#NEWYEARNEWME

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.

Advertisements

Interrogations

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. 

Gaming Life Lessons Vol. 3

So as a teenager I loved Dungeons and Dragons. Yep I was a straight up nerd, Magic The Gathering, D&D, Video Games, Books and Movies. My misspent youth really has given me  a breadth of media experience that is largely unparalleled within my peer group. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I will always have a soft spot of table top games. Board Games, Card Games and Miniatures – anything that gets a group of individuals into a space to interact and chew the fat, whilst the online space can do much the same with the use of voice comms there is just something about being physically collocated with the person who has just screwed you over with a move and being able to see the delight in his eyes as he does it or the feeling of triumph when your party overcomes a challenging encounter by working as a team.

For me the quintessential example of this is Dungeons and Dragons – I cannot count the hours I have spent huddled around tables with dice and a group of stalwart and adventurous mates. The real benefit of these types of experiences for me is the tangential learning opportunities they offer. There are two really big ones that have influenced the way I see and interact with the world.

The first is social skills – As such a hyper nerd it should come as no surprise that socializing hasn’t always been one of my strong suits. However now as an adult I have a very socially focused job that requires me to be able to instantly communicate with just about everyone I meet and I really do think my time with D&D and the people I shared that time with have played a large part in my success. So the wonderful thing about social D&D as organised through a store – is that it has to be all inclusive, the store wants customers. This results in a very, very eclectic group of players; particularly a very wide span of ages. In my earliest memories of playing D&D I was 15 and spending 10 -12 hours a week talking with people as old as 45 in my party. I learned a lot from these guys and gals. They became a surrogate family in a lot of way and helped me overcome my fears of interacting with people whose experiences differed from my own. They helped me calm down and get over a lot of my anger issues and more eccentric public behaviors. They really did teach me what it was to be a friend. That sense of community is often talked about in Australian culture ass only really existing around team sports but it is alive and well in hobby shops the country over and it is allowing those less athletically inclined children to achieve the same social conditioning as our future NRL superstars.

The second key thing I took away from my time with D&D was a sense of curiosity. I started playing D&D in 3.5 Edition. The source books for this edition of the game were rife with references to real life concepts of philosophy, cosmology and history. This lead to me, in an effort to learn more about the game, researching a spate of disparate topics as a child that were miles ahead of or outside my high school curriculum. This really did liberalize and round out my experience with education as a  young adult and has served me incredibly well all throughout my life to date.  The habit has also stuck – these years have endowed me with an ability I think of as ‘inspiration sense’ this is when I get the feeling whilst engaged in some media or another that the fictitious concept that is being employed has been directly inspired by elements form the real world. Whenever my ‘Inspiration Sense’  tingles I am compelled to go read more about the real world influences.

Moving into adulthood I have volunteered my time at local hobby shops to run their D&D nights. In the process of doing this I have seen dozens of people go through a similar journey to the one I have enjoyed. So I am fairly certain that the game and the way it is played has this effect on the majority and not just ‘edge cases’. It has been an absolute privilege to see autistic spectrum people truly come out of their shells in a safe environment and learn how to make friends and interact with people in a far more normalized fashion than one would expect of a D&D ‘nerd’.

For a game that has since it’s inception been met with scrutiny, mistrust and fear Dungeons and Dragons has had an amazingly transformative effect on the lives of many many children that would otherwise have done far worse or far less with their lives than what they have – because of the friends they made and lessons they learned around the table.  This is just a small look into my life and the way that D&D has helped me become the man I am.

Thank you D&D.

Overcoming The Past

So this week I was rather abruptly forced to consider my past in a way that made me incredibly uncomfortable. I have not always been as good a human as I currently am; self improvement is now a big part of my drive every day but there have been periods of my life where stagnation would be the most accurate way to describe my status.

