Rather than allowing ourselves to apathetically seek out news sources and public intellectuals that reflect and shape our opinions and perceptions along lines we have already set for ourselves.

We don’t all need to – by virtue of literary patronage – finance right wing nutbags touring our country and inciting civil unrest – but certainly we do need to spend time engaging personally and legitimately with all of the legitimate arguments that are being presented to us. Failure to do so will leave us as out of touch with the reality of the intellectual space that we inhabit as the Tsars of Russia in 1913.

We need to allow ourselves to be made uncomfortable by the ideas and premises of those who we wish to debate and convince. We need to allow space in our personal echo chambers for dissent and synthesis through this dissent into a greater intellectual understating of the true reality that we all inhabit.

So this is my challenge to the few of you that are still here after all of that. Go out and read, read widely and read politically. Read left and read right. Engage honestly and completely with both sides of this space. Because we are living at the edge of history in this country, things are changing in ways and through means that we have never experienced as a society or as a race. It is at this critical juncture that we have  people of robust and thorough intellectual grounding to help round out the public discourse that we are exposing the masses to.

Do not be cowed by the dissenting voices and remember always the famous Aquinian quote, “Hominem Unius Libri Timed” …..

“I fear the man of a single book”

The Weight of Scars

So I had a very vivid recollection the other evening whilst watching a new episode of ‘The Crown’ on Netflix. I promise what follows isn’t a shocking revelation of some royal heritage or similar.

In this episode, a scene takes place where rather dramatically Elizabeth’s character asks her uncle how he could forgive himself for consorting with Nazis after his abdication. The gravitas and drama with which the line was delivered pulled me right back into my angsty teenage mindset and reminded me of a conversation I had had some years ago with a parental figure of some sort.

I cannot duly recall the inciting incident – however the context would infer it was something altogether unpleasant. The conversation ran somewhat as follows;

Me: ‘Parental Figure – how do old people live with themselves?’

Parental Figure: ‘What do you mean?’

Me: ‘How do old people live with the weight of all their stupid decisions and unforgivable wrongs weighing them down?’

Parental Figure: ‘That’s rather bleak…..’

Me: ‘Not really – more just accepting of the reality that we all make mistakes and calls that end up being vastly wrong with consequences that echo throughout our lives, and I think that it would be really hard to get by feeling all of those like I do right now’

Like I said – fairly angsty teenage fair.

But it is a question I’ve never satisfactorily answered. Or rather the method of answering it emerges out of learned ‘adult’ apathy. Things an angsty teenager (myself included) counted as unforgivable sins seem positively puerile by comparison to the realisation of the gargantuan lies we live under every day in global society – insert ethical consumption under capitalism meme here.

This episode of ‘The Queen’ has catapulted this set of personal problems back into the forefront of my consciousness and all the argument I can muster within myself is the Christian tenet of forgive and forget. In this case leaning heavily on the later rather than the former half of the idea.

I don’t know about you but certainly if I cast my mind over all the bad calls I’ve made in my life – all the hurts that I can chalk up to being ‘my fault’ there are certainly a share that I don’t think I shall ever find an opportunity to resolve either due to not having resolved the underlying dispute or hurt – or not having access to the other party or object as required to truly reconcile.

So answering my own teenage self I find myself drawn to, what seems like a typically apathetic Australian response – we just do. We just try to do what we can and make the best call at the time and don’t sweat the small stuff. This doesn’t satisfy me though. Just doing – just allowing grievances or crimes to fade into the hazy obscurity of memory does not do them justice – does not do the passion of humanity and human life and love and existence true justice.

What is small enough to be small stuff? What is the line between a problem that needs fixing and a problem that will resolve itself with distance and time? None of these things are truly universally answerable of course – however my semi-aut brain will still shout to the modern ‘heavens’ and demand a sensible reply.

I have striven to live honestly – to fight the battles that ought to be fought and more challengingly to learn how to admit when I am in the wrong and need to ceed ground or a point. However somewhere in the hubbub and prioritisation of adult life the angst that drove that was lost – complacency set and began to decay the fibre of a belief as it all too often does.

I have to chalk some of this up to a problem of scale – as I have stared out into the enormity of the social and political problems of this day and age – my personal missions have become dwarfed by the relative insignificance of one life in the grand social game. However, this was not enough for the absurdist’s and it is not enough for me. I cannot, now that I have been reminded, allow the insignificance and absurdity of my personal struggle to be a free pass and I remain somewhat embarrassed to admit I let it become one.

