Vanity and difference…

If I’ve learned anything over the past week, it’s that no matter how genuinely respectful your tone, no matter how much practice you’ve put into avoiding becoming a didactic ass, no matter how much you yourself may be a stakeholder, no matter how much the extent of your empathy, no matter how much you’ve read on the topic, no matter how much charity of interpretation you’ve already extended to parties who’ve otherwise been denied it, no matter how many times you’ve kept quiet so someone else could have their say, and no matter how much good faith has been invested in your inquiry, some people are always going to regard explanations for why your opinion differs, or why you’re coming at a question from a certain angle, as condescending. For some people, anything less than silence or uncritical agreement is going to be treated as condescension, not because it’s actually condescending, or politically suspect, but because you’re dealing with narcissists and their enablers, and your differing assumptions, no matter how tentatively stated, and no matter how small the difference, are in disharmony with their particular articulation of a set of protected beliefs – the hill upon which they’ve built their throne.

If you’ve given one of these authority figures a narcissistic injury, good grief you’re going to pay for it. Or at least, that’s the commitment some people will adopt, albeit behind a tissue-thin veneer of denial, accompanied by vague allusions to principle.

~ Bruce

Still depressed…

… but still chugging along.

Yes, haven’t I been neglectful with the blogging?

Have I taken leave of my senses, stripped naked and run off into the forest, moss growing in my crevices? No, not exactly.

I’m still depressed. That’s not changing. It’s a life-long vocation.

But I’m not about to start chittering with the squirrels either. Not unless someone posts a picture of them to my Facebook wall, in which case I’ll probably gawp and mew, rather than chitter.

People do worry when you remain submerged beneath everyone’s social strata for long periods. But honestly, it’s all cool. Yes, you; I have noticed. Thanks for caring. Now please stop fretting.

No. I haven’t had a social life off somewhere else. Yes. I have been busy. Productive even.

Only, I’m hammering the fuck out of myself of late. My daily caloric intake is hovering around the 1600 mark, and I’ve been a little bit of a fiend at the gym. Relatively speaking that is… I’ve trained harder before, when somewhat younger… specifically at age 29.

Okay… so I’ve hit 40 recently. I guess 11 years is more than “somewhat”.

Still. The weights I’m lifting are going up despite the caloric restriction, and I’ve lost 10k of flubber over the past 4 weeks.

The connective tissue pain of the past 8 years has been reduced to a bare minimum. I haven’t had this kind of mobility since… my 20s…

My 20s… gawd. My first blog post, a few platforms back and nearly ten years ago, was published just a few weeks after the last day of my 20s. And even then before poor health set in, I was somewhat fresh for my age.

I had youth when I started blogging. And more hair on top of my head.

I also had depression, as always, and it was far more poorly managed than now. I’m not inclined towards nostalgia about that.

Right now I weigh as much as I did when I was 25, although that’s no great feat given that I was fitter at 29. My aim is to get down to something approximating my body composition of twenty years ago – perhaps with a little more muscle (for physical comfort and strength, not vanity).

If… If I can maintain the amount of progress I’ve made so far, this goal is conceivably doable by winter’s end. I’d certainly be placed in close striking distance at least.

But this means putting my head down, and continuing to hammer away in the small hours at gym… on a low energy diet… which doesn’t leave me with much time or inclination left for socialising, or for writing.

It’s a fight. And I can justify neglecting my writing for the time being, the possibilities for improving my heath being what they are. Indeed, it’s been my health holding my writing back for some time now, albeit up until more recent years, mostly in terms of the quality of what I churn out.

Exercise is good for depression as well, of course. There’s that.

I am taking care of myself, actually. Thanks for checking. Although I’ll lurk at the surface here for a little while before submerging again. I have a likely spoken word engagement in the near future, I’ve a large, deeply personal post in draft form I’m umming and ahhing about publishing, and my tenth anniversary of blogging is on Monday.

Now if it’s all the same, I think I’ll grab a little shut eye.

Oh, and hello again! And goodnight!

~ Bruce

Just a thought…

800px-Penciltip

It strikes me that in going to great lengths to sharpen your wit, you risk something akin to symptoms of obsessive pencil sharpening.

Sure, for a while you’ll be able to deliver sharp jabs, frequently and with consistency. But before too long, you’ll find yourself fumbling with words, struggling to create anything worth serious reading, the heft of your word-smithing atrophied through neglect.

