Sunday, 3 October 2010

Hey there TFD-ians - We're Over Here.

GG and I were chatting last night about her leaving TFD, and about all the good 'uns who have already left. While its all very well to take one's bat and ball and go home, in some ways its like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face: - one sheds the problem-people, but, at the same time, one also loses the good people.

When I first joined TFD there was a good crowd and though, we are all from different places in life, we all managed to entertain, enlighten, amuse or get up one another's noses in a much less stressfull way than the way things are now. Most of those people are now gone or only pop in on the odd occasion and hey, we miss you.

So we were wondering if we could set up a space of our own somewhere where we could all still chat and muse and ask for help. However, knowing first hand how long and how expensive it is to set up a web-site, we thought perhaps those who wanted could continue to keep in touch here for the time being?

O.K., so: the biggest draw-back here is that at the moment, this being my space, its only set up to publish posts from me. Its interactive, so people can make comments and converse once that's done, but it means that no-one else can make the original post. I think there is a way around this, but first we need to see if anyone is interested?

I also remembered - after I had been cut off for some strange reason - but did not get to mention to GG, that there is still that Book site I once (rather cheekily) advertised on TFD. It has only just started and, at the moment, only Nigel and I have done book crits. and put them up. But that, too, is an interactive site. Anyone can post or comment. So anyone who is into books might be interested in that, too? I would love to hear what people think about the books I have mentioned. Also, we would love to start a Reading Club as well so that all of us could discuss the same book. So that's another possibility.

I'm sure that people have their own favourite site and fora so it would be great if they
could share those here for us. As you'll see, I have put up a couple next to this box, but only a couple are interactive.

So this is only a feeler which I promised GG I'd put up today. We would love to hear what the rest of you think? cheers.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

New Punishments for the Unemployed

I was wondering when it would happen: politicians in Australia are currently conducting their squabbles and playground alliances with ever-increasing desperation as public confidence slides into a steady decline. Knowing The Voters main concerns are Public Health and Education, these two areas have lately been approached with the same lack of understanding or competence which seems embedded in our current crop of Pollies so now they are thinking of dragging in yet another well-mauled bone of contention...Dole Bludgers.

The Education and Health debates are turning out to be rather more complicated than expected and objection to the most time-wasting and ludicrous changes has been met with more organised and determined opposition than Government, it seems, was prepared for.

This is rather unfortunate for Prime Minister Rudd who subsequently has inadvertently allowed more than a mere glimpse at the steel fist hidden beneath his warm and fuzzy mittens.

Never dreaming that his bluff would be called our smiling, family-friendly leader assured the nation that recent proposed changes would not be carried out unless 100% co-operation was received from all the States and Territories. His hurt bewilderment when one State dug in its heels therefore in a bid to halt the proposed scheme, soon turned to petulance and then foot-stamping obduracy as he was sullenly forced into revealing that his previous We're-all-in-this-together statement was actually a big, fat, porkie. Damn! With his latest admission that - sucks! boo! - He's the Boss and what he says Goes! the whole nation is questioning his Nice-guy image.

Fortunately, when the Nation is divided there is always that fat smelly red herring ever-ready to be pulled from any Aussie leader's bag of tricks:- The Unemployed.

The trouble with proposed changed to Health and Education is that there are a lot of very cluey, dedicated people called Experts, who can be wheeled out to talk sense. People with degrees and accreditation as well as experience are unfortunately thick on the ground and can reveal the glaring faults of which the pollies - who all tend to be ex-lawyers rather than Doctors or Teachers - were unaware.

But picking on the DB's (Dole Bludgers - Aussie-speak for those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves living below the poverty line) is a safe move. The starved and huddled masses are a mob of uneducated yobbos whom everybody loves to hate. They have no-one to represent them. They are not protected by a Union. They have zero credibility and it is doubtful any of them would even understand the word, due to it being polysyllabic. Best of all, its always Open Season on the DBs.

Now the rationale given out in simple English on the Media was that Western Australia is booming, there are lots of jobs in Industry and Mining there, and so all the under 30s can go and get jobs there instead of the Dole.

Now the beauty of this statement is that it contains enough sub-texts to please everybody.

Those who are still concerned about the Yellow Peril sweeping down to our shores by the boatload see it as a way of plugging the gaps those dreaded Chinks, Towel-heads, Illegals (substitute whichever Peril suits the speaker) would be jumping into before they used their wages to draft in thousands of friends and relatives.

The Send 'em into the Army and Make Men out of Them brigade might grumble a bit but would concede that sweating it out in the mines is almost as good as bloodshed and a uniform to make people into Real Men. (Usually the noun "people" translates as "men" for these types so the problem of whether unemployed women also need to be transformed into Real Men does not arise.)

