Tag Archives: thoughts

Let’s try with some empathy

Now I understand you don’t want to engage with the angry person who is swearing over there.  You can see that they’re upset, but you’re not entirely sure why, and you’re certainly not sure why they’re this angry.  Surely such a little thing shouldn’t provoke such strong emotions in someone – they must be unhinged, or overly sensitive – surely.

After all, dealing with angry, upset, and/or sweary people isn’t pleasant and it certainly isn’t fun.  So of course the logical response is to tell them to calm down, to tell them that you won’t engage with them when they’re like this, that you feel threatened by their response, and that their language is inappropriate and that they need to be more civil.

How about instead of telling someone how they should react to something, you think a bit about why they might be reacting that way, how constant microaggressions might have worn them down, and how this might have been the final straw after they’ve been polite to everyone else whose pushed them down that day/week/month/year.  Think about how they might actually see the thing that you said or wrote, and how that might look from their position.  Actually apologise for upsetting them and then invite them to tell you what you can do to avoid upsetting them again in future – because people generally want to avoid having their feet stepped on, they will often provide you with suggestions resources on how your organisation or yourself can be more inclusive, open, and less upsetting.

But if they don’t, because it is not their job to educate you, go and find those resources yourself.  Read up on the issues, reactions, things to avoid doing, things to do, and ways to be a better person and organisation.  There are many of people out there who blog about these issues, and you can read those and learn why it is that people are upset about this issue, and decide how you can be a better person/organisation.

If you still don’t understand the issues, go and talk to people you know who identify with the person who was upset and ask for their advice.  Go and talk to organisations that represent the person who was upset and find out what you can do in future to avoid upsetting people who identify with that group.  Be empathic, care about those who are in pain, and do what you can to avoid adding to the burdens they carry.  Be a place of safety, sanctity and refuge from the rest of the places that haven’t yet learnt to be empathetic and better.

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The legacy we leave

I’m a strong believer that we should leave the world, and the people we touch (as much as possible) in a better state than we found it.  We should not pass our damage down onto our children, but lesssen or remove it as possible.  Every generation should hopefully be better than the last.  And I see that (with the exception of politics) that many of the people I know, love, interact with, and read about seem to at least feel the same way.

Fiona O’Loughlin is one of my favourite comedians.  I love her stories, her honesty and most recently her book, “Me of the Never Never“.  There was one passage in particular that resonated with me:

As you cross the Todd River, Aborigines are in full view always, sometimes drinking, sometimes fighting, but mostly just sitting.  I think it would be fair to say that it is usually in the car when you’re crossing the river that urban Alice Springs kids, black or white, will ask their parents for the first time about the Aborigines in the river.

‘Why do those people sit in the river all the time?’

To my mind it is a crucial question that requires a crucial answer and it can go either way.

‘Because they’re drunks.’

‘Because they’re bludgers.’

‘Because they’re no-hopers.’

I guess, as is often the case, racism comes as much from ignorance as malice, but right at that moment you can either pass on intolerance or not, and it’s such a heavy load to hand onto a little kid.  A kid that may well spend his or her life in Central Australia has been given with authority a very heavy sack of fat, pompous, pious prejudice.

‘Why do those people sit in the river all the time?’

‘I don’t know, maybe they’re waiting.’

‘Waiting for what?’

‘Waiting for better days, I think.’

Simple.

And I thought after reading that passage, “Yes, that’s exactly it – we shouldn’t pass racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, queerphobia, or sexism onto children.”  We should shelter them as much as possible from these things, let them know that they exist, because otherwise it’d be a nasty shock when they encounter them, but to not teach our prejudices to our children.

Of course, this is really a hard thing to do.  Easy for me to say as a woman who hasn’t managed to successfully have children, hard for a parent whose children want to know what their parents thoughts are on various issues.  I don’t envy parents in this regard.

But if we could shelter children from the structural sexism, racism, and homo, bi, trans* and queer phobias that exist in society, or at least get them to question themselves and others when these things are presented as facts wouldn’t that make the world a better place?