~ Bruce

His Vital Fluids

fluids James fumbled at the lid of his bottle of herbal remedy; a circle of plastic that clung to the glass like a noose. He didn’t approve of plastic, nor anything the magazines claimed leeched environmental estrogens, but all the same he reasoned, the tribulus should more than compensate for any contamination.

Gums ached and guilt welled, the notion appearing in his mind that he’d be a little less manly as he bit at the lid, estrogens squeezing from the plastic into his saliva and whatnot. He’d not be doing this if his partner hadn’t poisoned the tribulus on the front lawn with glyphosate – a twin sin that disposed of herbal medicine and boosted Monsanto in one fell swoop.

‘The kids get the seeds stuck in their feet, and I’ve had to fix the tyres on my bike three times in the last month!’, echoed the rationalisations of the other half.

Tablets finally freed, he almost poured generic tap water in a fit of haste. Chiding himself first, his glass was filled from the filtered spout, its contents washing down the boost to his masculinity. There would be no fluoride, nor no other nasties for one James Sandalwood!

His partner, Mrs Sandalwood (he’d never sign up to any of that un-reflexive, modernist claptrap of hyphenated names), had taken her kids off to the Steiner school they’d finally been enrolled in. James, emerging from late morning snooze, assumed his role of provider, looking out from the kitchen window over the organic garden that replaced both what had been Mrs Sandalwood’s outdoor dining area, and a well-maintained patch of lawn.

Scalp flaking, ball sack itching, beard managing to be both dry and oily at once, James made for the shower, the scent of lavender just another barrage against his manhood in a world where true men were perpetually undermined – so he reasoned. As the scum of the night before – scum he’d slept in – began to wash down his body, barbs from his pre-bed Facebook battles emerged in his mind as if revealed from beneath the stink and dead skin.

A hand shot out from the curtain to grasp the container of Ajax, with which he powdered his body, before wetting himself further and grinding at skin, oil, zits and flakes. Detritus obliterated, the smell of grease, dirty denim and steampunk workshops exploded in James’ mind – a manly evocation.

Upon patting down with a towel freshly laundered the prior afternoon, James decided that the garden could wait another hour. He owed it to society to one-by-one, correct the popular misconceptions that plagued hapless minds. Incense lit, coffee plunged and poured, Tangerine Dream turned up on a loop over the stereo, James made for the MacBook on the lounge room coffee table, his body adorned only by freshly laundered boxers.

Only buy local food! Eschew anything that comes out of a corporation! Buy second hand wherever possible! Crypto-currency is the future! Self-medicate! False flags! Manufacturing consent! Sugar! Do not vaccinate! Everywhere estrogens!

James was perpetually aghast at the endless supply of ignorance that poured forth on the Internet, and at the apathy and skewed priorities of otherwise educated people. Some feminist keyboard warrior, or what James assumed to be one, had bothered to sidetrack his discussion on fertility with talk of implicit ‘gender essentialism’.

The impression James got, was that this individual as trying to protect transgendered folk, but surely if society got rid of the excess estrogens in the environment, that’d all sort itself out with generational change. Besides, there were all the cancers to consider as well. Priorities!

This exchange had got James so distracted, that he hadn’t noticed until too late that his Tangerine Dream selection was on its third loop, and hours had past. The partner would be home too early now, and he’d have nothing to show for his labours, such was the unfair nature of his life and his life’s mission. Fire arced up his spine at the thought of another fruitless domestic argument.

James wondered what the ghosts of the houses’ past residents would make of his dilemmas. He was a man who worked with his hands to provide for the family table. The house was an old stone-walled job, built when the suburb was working class. James saw the spectres of long-gone men in overalls looking down at him in his boxers, and he resolved to water the veggie patch.

Precious rainwater sluiced over carrot tops and cabbages as James pondered how unappreciated he was, even in his own home. Books that he’d sampled and memorised to his own satisfaction sat behind a patina of dust that gave testimony to the philistines his partner’s children seemed intent on becoming.

James had tried to inject a little culture into the mix, prints of Degas’ portraits of young women adorning the walls. Mrs Sandalwood didn’t object to her kids viewing nudes, however she had concerns about the objectification inherent in Degas’ work, as well as concerns about anti-Semitism expressed in his other works – an oversensitivity that James had on occasion had to explain, left her open to Zionist manipulation.