Those who belong to the rabid anti-female Dad's Groups can use this as an assorted kit-bag of weaponry: this is a deliberate plot hatched by the Feminist groups who run the country to further disadvantage men; it will provide a way for the Courts to garniture wages for child-support to undeserving mums; more females will use men to deliberately get pregnant so they don't have to go down the mines.

But the real beauty of this proposal lies in the fact that every single person who has a say on the matter is a taxpayer:- and the feelings of our honest taxpayers who resents their hard-earned money being used to support those living like kings on their taxes have been aired on every chat show, talk-back and forum in the country.

The corollary to this, of course, is that the unemployed themselves, not being taxpayers, have no right to an opinion. Or, if they succeed in being heard can be easily shot down in flames with accusations of self-interest, partisanship, or not-so-hidden agendas.

Its difficult to comment on what is the most inane aspect of this latest scheme:-

Is it the fact that The Coalition sees The Unemployed under 30 as being, collectively:-
a) knuckle draggers - probably with copious tats., multiple piercings and perforated septums,
b) predominantly male
c) either single or willing/able to abandon their families
d) unskilled
e) unemployed because they relish living life on $250pw out of which to pay rent, school fees, feed and clothe themselves and dependants ?

Or is it the fact that, for the last few years, as Centrelink keeps on advising more and more men to go to WA to reap untold riches, no-one has yet addressed the problem of where and how to accommodate them? Or how to force employees to take on permanent workers?

Returning workers who have been taken in by the hype have returned in droves with tales of being forced to live in shared accommodation with card-carrying ferals; having to buy tents at inflated prices in which to live in WA's sweltering heat; camp sites which run rorts that would make a Pollie blush; contracts signed but inability to find somewhere to live; inflated prices on everything from rents to food; and reluctance to give contracts which enable workers to more than two days a week.

After the initial news release on this morning's news a spokesperson has now hastened to reassure a largely tax-paying and indifferent public that the Send 'em To The Mines strategy is not yet carved in stone and that further consideration and comments will take place.

Let's hope so. On the face of it, this is one of the most short-sighted, risible plans - on so many levels - that has yet been floated.

But then, what do I know about it? I'm currently unemployed.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Gettin' Good and Mad

Most of my friends know the bones of my life story - sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest and subsequently expelled from my boarding school at 16, raped at age 17, married to an alcoholic batterer who also raped and sodomised me as his "right"... and being bi-polar. Running away with my two kids across three continents finally to arrive in Australia with nothing but each other. Boo-hoo, poor me material.

They also know how I used those experiences and was accepted with open arms by Queensland Dept. of Mental Health; ran myself ragged giving talks while on the Dole and studying; liaised between patients and staff at a local psychiatric ward; ran support groups; did suicide interventions; made docos; communicated with politician Julia Gillard etc. As long as I was a volunteer.

When it came to paid work I wasn't qualified.

I took all that with me when I went to China and found that in a country of huge dichotomies, high suicide rates (never published), depression, high rates of mental illnesses, abysmal education standards, women-as-less-than-other (strongly and officially denied), I was certainly qualified. It all came together.

I've got awards I was given, yellowing on my windowsill in incomprehensible Chinese. But, most importantly, I've got the words of my students: "Cireena, you taught me how to be a woman", "Teacher, you gave me a meaning in my life", "My teacher, You showed me what it meant to be a man", "Until I took your classes I had never realised that I had choices", "You taught me about truth and honesty" , "I learned to love life through you".

I know perfectly well that I'm not alone in getting these kinds of responses:- its what teaching is all about. But to me it proves that what I was doing was working.

Then, once again, I come to Australia and I'm not bloody qualified.

My whole reason for going to University as a "Mature" student was to gain qualifications and credibility that would make my life experiences useful. It was certainly not because of scholastic/corporate/personal ambition. I went to Uni through six of the most difficult years of my personal life because I want to help where I know I can. An ethos that has been devalued by every beauty queen who breathlessly announces she wants to "make a difference" to the poor little kiddies of the world or whatever.

Discovering Seventeenth Century writer Margaret Cavendish was all part of that because it showed me how long women have been living my life and fighting against it. Indeed, how my life, in comparison, looks like a Sunday School picnic. Through Margaret and on behalf of millions of women down through the ages and across the worlds, I hoped to gain a Voice.

But I'm stymied. Time is running on and I'm still just a whisper in the wilderness.

I love knowledge. I submerge myself in learning. So going on to get higher qualifications is not something that daunts me. But knowing that I need those further qualifications before I can even THINK of being taken seriously, however, is starting to get me good and mad. Because the pathway to those qualifications, it appears, takes me directly away from the life experiences that I want to keep building on.

Until I have those magical, door-opening, strings of letters I do not figure in The Great Scheme of Things. To get those strings of letters I have to retire from The Great Scheme of Things.