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Let’s talk about Doctor Who, story telling and character development

This post is going to be about the most recent (2012/2013) series of Doctor Who and may touch on the 2013, 50th Anniversary episode, and the 2013 Christmas special.  If you haven’t watched any of these, and don’t want the spoilers ahead, have a kittie and enjoy the rest of the internet.

Ok, let’s get started

Story telling

It’s not that Moffat can’t tell a good story, well maybe it is.  Coupling was funny, but is based on his life, and Sherlock is based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, so maybe he can’t tell a good story.  What really annoyed me about this entire season (minus 50th anniversary special and the Christmas episode), was that the story arc, and apparently there was one, was pretty much non-existent.  The Christmas episode ended with the disbandment of “The Great Intelligence” so that it would be a long time before it could threaten the earth, or the galaxy or something.

The first episode of 2013 had a cameo appearance of the Great Intelligence (a seriously wanky name for a villain), that the Doctor doesn’t notice, but is a suggestion to the viewer that something more might come from this.

And then nothing, nothing concrete about the Great Intelligence until the final episode when we discover that the Great Intelligence is pissed at the Doctor for constantly upsetting his plans, the plans we should note that have never really happened during this season apart from the 2012 Christmas special and the first episode in 2013.  That’s two whole plans in a season, that’s not plans, that’s a side story that something forgot.

It turns out that the Great Intelligence has a massive backstory, but as a minor reoccurring villain the average fan, especially new fans, are not going to have the foggiest idea what is going on.  This is not a story arc, this is a shoehorned “let’s make everything neat and tidy and pretend we had a plan”.

River Song

The Name of the Doctor (final episode of this season), casts the Doctor as a selfish arsehole.  It’s not exactly like it’s hard to cast him like that, in an earlier season River Song tells Amy not to grow old in front of the Doctor, that it upsets him (oh woe, poor Doctor who has been associating with humans for at least 1000 years, he should be used to it).

After Clara has done something of her own volition for a change (more on that later), River attempts to stop the Doctor entering the bright shiny thing, and only at this point does the Doctor acknowledge that he can see her.  We find out that at this point in her timeline she’s dead, but is effectively haunting the doctor because he hasn’t said goodbye, and he’s been ignoring her because it’s painful.  Quite frankly I think being dead and haunting someone who won’t say goodbye to you is more painful than the Doctor’s fee fees (especially as her death was pretty tragic), but he is important man, so his feelings are totes more important that River’s, and she’s dead anyway.

Clara

Clara spends most of this season doing what’s she’s told.  Protect this, go there, do this, stay here, and this follows through until the 2013 Christmas episode.  When she does do her own thing, it’s often to save the Doctor from something or someone, or to beg someone else to take action to save the doctor.  She’s a stereotypical female character, feisty, determined, somewhat argumentative (but only to a point), and wants to have all the fun – except when she doesn’t.

The sad thing about the character of Clara is that there was a lot of potential for mystery and exploration of why she was always around saving the Doctor.  There should have been (given the ending of the episode The Name of the Doctor) more attempts by the Doctor to remember if he’d run into her before, or only recently (because it was only recently as far as the current stories go).

The Doctor’s “Mysterious Girl”, and the resolution of why she keeps appearing in the Doctor’s life is apparently the true arc of this episode, but again it’s shoehorned in.  There is the Doctor pondering it, but instead of actually talking to people who might know (as he’s done in other seasons), or doing much beyond sometimes thinking about it (out loud), it’s not really the point of the season, even though it is.

The pregnant/not pregnant scan during an earlier season when it turned out that Amy was effectively a replicant/pod person (or whatever they were called), was quite well done, and on reflection you could see that the stories linked into each other as there was a common theme.  Clara is not a theme, she is a character.  You can’t really use a character like Clara as a theme in the same way as you can use a scan, or a series of words (Bad Wolf), or the scar in the universe.