In the course of taking what I thought was a positive adult step – trying to gain more control over my financial and professional life I was told I had an outstanding debt of $3.5K. It was, as you can imagine, rather a rude shock – made all the more embarrassing for being told to me in the first instance in a public arena. Long story cut short here – it was debt incurred by a partner, who I no longer have contact with, on a joint service, I negotiated it down to a more reasonable figure and paid the balance.

The learning point out of all this came for me when I was reflecting on the initial shock and incredulity with which I had viewed the revelation. It had seemed wildly unfair and completely ridiculous that I was being ‘punished’ for trying to take positive steps in my life. Which is rather a  juvenile way of conceiving of things really. The reality that I had to accept was that I had failed to take due care of my household affairs in the past and I was paying the piper in the present.

It was a bitter pill to swallow – and then I remembered Randy Pausch. This was a wall, not put here to stop me improving my life – but rather to force me to prove how badly I wanted if self improvement were easy; everyone would be doing it. So I grit my teeth an confronted the unsettling reality that despite not being directly responsible I had still failed and that I needed to overcome that failure and use it as a lesson. The two questions I asked myself here I learned from Brian Tracy – What did I do well? and What would I change next time?

So what did I do well? – I had been a good partner, helped provide for the household. What am I changing next time? – nothing new just adding fuel to my financial management fire

I think that by combining those two thinkers one reaches the perfect place to overcome past mistakes. The mistake itself can be recontextualized as merely a test of drive – which the current self is always up to the task of undertaking. Following this the ‘hot wash up’ question make sure that we really draw out the critical learning points.

The control we have over our experience of reality is one of the most powerful gifts we are ever given. Allowing external agencies to take that power away from us is all too easy to do and far too great a cost for anything. The trick is that we can take it back any time we want. By choosing to remain in control of the way we perceive and interact with the world we are choosing to be responsible for our emotional well being.

The key thing here really is about context and shifting perspectives. It is very easy to let the world seem far more frightening and imposing than it really is. Particularly when we find ourselves on the back foot in a new situation. However the world isn’t out to get us – it isn’t trying to do us favors either mind you. The world is largely indifferent to any of our struggles of woes and in that indifference we are free to make the best people we can out of ourselves. By allowing ourselves to see the opportunities for change and improvement rather than punishments imposed by an unfeeling world we really can get to a point where there is no wall we cannot scale.

Doctor Doctor Give Me The News 

So I absolutely adore this scene from The Zygon Inversion episode of New Doctor Who. I first saw it the weeknit first aired and I’ve since used it as a teaching tool for my team at work. The concept that those with true power those with true courage , can forgive – can break the chains of hate that bind us to conflict. 

Recently I read Clem Ford’s ‘Fight Like A Girl’. It was challenging but thoroughly worthwhile. I feel that I learned a fair amount of deffenrence to priveledge that I have previously slow to acknowledge. The thing I found consistently challenging throughout was Clem’s use of fairly aggressive language. She addresses her thoughts on why many men find the type of language she uses challenging and how defending politeness is merely a way of protecting the patriarchal system. 

In some ways I do agree with her – politeness and manners are inventions of the patriarchy, specifically the gentile class of the patriarchy. 

But forgiveness is not.

I acknowledge the right of feminists to be very angry at the patriarchy for suppressing them for so very long and in such horrific ways. But I haven’t yet been able to reconcile the votrioloc vocabulary with which some feminists address the world. 

It strikes me as The Doctor puts it as ‘just more cruelty’ now it’s certainly ‘cruelty’ that does make me sit upright and pay attention to what is being said. But I feel for entirely the wrong reasons. I listen because language of ranger and hate displays passion and rage and I do not wish to rub afoul of such violent emotions in anyone, regardless of gender. 

Language is a method of mediation as much as it is a tool of control. I think the way we choose to discuss our differences and our passions displays so much about us and how we want to be perceived.  

This is by no means an attack or cry for vocal feminists to reform their use of language – or a claim that I won’t listen to them if they don’t talk in a language that makes me comfortable. It is merely the suggestion that autocratic control of language is ‘cruelty’. 