 I have let things that could have been fixed remain problems and add anxiety and weight to my life that did not need to be there because these things and problems seemed ‘hopeless’ or ‘insignificant’.  No more, I will make angsty teenage me proud of the human I can become.

So I write this as a challenge not just to myself but to all of you.

A challenge and a reminder – to be better than apathy – to be better than obscurity. To demand resolution, to demand answers. To solve the problems that can be and stride forward to solve the bigger ones yet.

Change and culture

So i suppose fair warning to my ‘readership’ this piece touches on issues of gender and culture and expresses views that some members on the left might find – regressive.

– The Brave Bothan

So today something happened – Certainly a thing that I didn’t find comfortable or endearing in the slightest; but I would like to put it here to provoke thought.

Annually the organisation that I work for hold a series of training seminars to ensure that employees are up to date on what management consider to be corporate culture for the firm. For the last half a decade or so these have necessarily included a section or two on gender and gender politics both within and without the workplace.  I attended one such seminar today – and was caught in one of the most uncomfortable intellectual and moral positions I have ever been in.

A senior executive was giving a seminar on gender perspectives – with the outcome being mostly advocating for an undefined increase in awareness of cis gender perspectives, which was annoying in and of itself. During the course of this seminar the executive shared an anecdote about a consultation with foreign nationals that the firm had been involved with. It was a shelter development project for impoverished peoples as part of a government sponsored aid program.

A design consultation session had been held with all the tribal elders of the region – who due to the region’s gender politics were all male. After the completion of the consultation session the firm built the shelters to specification. The flaws were apparent only after completion of the program – these shelters lacked a kitchen…

Corporate embarrassment aside – the executive at this point made the quip that if only one single woman had been involved with the planning process this glaring oversight surely would have been rectified…. as women inherently solve these types of domestic problems…..

My heart veritably broke.

Here was a senior executive member of the firm not only committing a correlation/ causation fallacy – which is embarrassing and horrific enough in and of itself – but ostensibly under the auspices of promoting gender equality she was committing such a fallacy without realizing the ways in which she was confirming negative gender stereotypes.

I honestly didn’t know what to do – Any attempt I could have made to publicly correct her concept of gender relations and roles would have only served to diminish the overall intent of the seminar. But failure to correct such regressive and patriarchal stereotypes would be to allow those values to suffuse the outcomes of the seminar.

I was caught – trapped but the desire not only to not rock the corporate boat and undermine a senior executive – but also completely and painfully aware that by saying nothing I was allowing a whole room full of people, representing all facets of the company, to take in and perhaps internalize and unknowingly regressive stereotype.

To my shame at the time of writing I stayed silent.

Despite realizing at the time what had been said and knowing it’s impact I couldn’t muster the courage to fight for the cause the way it ought to have been. I stayed silent – not wanting to undercut, however righteously and senior executive.

The gender stereotypes we have been raised with are insidious in the way they influence our thinking – even when we think to champion the cause we are subject to our own fallibility. I believe that the human giving the brief had every intention of championing a positive case for gender equality they just fell victim to ingrained concepts of gender roles.

I elected to join this human’s committee to try and  shape the way my organisation views and interacts with concepts of gender.

But this doesn’t make me feel better about my cowardice.

Our Inner Child

So recently I have found myself happily involved with rather a remarkable human. This person challenges me emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. They are in a great many way my equal or better and I have spent the last period of my life being rather enthralled by the everyday challenge of rising to this new level of potential they have helped define.

I still remember our first outing – a 6 hour stroll through the cultural district of my city. Exchanging banter and intellectual observations on arts from all eras. This has been rather the tone of the relationship thus far – one of intellectual curiosity and exchange.  It would be in all this – incredibly easier to lose touch with what I consider to be my more joyous side. Not that intellectualism doesn’t bring me joy in it’s own way (or else why would I write this blog for fun) but I do acknowledge that intellectualism can be quite dry at times – and those overly disposed to it’s use equally so. One of the things that I have most enjoyed about the company I have recently kept is the ability to lapse at will back and forth through both the joyously childish self and the more reserved intellectual self.

This has caused me to ponder on the importance of childish joy in the everyday.

I have pondered at length differences in people and particularly how we see them reflected in media. One of the key divisions this pondering ass fixed upon is the emergence of ‘gritty’ media as synonymous with adult media. This can be most easily seen in the tonal differences between ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’. In both cases the former is the more childishly joyous franchise and the latter the grittier franchise.