And really the Doctor treats her like she’s 7 half the time.  He attempts to protect her, even when she doesn’t want protecting.  He breaks his promises to her about not leaving her behind, or about letting her join in the fight, and apparently this doesn’t piss her off enough to tell him to get fucked (and it should).  Unlike some of the other “companions” that the Doctor has recently, Clara obeys and sets out to do the best job obeying that she possibly can, except when she thinks she’s being left behind, in which case she’ll do what she can to stay and help/protect the doctor.

The Christmas episode

Which makes the Christmas episode all the more annoying.  Against Clara’s express wishes, and the Doctor’s own promise (and we didn’t see him cross his fingers), he sends her away, multiple times.  Clara fights to come back and manages the first time, but not the second, until she is brought back by the Tasha from the Church of the Papal Mainframe.  Seriously the Doctor is such an arsehole.

The Doctor spends over 300 years on Trenzalore, and for the first time, despite hanging around in his current form for a few hundred years, he ages and gets frail… how many hundreds of years, on a planet that is pretty much at war every day, does the Doctor stay there?  The planet’s population seems to not just survive, but also thrive despite being at war for over 300 years (that’s a lot of war), though I can be convinced that the war was more occasional incursions.

Once again Clara saves the day by begging the Time Lords (who just want to be set free so they can keep being the arseholes of the universe), to save the Doctor.  Her mission in life is to save the Doctor, she has no other purpose in this universe.  Sure she gets to look after children from time to time, but mostly she’s just off saving the Doctor.  It’s been remarked upon before that women in Moffat’s universe are the nurturing caring types and that’s pretty much all they get to be, and Clara pretty much just that.

Conclusion

Moffat really needs to stop being show runner.  He’s had lots of fun now, but the show will do better (and attract all the fans that have left because of him) if someone else took over.  The last season was so disappointing and frustrating because it was so badly put together.  Some of the stories were good, but I watched the season out of habit (and because I was travelling and watching TV during the heat of the Roman summer was a necessary thing).  I want to be gripped by the stories and the season arc like I was when Russell T Davies was running the show. I want the seasons to be as tight as Torchwood and as gripping, and this last season was a joke.

Doctor Who isn’t likely to drop in ratings anytime soon, because people are still watching it and still hoping for the magic to return.  It’s not going to return, and I’m beginning to lose interest in watching future episodes.  I’m vaguely interested in Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, but with Moffat running the show, I don’t know if I can be bothered.

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The death of a tyrant

What do you do when someone who has caused harm to others and who you don’t like at all dies?  I guess singing “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” probably would be frowned upon.  I have a strong honesty policy and the idea that we should not speak ill of the dead, no matter how problematic they were as individuals is one that I don’t abide by.

I do find it interesting how long the philosophy of not speaking ill of the dead has been around for (wikipedia):

The Latin phrases De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“Of the dead, nothing unless good.”) and De mortuis nil nisi bene [dicendum] (“Of the dead, nothing [spoken] unless good.”) indicate that it is socially inappropriate to speak ill of the dead. As a mortuary aphorism, De mortuis. . . . derives from the Latin sentence De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est (“Of the dead nothing but good is to be said”), which also is abbreviated as Nil nisi bonum. In English usage, freer translations are the aphoristic phrases “Speak no ill of the dead”, “Of the dead, speak no evil”, and “Do not speak ill of the dead”.

The first recorded use of the phrase of mortuary respect, dates from the 4th century, published in the Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (ca. AD 300), Book 1, Chapter 70, by Diogenes Laërtius, wherein the Greek aphorism τὸν τεθνηκóτα μὴ κακολογεῖν (“Don’t badmouth a dead man”) is attributed to Chilon of Sparta (ca. 600 BC), one of the Seven Sages of Greece. In the 15th century, during the Italian Renaissance, the humanist monk Ambrogio Traversari translated Diogenes’s Greek book into Latin, as Laertii Diogenis vitae et sententiae eorum qui in philosophia probati fuerunt (1433), and so popularized De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, the Latin aphorism advising respect for the dead.