It is equally cruel for a feminist to violently seize the language of a discourse and it is for a man to allow it to exist in purely patroarchally endorsed politeness. 

What we need to see in the world – on both sides of the gender divide. Is forgiveness – forgiveness for the sins of priveledge that so many men did nothing to help create or perpetuate and forgiveness of feminists and activits for their just anger at not even having the ability to control the terms by which their rights are discussed. 

This is a charged, primed and deadly issue I know – let’s just all calm down, and call The Doctor.

Pride Comes Before The Fall

Pride really gets wildly mixed representation. It is something that has caused me discomfort, emotionally and intellectually my entire life. We are simultaneously fed lines about ‘taking pride in our work/appearance/possessions’ and scolded for being ‘obsessive, narcissistic or materialistic’ for doing exactly these things. Now the easy wave of the hand answer is that all things in small amounts or in balance. Clearly the times when I have been chided for taking too much pride in something have been moments where I am lapsing into excess. But I call phooey on that. I am no longer comfortable accepting the judgement of others on these matters – so here is my thoughts on the complex nature and relationship of pride.

Two figures within media stand as glowing examples of the redemptive value of pride. Heath Ledger’s Sir William Thatcher and Vegeta, Prince of Saiyans. I certainly feel kinship with these characters and the way they interact with pride.

William gives up his freedom and his life for the sake of his pride. He refuses to bend to system that he knows is unjust and unfounded. He stand strong in the face of adversity and is ultimately rewarded for it. When at his lowest his king comes to him and delivers to him a knighthood almost entirely premised on his pride, his refusal to obey societal norms and social morays. “Your men love you, If I knew nothing else about you that would be enough. But you also tilt when you should withdraw, and that is Knightly too”  it is this that first premised my disagreement with those in my life who would tear down the value of pride. Movies are expensive affairs – and in this day and age made largely by committee. If a subject matter is central to a movie it because studios feel it will resonate with audiences. So when I see such bombastic representations of the value of pride  my chest swells and I feel enlivened and like I can achieve anything I choose to set my mind to. This is the secret value of pride for me it is pride that keeps me strong when I am weak. When I am at my lowest it is my pride that keeps me from the razor or the alcohol. It is the knowledge that deep down the strength is within me and that just because those around me choose to see it as narcissism or some other equally loathsome epithet it does not change the value or the nature of the emotion. Pride determines the people we choose to be – giving up on it because it is unattractive when we are strong means that it cannot be there to support us when we are weak.

The redemptive value of pride is something that I learned from Vegeta. Similarly when Vegeta is at his lowest he allows another being to grant him strength at the cost of his autonomy. When pushed to commit an act he cannot reconcile it is pride that allows Vegeta to take back his sense of self and the ability to be his own man. From here he goes on to sacrifice his life to save all those he loves. Pride being the last bastion of the self is a powerful theme that has always resonated with me. For many years self-effacement and self-hatred were methods of minimising pain. Not taking pride in myself and allowing the world to wash over me allowed me to live without pain – but also without purpose or a sense  of looking after myself. It is only through teaching myself the true value of pride that I found the strength to carry my head high and fight for my ideals. It is pride that allows me to put my thoughts up here in the public space and think that they are worth reading – that they might help others in some way small or large.

Pride is not some demon we must conquer or vice to be denied. Pride is a word, being carried around the world as we speak: associated with movements dedicated to the liberation of outspoken minorities; Black Pride, Gay Pride and Trans Pride. These movements are all sources of strength, resilience and empowerment for their members and those that share their ideals.  Pride is not something we should fear. Pride is an ally when we have no others, pride is the wall that we feel at our backs when the fighting is at it’s thickest.

So this is my challenge to you. The next time someone who wants to make you feel smaller than you are to tear away a small piece of you by calling you vain, narcissistic or proud – wear that title like the badge of honour it is. You are proud, you are strong – you have the courage and conviction to believe in the most fundamentally important of  all things -yourself.