All 4 series continually deal with themes of heroism and sacrifice – they all cover off on an extensive range of human emotions; many of which are thoroughly within the negative range. All 4 shows seek to take their audiences on an emotional journey with the characters.

I have always found this to be accomplishable with Doctor Who and The Flash – but rarely so with Torchwood and Arrow. Despite many similarities in production values and target audiences the latter two franchise lack a critical element for me – the heart that childish joy brings to the more successful franchises.

It is in our most dire moments – when the stakes are the highest ( as they frequently are in all 4 series) that joy is the most useful and integral to my personal image of humanity. The fresh joy of our inner child – the dawning curiosity and inner laughter it finds in almost every new situation is what pulls us through our most trying times and helps bring light to even our bleakest moments.

Both the Flash and The Doctor manage to showcase this – in the case of The Doctor sometimes literally as a child – both series show us wisecracking heroes and casts who use humor to lighten the mood when everything else seems dire. Arrow and Torchwood, by comparison, feature an excess of brooding and melancholy.

This same dichotomy is more than likely behind the failure of the DCEU vs the Marvel EU. The former once again feeling like a largely humorless and gritty place whilst the latter manages to capture the elusive but very real and very very necessary childish inner joy that grounds our reality.

So next time you are facing a situation that seems a little more than you are capable of handling just remember the abiding value of joy –  you don’t need to laugh at your circumstances but I guarantee you that in no situation has all light gone from the world – you can always find something to laugh at, something to inspire a fresh sense of wonder in your heart. celebrate-954784_960_720



Vignettes Of Memory.

So this is a bit of a different one – well not all that different, in that it is an analysis of how a media piece has made me think/ affected my thinking – but it is the first foray we have had on this blog into my love of musical theatre. So I by no means count myself as an officionado of musical theatre but i certainly enjoy the atmosphere of a well staged musical and the things that the medium iOS specifically designed to be good at capturing – I.E. The very visceral styles of human emotion or bombastic larger than life characature of drama. 

One of the musicals I have come to later in life is Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last 5 Years’. I really do adore this piece for a great many aesthetic reasons. I love the choice to never have the two leads appear on stage together, I love the musical callbacks to some of theatre’s greatest hits in the composition, I love the self referential humour and the Tarantinoesque timeline. The thing I love most of all however is the really beautiful way the Musical invites us to think about the nature of memory and time. 

The presentation scene to scene of the musical alternates between the lead character’s perspectives. This from a structural standpoint allows the audience to see both halves of the story and the relationship it details but more importantly it acts as a method for seeing their titular 5 years pass. Magically despite the run time only being about 90-100 minutes it actually feels as if we have lived the whole 5 years with the characters. Both through incredibly clever writing that loops in on itself and shows how the things we love in people can inform the things we hate, or how our strengths are merely the reflections of our weaknesses, it highlights the paradigm of long term memory. We remember long tranches of time as vignettes.

Our moment to moment experience of life is gripping, visceral and totalising but when we remove ourselves and look backwards as the vastness of our own experience it all blends together and only those critical or truly remarkable moments stand out. Moments that become imbued with significance post-facto are brought to the fore and those that lose significance fade into obscurity. This is where ‘The Last 5 Years’ truly shines. It captures this pheminon perfectly. Both in the choice to include highlight moments that are clear in their significance – but also moments that as they occurred or soon thereafter would not likely have been of great importnace to either character and it is the end of the relationship and thus the foreshadowing nature of these moments that makes them important when reflecting back on the time as a whole.

Very few experiences in media feel this human, this alive and this real and it the way that they experience time along with the audience that really brings them to life and makes their pain and their joy palatable. 

When I reflect back over the progress I have made in my life and the mistakes I have made this type of vignette-vision is one of the saving graces of my existence. H.P Lovecraft said that we are only spared from madness by our inability to perceive the whole truth of our situation within the universe. To me this is what our memory is doing with vignette-vision it is bringing into focus only as much information as we need and is pertinent to allow us to learn, grow and move forward with purpose in our lives. 

Time makes fools of us all, remembering it as only as human can is something to be embraced. The fallibility of both our judgement and our memory is a well documented phenomenon and certainly not something that we should become enraged to see portrayed or fearful of. It is human – allow that to bring you comfort and contentment as you take the next step forward in your life – knowing that this too shall pass into vignettes memory to be fogging recalled when it is necessary.