So it’s a whole lot of cultural baggage for many of us to shed to speak ill of the dead.  I’m much more in favour of an honest recounting, I don’t want my enemies (if I have any) to sing my praises when I’m dead (though they’re welcome to sing the praises of my death if that works for them).

I’m not going to go out and rejoice that a tyrant is dead in front of those people who are grieving the loss of that individual, because I’m not insensitive.  I know that this person was loved by others and that their loss is mourned, I respect that.  I think that my relief and the celebration of the removal of a particular stress from my life now that this person has died should be something that I don’t feel guilty about.

I (oddly) agree with Freud on this one (Wikipedia):

We assume a special attitude towards the dead, something almost like admiration for one who has accomplished a very difficult feat. We suspend criticism of him, overlooking whatever wrongs he may have done, and issue the command, De mortuis nil nisi bene: we act as if we were justified in singing his praises at the funeral oration, and inscribe only what is to his advantage on the tombstone. This consideration for the dead, which he really no longer needs, is more important to us than the truth, and, to most of us, certainly, it is more important than consideration for the living.[2]

When Thatcher died some people were upset that others were celebrating in the streets.  Sometimes when a tyrant dies, dancing in the streets is the first thing that comes to mind.

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One of these things is not like the other

When pinpointing one of many causes of mental illness, I think there is a big difference between stating that your mental health was impacted by how you were treated by others, such as bullying, harassment, *phobia, racism, etc, and that your mental health was impacted by others calling specific behaviours out.

In the first, other agents are impacting you, hopefully in the second the realisation that you are being an arse (in whatever way), causes you to step back and reflect on whether or not you were/are an arse, and what you may need to do to change that.  When it is your behaviour that has impacted on your mental health, when said behaviour is pointed out, you cannot blame those who have pointed out that your behaviour is bad.

 

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Let’s talk about shame

I would argue that there are two kinds of shame, the shame of realising that you’ve completely fucked up and done the wrong thing and the shame used to silence people by either making them believe that they are wrong, that something they did was against societal standards, or that they failed to live up to some imaginary standard.

I don’t want to talk about the first type other than to say being ashamed of doing the wrong thing is a powerful lesson, provided you admit it, apologise and work at not doing it again.

The second type is the one I want to talk about.  The second type of shame, the silencing one, the one that can stop you seeking help you need, finding support mechanisms, that makes you feel less because of some attribute (real or imaginary) that you do or do not possess, or stops you leaving the house.

The second type can be imposed by other people or just through societal conditioning.  As an example fat people are regularly shamed by just about everyone by virtue of being fat.  Just existing as a fat person apparently is something to be ashamed of, and something that many people will point out to your face.  Also less subtly and direct, is all the media and government “concern” about obesity and what needs to be done about it.  Being fat is apparently shameful, and in worse case scenarios, fat people won’t seek medical help for life threatening conditions because they don’t want to be shamed further, or they attribute their health status to being fat versus whatever it might actually be.  The fact that fat people are also shamed by their medical professionals adds to an incredibly unfair burden.  Kath at Fat Heffalump writes a lot about why being fat is nothing to be ashamed of.

Being a woman is something that we’re often shamed for, whether it be because we haven’t removed enough hair, we’re not wearing the right amount of makeup, we’re wearing not wearing enough, we’re wearing too much, we’re drinking, we’re not drinking, we’re too old, too young, menstruating, eating, not eating, “being emotional”, nagging, having sex, not having sex, or any other of a number of attributes that some imaginary perfect woman would not have.

I looked at the list of things I was supposed to feel ashamed about one day, while standing naked in front of a mirror, and I decided that they could, for the most part, go and fuck themselves in a fire.  Why should I stand cowered by the world because I didn’t measure up to some arbitrary standard that next to no one else measured up to either.  Just think, if there were people who measured up to this standard women’s gossip magazines (which pretty much sell shame) would be out of business.  I decided at this point that I was going to do my best to live shamelessly, to ignore other people’s attempts to shame me for being myself, and love who I was.

I’ve always found it interesting that “shameless woman” is an insult, but there is no male equivalent.  Not that men aren’t shamed either – it’s just a different set of criteria (having feels about things, not acting in an appropriately masculine manner, being perceived as weak, etc).  The phrase “shameless woman” does come from the bible though, so thanks Christianity for making life suck.

One of the things I learnt growing up was that I had to do it on my own, that I should be able to manage by myself, and that appearing as if I couldn’t cope was a weakness.  Let’s just say that was one of the worst lessons to learn.  It took me close to breaking point before I realised that I was trying to do it on my own in silence because I was ashamed to ask for help.  The bad lessons I’d learnt included the silencing of shame – because asking for help would be an admission that I wasn’t able to cope and do this on my own any more.  The relief of laying aside the shame and finding out that help was available was an amazing thing.

It’s terrible that as a society that we both unconsciously perpetuate shame by not speaking up against it, and that we let shame impact on us.  Being you should be nothing to be ashamed of.  None of us are perfect, none of us are perpetually strong, none of us have a perfect body, our emotional responses are valid, our choices to participate or not in the beauty standard are our own, our ability to cope or not cope as the situation arises is ok, your health situation is nothing to be ashamed of, your money or lack of it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Please do not let shame rule your life.  Go out there, be a proud shameless person, and speak your mind.

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When it’s not about you

*trigger warning for discussion of rape*

So this is for those people who fail to consider other people before looking for their own emotional resolution.  Those people who demand closure or their emotions handled when the epicentre of something bad happened to someone else they know.  I do get that generally we are self centred individuals who think about our own suffering before others, but we should perhaps consider not opening our mouths when someone else has every reason to be suffering or grieving more than we do ourselves.

It is not the job of the person/s who are in the epicentre of some terrible event to consider the feelings of other people who are peripheral to the epicentre.  The epicentre sucks, and the concentric circles of closeness from that event also suck, but they suck less and less than the epicentre.

Let me give some examples, one that I’ve experienced myself even.  When a partner of 18 months left me to be monogamous with his other partner, someone I had hoped to receive some sympathy from when I told them the news was upset with me because I didn’t think of her feelings in telling her this news.  She expected me to sympathise with her over the loss of a potential relationship she might have had versus the actual relationship I’d lost.  She was angry that I didn’t sympathise with her, even though I was completely unaware of her potential relationship.  She’d made it all about her and failed to consider where the epicentre of hurt was in this instance.

Another scenario, one I’ve heard more than once, when a relationship breaks down and someone not in the relationship exclaims their disappointment at the relationship breaking down, wanting some kind of support for their pain over hearing that the relationship is over, without any consideration for what the person is telling them feels about it.

Just like when someone discloses to you that they’ve been raped, the focus should not be on the listener’s feelings about the whole issue:

Maintain the focus on her. This is tricky, because each rape victim is unique and the response they need from you may vary from person to person. I have in the past said not to react with anger, because that puts the victim in the position of having to talk someone down from committing murder or assault, but I’ve since heard from rape victims who felt that anger in response to their stories was helpful and cathartic. So I will amend my earlier statement to say that expressing emotion, even strong emotion, is probably fine, but do it while remembering that this moment isn’t about you so much as it is about the victim. Communication is very valuable here: “I’m going to kill him!” is very very unlikely to be helpful, but saying “I know this isn’t about me, but I’m just so furious at him. Is there anything I can do for you?” is one way of expressing strong emotion while still affirming that you are there to help the victim, rather than she being there to talk you down from homicide or console you at being confronted with rape culture*. [ana mardoll’s ramblings]

So, if it isn’t about you, don’t make it about you.  Be there for the person at the epicentre of tragedy, because if that was you, you’d want exactly that.  Don’t make the person/s at the epicentre have to care for you and take time away from processing their own emotions and reactions about the tragedy, don’t give them more work in having to care about you.

This has been your friendly PSA for the week.

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