Each year spent in scrabbling for those letters takes me further and further along my life journey. Women who have turned a certain chronological milestone on that journey are unemployable.

Where the hell is the magical trapdoor that drops me out of this labyrinth of 21st century bureaucratic bull shit and says "You want to do something worthwhile? O.K. Go through door Door Number 2."?

Since the turn of this shiny new century I have returned to University, got myself a couple of degrees, learned new skills, become a teacher, travelled to The Middle Kingdom, gained valuable insights, won awards, turned some peoples lives around, gained insights, had valuable experiences, gathered up knowledge, and considered I was finding myself a place in the world that would make sense of my life.

Instead I have been catapulted me back to where I was 10 years ago: - unemployed, broke and disregarded.

I reckon that's enough to get anyone mad.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Debriefing China

Getting older may not bring wisdom, but I've found that it does bring more need to think things through.

I've changed countries and spaces and homes and places all through my life, but I'm finding that this time, having left China after so long on January 27th, I've brought along a lot of excess baggage. Not, you understand, over the 20k allowance which was all I was able, materially, to bring with me after having made China my home, but inside my head.

So the final move was sudden. So what? Sudden moves are nothing new. It followed a pretty traumatic time. Well, once again, that's nothing new either. I couldn't let people know I was going, or say goodbyes, or do the drunken farewell? Yeah, well, been there and done that too.

So what the hell is going on this time?

Last night there was a news item on the telly. It concerned some "poor" girls who were living in the flat from hell behind a couple of Chinese restaurants here in Australia. The point of contention was that the the back area of the restaurants - and hence the entrance to the girls' flat - was a mess. Rubbish, stray cats, food scraps and food preparation of animals destined for the table were shown with much grimacing, use of words like "disgusting" and anecdotes of horrified relatives, inability to have friends over, and eventually their having to move.

Now, what is it that's made the words "pussies!" and the snarling "big deal, wimps." go coursing through my head, followed by a surge of anger?

Dirt, flies, rats, emaciated cats, stinks...they were all an integral part of my life for the last four years.

Squatting in centimetres of urine with my nose on a level with a waste basket has also been part of my life. An open waste basket chock full of used toilet paper and unwrapped, used sanitary napkins .

I guess not a day went by during that time when I didn't walk through streets gleaming with fresh snot and phlegm, or have gobs of spit aimed at my shoes - sometimes even landing on them.

Having to watch men urinate against buildings, in the open, in alleys became a daily sight and ignoring smiling parents and grandparents who held out kids up to the age of eight to shit all over pavements and paths and even inside shops, was something which often reduced me to tears.

But, hey! I was living in China. I chose to go there. I chose to stay there. I took the decision to accept all of those things each time I extended my contract. The stench of dirt and rot and human waste was also some thing I chose to accept. Not long after I arrived a friend told me that the day one no longer noticed that stench was the day one had been in China too long - and that day never came.

So why do those memories now make me so angryand resentful? What is it about me that makes me want to write about this most unwholesome side of life in China: - a side that most people are far too delicate to mention? And why, when I made so many good friends and was ready to put my life on the line for some of my students, should my brain just run widdershens playing all those nasty things over and over and ignoring all else?

Why is it that now all the negative things are all that crowd into my mind when I think of my former home - the home in which, up until January 27th, 2010, I fought desperately to stay?

What aspect of my personality, which now shows itself as just as nasty as the things of which I write, impels me not just to talk about this, but to dwell on it night after night, day after day?

I have inklings, of course. Is this a reaction to being publicly humiliated? to being shown that I, and all people not Chinese, were of absolutely no importance? Is this a way of rejecting four years of misogyny so deep that Chinese men are able to claim, in all sincerity, it does not exist? Is it some sort of cowardly way, now that I am out of the country, or re-asserting myself, my culture, my race, my civilization?

Is it a normal reaction to having been put in a position of powerlessness so absolute that I doubted my own existence?

The more I try to unpack this curious phenomenon; to rationalise it, normalise it, to find reasons, the more I come to dislike myself and the more the doubts creep in.

But number one amongst these doubts - the thing that is really worrying me and sitting in my head each day since I have been away - is something I am so scared of acknowledging that I have ignored it up until now. Its this:-

Does all this negativity, this compulsion to tell it how it is, in all its distasteful glory, actually point to something much simpler? The thing that worries me now is whether I am about to find out that, after my perceived openness, my fairness, my inability to see race as a dividing factor, I am about to find out that I have been a fraud all my life. Deep down, under all the outward layers, does a piece of me that is forever England, a piece which takes its cue from generations of Imperialism and conquest still survive? Are those first years of life as part of the Colonialism Supremacist culture still lurking in wait in my subconscious?

Am I, dear gods and little fishes, learning racism?