Mrs Sandalwood worked in advertising, a fact which James could overlook on account of her better qualities and knowledge on specific policy points. He did, however, feel he had his work cut out for him on account of her buying into the prevailing materialist paradigm. That, and she could be annoyingly assertive even when he felt she was wrong.

Fuck! Too much water. Again intrusions into man-space disrupted James’ train of thought, tampering with his fluids in a way James felt harshly apt; his élan vital derailed.

Speaking of which, the craft beer, along with the peach wine he’d had brewing in the shed would have finished fermenting. Hopefully he’d be well into bottling before Mrs Sandalwood got home with her kids.

(Photo Source: Henningklevjer).

Adventures in Ipso Facto Land…

Kremlin There’s a golem of rubbish that rears its ugly maw every now and then, spewing invective and irrational sanctimony whenever The Enemy’s Enemy gets something right, in spite of how often they get things wrong. Or at least, when The Enemy’s Enemy doesn’t mess up as badly on some singular point as does The Enemy. The upshots are romanticised while the down-sides are de-emphasised, ignored, or actively written off as non-existent – accounts to the contrary being propaganda of The Enemy.

Supposedly you’d know this if you were tuned-in to The New Paradigm, or had taken The Red Pill, or availed yourself of whatever other means of squinting with head askew required to parse complete garbage into high truth.

The particular denizen of Ipso Facto Land I currently have in mind is the Putinophile – the breed of supposed lefty that simply on account of the transgressions of the United States of America, views a murdering theocratic tyrant as a flawed hero. “USA bad, ipso facto Russia good”. With the recent release of Citizenfour, which reminds certain folks of Russia’s protection of Ed Snowden – all out of the good of Putin’s heart, no doubt – you’ll possibly have to listen to these tuned-in types prattle on about Russia just being misunderstood.

***

Putin’s regime, devoid of strong opposition as it is, is leading its people to tolerate gays, only while respecting tradition in the process. Leaders have to take The People with them.

Pussy Riot? They were needlessly provocative. They could have couched their concerns in a less obscene tone. And let’s remember, religion was horribly persecuted under Stalin – you have to expect that today’s Russian Orthodox is a religion still licking its wounds while shivering in fear. Pussy Riot should have taken that into account before sinking the boot in.

Why don’t more lefties understand Putin? The guy is sending troops into Ukraine to fight neo-Nazi militia. Ipso facto that makes him progressive. The right-wing never fight amongst themselves. What’s wrong with you? Are you a Right Sector supporter?

Tony Abbott said he was going to shirt-front Vladimir Putin, and Tony Abbott is right-wing, ipso facto

Russia Today, or RT as the kids say nowadays, isn’t a bad thing. Why, “state television” is just right-wing propaganda designed to make “public television” look evil. RT is just like the BBC, or PBS or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – wholesome, and not at all like the Murdochracy.

It’s not a “prostitution of journalism”!

The deaths of journalists like Anna Politkovskaya, whistleblowers like Alexander Litvinenko, and opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov could all just be coincidental. Just like the “at least 29 journalists” that Joan Smith claims were killed in connection with their criticisms of Putin’s regime – they could have all just written bad restaurant reviews. People get shirty over all sorts of things.

And why hasn’t Joan Smith been bumped off by Putin yet, if he’s so terrible?

***

Increasingly it seems, you’ll be told, along with the afore mentioned kinds of evasions, that RT and Russia really care about Palestine, and that the Kremlin (which RT tows the line of) would never cynically use a Middle Eastern nation as a proxy for its own interests. The US would, ipso facto

Never mind that you may be able to recall all of the criticisms of the US Government made in Citizenfour, and may very well agree with every single one of them – if you don’t obsess over what a hero Putin is, you’ve missed the point. You’ll be told to watch the documentary again, or with unintentional irony, be told to “think about it”.

If you don’t experience the paradigm shift, then supposedly you’re not getting to the truth.

It’s almost as if not being able to articulate a serious criticism of Western hypocrisy of their own, their entire pretence rests on an ipso facto argument arising from the delusion of a heroic Russia.

~ Bruce

(Photo Source: Dion Hinchcliffe).

First and last words…

Last year, I quietly resigned from the Humanist Society of South Australia (HSSA). After subsequently having my departure “explained” by a member of the HSSA, last month I came clean by writing a piece for Butterflies and Wheels, explaining a number of my issues with the way the HSSA is run (i.e. the actual reasons why I left).

