"

‘We can all say “men should not do that in the first place” but this is the same as me leaving my car door open with keys in it and saying “people should not rob”’

No, it’s not. First, there is no good way to avoid assault – 90% of rapists are known to their victims, so those old chestnuts about not wearing short skirts, or going out late at night are nonsense. Second, we have to tackle perpetrators, not tell victims how to behave. Third, it’s incredibly insulting to the vast majority of men to suggest that they are inherently savage and will always attack women given an opportunity. Why should we let perpetrators off the hook “because biology”?

"

— LOVE this - 10 common comments on feminist blog posts and Laura Bate’s replies at The Guardian

Why I changed my mind

Last week I had the great fortune of seeing Maria Popova of Bran Pickings, ideas collator and connector extraordinaire, and hear her speak about her 7 learnings from 7 years of Brain Pickings. If you don’t know what Brain Pickings is, go there now. I’ll see you back here next year.

If you’ve stayed, I managed to buy a copy of this poster, and will be framing it and hanging it on a wall at home, because the insights are so timeless, and helpful in remembering the kinds of ‘rules’ to live by which help in leading a good life.

One of the 7 learnings that resonated most with me is the first one, Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. I’ve heard similar advice from Malcolm Gladwell, and as someone not shy of having an opinion, I think it is critically important to get better at this.

Which brings me to a significant thing I have changed my mind on recently – euthanasia. Once upon a time I was a stringent supporter of a person’s right to choose when they die. A right I thought was particularly important in allowing people the dignity and self-determination to die in cases of terminal and degenerative illness.

But now, I can’t support euthanasia, at least not in the Australia I live in today. In this Australia, old age, disability and illness are painted as negative experiences to be avoided at all costs. To age is to degenerate. To rely on the help of others to do the very basic tasks a human being needs to do daily like eat, wash, use the toilet and sleep is something to feel shame for. We pity people who need the help of others, and stigmatise ageing. To grow older is to become undesirable, not useful, and a drain on society.

The Australian government talks about the ageing population as one of the greatest threats for our economy. If you’re not a ‘lifter’ (i.e. a working tax-payer), you’re a ‘leaner’ – and not only taking resources away from the hard working, but actually putting the future of the nation at risk.

And herein lies the problem for me. In a society which is actively fearful of ageing, disability and illness, where wellness, wealth and youth are celebrated above all else, we turn normal, human experiences into undesirable states of being.

In this framework, I worry that if the option became widely available for people to opt for euthanasia, they may end up doing so because the society they are living in sees them as undesirable burdens on their families, support networks and carers. I see this as extremely dangerous, and as distorting free choice.

I also believe caring for people is an important part of human experience. I never want to be part of a society where someone has chosen to end their life because they don’t want to be a burden on their family, carers or society. I don’t want an Australia where the sentiment could become, “If I was them, I would choose to euthanise myself rather than go on living with that pain [etc].”

And all of that has led me to change my mind on euthanasia and feel that erring on the side of caution is ultimately more reflective of the humanity I wish to live by.

Of course, this is not a perfect decision, and I might change my mind again.

"This strongest of prejudices, the prejudice against what is new and unknown, has, indeed, in an age of changes like the present, lost much of its force; if it had not, there would be little hope prevailing against it. Over three-fourths of the habitable world, even at this day, the answer, “it has always been so,” closes all discussion. But it is the boast of modern Europeans, and of their American kindred, that they know and do many things which their forefathers neither knew nor did; and it is perhaps the most unquestionable point of superiority in the present above former ages, that habit is not now the tyrant it formerly was over opinions and modes of action, and that the worship of custom is a declining idolatry. An uncustomary thought, on a subject which touches the greater interests of life, still startles when first presented; but if it can be kept before the mind until the impression of strangeness wears off, it obtains a hearing, and as rational a consideration as the intellect of the hearer is accustomed to bestow on any other subject."

- Harriet Taylor Mill describes the process of cultural change perfectly, in ways which are still relevant today. This is essentially the answer I give when asked about the potential for cultural change towards women in various cultures around the world - put far more eloquently than I can.

Extract from Enfranchisement of Women (1851) re-published by Dumbo Feather 

"I want to admit that I, like everyone else, am just trying to do the best I can. I think it’s a lot harder for people to be good and do good when they feel like they’re being criticised. We’re all just doing the best we can…I recognise that the notion of a better decision is on a continuum. What’s a better decision for me is different than what’s a better decision for you…I’m just really eager to celebrate people moving in this direction."

— Simran Sethi in Dumbo Feather, Issue 39.

What do you get when you spend two weeks traveling our southernmost state?

This.

Tasmania, Australia.

"In the first half of the last century, many futurists assumed that better technology would allow us to work fewer hours. That, clearly, hasn’t panned out. Instead, we’re told to work hard, work long, retire later, but love the work we do. There’s nothing particularly wrong with either hard work or loving your job. But identifying so completely with your work, something the “do what you love” mantra seems to push us towards, runs the risk of obscuring that even the best-loved job is still built around economic exchange. The professional cellist is still selling her labour every bit as much as the builder."

— Patrick Stokes, Making the hamster love its wheel in New Philosopher mag

Recently read: Americanah, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Burial Rites

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

I’m part of a new book club, which is quite simply fabulous. Mixing three of my favourite things - friends, reading, and critical reflection - is a lot of fun. And we’ve read some fantastic books worth recommending:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie (NYT review)

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie (Guardian review), and 

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (Guardian review)

are three very different but equally wonderful novels I’ve read recently. If you’re looking for young and talented women writers to sink your ‘reading’ teeth into, this is a great place to start.

When months disappear and wherever you go, there you are

Kayaking in the Tarkine Wilderness, Tasmania. 

I have been quiet here. I mix of the intensity of finding my way around a new role at work, a few weeks of holidaying off the grid, and a shift in the way I use my ‘free’ time. 

In this first year of our marriage, I am content spending long stretches of time with him. I’m conscious of how easy it is with busy lives and large social circles and a job that takes me away on planes from time to time that becoming friends who share a house but not a life could happen. 

Not that I even worry that is what’s happening, it isn’t happening. But I like being conscious of actively connecting anyway. We have good habits, so far. I love this. Our relationship. This beautiful marriage.

But it has left me with little to say that is shareable. For now. 

Unless you think the journey of creating and nurturing shared meaning is interesting. Which I do.

The same thing is happening with my family. My siblings have both had children, and I marvel (in the way that humanity can do over and over again) at the wonder of life. At the curious fact that the act of sex can produce a whole new life. A life I’m related to and love, without any effort on my part. It’s fun and incredible.

At the same time as that, my work takes me into the hard territory of a life lived in extreme poverty, and the devastation of emergencies. It has been six months since Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines (how was that only six months ago!?). The people, and especially the women and children, of South Sudan are facing violence and a food crisis. The Central African Republic. Syria and its refugees.

This is a job which keeps you very real.

"I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritise in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up you time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance."

Haruki Murakami

Buy more art

This artwork is by a very talented friend of mine, ingrid k. brooker. I like her stuff. A lot. But I’ve never bought anything. I don’t know why that is.

So this year, I’m going to change that. You can too by clicking on the link above to a site where ingrid has some things for sale. 

Alternatively, you may have your own friend who does something creative you love that you’ve never bought before. That’s one thing you could do this week that would tip the scales of the world a little more in the right direction.

Thank you Sheryl Sandberg

image

I know a lot of people have problems with Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In movement, but I’m not one of them.

I recently spent a few weeks debating about whether I should try and change things up in my career and apply for a new opportunity, but spent a lot of time doubting myself. 

And then I heard Sheryl, or at least what she sounded like in my head before I’d also watched her TED talk and knew how she sounded, saying,

"Lean in!"

"Fake confidence until you have it"

"Sit at the table"

And the rest. 

So I listened, I dusted off the resume, I applied, and I wait.

Even if I don’t get the role, I’m relieved I didn’t sit on my hands and watch the opportunity go by.

Leaning in feels good!

p.s. I got the job!

Image: Meeting a community farm group led by a headstrong, delightful woman (in the red head scarf) in Zimbabwe.

Giving out a polaroid picture; tripod in the village; teaching the kids how to work a camera; three little pigs; arms up; radio; kids as camera experts again; laughing at me; tobacco plants - Malawi.

Tags: Malawi CARE

Waking up in Lilongwe, Malawi

It’s 5am and I’m listening to the birds wakeup around me, the crickets chirp. It’s quiet, apart from the wildlife. 

Today is my first day out of a week where I’m working in Malawi, interviewing people who are part of CARE’s projects. I love this part of my job, and feel privileged that I get to connect with the people we work for in Australia. It feels good to feel the world connected and close.

I’m reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, enjoying it, and am wondering what should come next. 

And in all this reading and traveling, and knowing that in our world of plane travel, we are never really more than a day away from wherever it is you think is far away, it becomes impossible to ignore “over there”. Nothing is really “over there” anymore. 

Not our carbon emissions, not our environmental pollution, not the people who make our clothes, or package our food, or build and design our gadgets. In this connected world we are all neighbours.

There is no excuse for turning away.

Tags: malawi travel

Waiting for the plane

I have experience in airports. Rating them has, unsurprisingly become a habit. Perth International Airport gets. 2.5. One point for the view, one for the air conditioning (it was 43 degrees outside at 6pm. Really.) and half a point for the man next to me playing his iPad music collection without earphones. Hello ABBA, it’s been a while.

With two hours passed and another three to go, I am recalling the banality of Brunei International Airport and remembering to be thankful. At least there aren’t toy oil rigs for sale here. Yet.

But what makes a five star airport? Here are a few suggestions:

- enough adequate seating
- free internet
- a newsagent/book shop
- clean toilets, bonus for free showers
- free computers to use free internet
- good duty free options
- money exchange place with reasonable rates
- post office or place to buy stamps and post mail.
- free drinking water.

Perth, you’re half way there.