You can read that over here

As you’d expect, this was met with indignation. A few points;

  • No, my list of complaints was not a full, rounded account of people’s characters, but given that it wasn’t an attempt at biography – an entirely different genre – that’s not an issue.
  • Yes, inferences were made. I complained about the smoke, but didn’t demonstrate the existence of the fire. This isn’t however, an issue if I left on account of the smoke. I can leave an organisation on whatever basis I choose and yes, those reasons can infer other things. This is largely unavoidable and does not obligate me to silence.
  • It should occur to some people, especially those in leadership roles, that we’re all forced to communicate within given limits, and rely in good faith upon our audiences to pick apart and analyse things according to their ability and what they’re given to work with. You can’t reasonably expect people to just trust you, or to agree with you in all things, or to come to a given issue with an approved set of interests.

As you’d expect, (with the exception of one HSSA member) none of this was demonstrated to have been appreciated.

The kind of story telling that only convinces those who’ve opted to believe in advance, ensued. I’ve recently pulled some of this fabulist rubbish apart, again over at Butterflies and Wheels.

You can read that here.

~ Bruce

Australia…

oz_flag I’d be a liar if I said the Australian flag did nothing for me. It’s evocative of good memories from a childhood with just a few.

Memories of my Australian-made bathers from the 1970s, and a barbecue at a beach in Port Lincoln that now hosts expensive townhouses adjoining a marina, are frequently summoned by the sight of my nation’s flag. My father, being a fisherman, wasn’t always home, and when he was home he was frequently moody, especially as the years wore on. But at the beach, he was in his element, and the barbeque was as close as he had to a sacred rite. Southwark Bitter, in a longneck with a green label was the communal wine.

It’s a pretty stereotypical image of Australia, but it’s not one that was inculcated into me via advertising or viral memes, and obviously, it predates the popular hooliganism of flag-capes, vandalism and race rioting that’s been in the ascendant since the 1990s. But it is what it is; bathers, barbeque, beach and booze.

I’ve always been in favour of Australia becoming a republic, although I’m ambivalent about the issue of the flag. I don’t view it as so sacred that I’d oppose it being changed, and yet I’m not motivated to see it go.

Maybe, if I wasn’t as emotionally numb as I am, I’d get up in arms about it. Maybe, if I had a better grasp of my own emotional state, I’d anticipate feelings of loss at the prospect of it going away. I can’t say I know for sure.

The most I can muster from this introspection, is a realisation of how folks more emotional than myself may also be more invested, either way.

Other folks surely see the flag differently, even if only in degree.

More broadly, the concept of Australia isn’t objectively bound just to things that are popularly cherished. It’s not just slabs, thongs, zinc cream and shorts. Australian culture is anything that Australians can experience it as, and that includes the snake bites, the road accidents and the racial violence.

You don’t get to expect that people’s subjective experiences are recounted in a manner identical to your own. Reality doesn’t work like that.

When people complain about Australia on account of their experiences, there always seems to be at least one defensive patriot who’ll attempt to cast such objections as mendacious. Don’t complain, you’re ruining our party! That’s Australia you’re talking about!

It’s a pity that it often doesn’t occur to these people that the solution to this problem is to have an Australia that produces less avoidable, undesirable experiences.

Possibly the pinnacle of irony in all of this, is when people complain that other Australians should “like it or leave”. Clearly the people making this complaint don’t “like it” themselves, and yet they don’t pack their bags.

Where would they go? How would they get there? (If only it was feasible to send them off on rickety fishing boats, the irony would be resolved…)

If you’re going to have a debate about whether Australia is worth celebrating, or if you just want your celebrations to be more authentic, you have to get used to the idea that Australia isn’t just what you make of it from a casual glance. You need to be more outwardly exploratory, and more self-reflective than that.

As I write this, Australia Day 2015 is fading into yesterday. Caricatures, and narrow cultural cross-sections are standing at ease, resting in preparation for their deployment on ANZAC day.

A thousand and one lost identities will drop the clichés until ads for lamb and the like demand their deployment again. The fetishists will take a break from paying superficial homage to the outward appearances of sub-cultures they couldn’t really care about.

Memories of Australia will go unchronicled, their owners partitioned from the story telling – whole facets disappearing with time to the detriment of us all.

And those of us with more acceptable narrative elements will have our reflections reinforced by the presence of Australian flag flip-flops and bikinis – bromides for the comfortable Aussie.

~ Bruce

(Photo Source: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos)