Over a year of this crap…

Contextual back-story: Over a year ago now, in South Australian Humanist/Atheist circles, we had what could be called a situation.

Towards the start of 2013, months before this “situation”, I was drafting an anti-harassment policy for the Humanist Society of South Australia (HSSA), during my stint as treasurer. The HSSA, from then and until this day has had a close association with a group now known as the Atheist Community of South Australia (ACSA).

The policy I was drafting drew inspiration from policies enacted by American Atheists, and the Center For Inquiry, with considerations made for local contexts, and a number of rational criticisms of such policies taken into account. The process was supposed to and to some extent did, incorporate criticisms from the floor at meetings – i.e. it was intended to be a democratic process.

(As an aside, I have been informed that the HSSA committee has in the past few months, passed a version of the policy as a bylaw, in lieu of putting it to a vote of the membership. There is of writing however, no sign of the final policy on the HSSA website, nor have I obtained a copy, nor had one sent to me as a member.)

Almost from the inception of the drafting process, there were problems. I was warned by an official of a large atheist group that I shouldn’t attempt it – not from an objection to such policies, but on account of the rubbish I’d have to put up with.

At the very first meeting where I announced the drafting process, I was persistently interrupted by a chap named Mark Senior, who objected to my attempt at a criticism of the attitude behind a t-shirt worn to a convention in the US. What his objection was exactly, can’t be ascertained, given that I never got to voice my criticism for him to respond to in the first place. Suffice to say, it heralded a year of complete horseshit to come.

But yes… the mentioned “situation”. That occurred at first not in the HSSA, but in ACSA, and was noticed by Jason Thibeault of Lousy Canuck fame.

Short version: A bunch of chaps got angry about feminism, “Atheist plussers” and The White Ribbon campaign, a number of these guys also being anxious about the drafting of an anti-harassment policy. Lines were stepped over by a number of parties.

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Creeper makes too much eye contact
He’s a bit too eager to talk to women.
He sits alone in his seat, waving to strangers,
mooching off of common courtesy.

Leaning over he pesters a French couple…
”Are you tourists?”
It’s asked bluntly, with dismissive tone.
Yes, they’re tourists. No, they don’t want to talk to him.

Creeper’s advances are unsolicited.
Creeper’s interests are boring.
Creeper won’t take a hint.
Creeper doesn’t respect boundaries.

Bordertown; ironic waypoint signifying boundaries.
Creeper gets a passenger to sit with;
a captive audience for his indulgence;
a sounding board for the self-centred, banal and inane.

Creeper questions the senior woman’s ethnicity.
Proceeds to lecture her on her heritage.
Explains he’s studied war at University.
Tells his captive he’s a writer.

Creeper paws her shoulder.
Creeper asks about vampires.
Creeper hints at undead conspiracies.
Creeper lectures about “girls” and life decisions.

Sweating and writhing, he looks like Gollum on a bad day,
and as wise as the lovechild of Ed Wood and Alain de Botton.
Senior woman asks “how do you know?”
Creeper doesn’t like the questions of philosophers.

Creeper affects chivalry towards service staff,
lunges at senior woman’s neck for a joke;
calls her beautiful with hands lingering over her chest.
She doesn’t terribly mind.

Creeper got the encouragement he craves.
Creeper will do it all again…

~ Bruce

Medicated #004

Preface: I wrote this post in the first half of February, planning to edit it the next morning when I had assumed I’d be more rested. This was the eve of a new side-effect kicking in: something akin to having reached the point where my head was filled to bursting with wet, cold, concrete. These weird migraines may be an ongoing thing, although they are under control at the moment.

I’ve decided, given the possibility of a change of frame of mind in the past few weeks, to publish this post as-is, rather than edit away what may have been temporary idiosyncrasies. Typos, malapropisms and all, saved for posterity, or whatnot.

Gradually, I’m waking up…

It’s taken longer than I’d expected for the insomnia to wear off as a side effect. It’s been a state of affairs that’s left me awake and idle, yet too fatigued to do much in the way of writing, even when a little spare time has come around.

My taste has definitely changed, in most part for the better, but not always. I’ve now got a younger palette.

If you asked me which I’d prefer, six weeks ago, creaming soda or mineral water, I’d have gone with the latter. I often guzzle down a Foodland, 80c bottle of mineral water when tak-tak-takking at the keyboard.

Now mineral water tastes like it used to, which is not to say bad, but still clearly less preferable to a good vanilla creaming soda. Even Jolt vanilla creamy soda, properly chilled, is considerably more pleasurable, even with all that sugar.

If only Tarax was still around (Woodroofe’s ‘Sno Top’ just isn’t creamy enough)… Kirk’s?

Increased physicality, particularly with my gait and reflexes, has seen the occasional muscle twinge from quarters left unused for some time. No cramps, or pulls mind you, just the occasional polite reminder.

And along the way, I’ve re-discovered, or re-affirmed a few observations… (Things get heavier from this point onward).

I blame Epicurus (and failing that, Alain de Botton)

I can’t be a hedonist of the traditional variety. While I share similar attitudes to the alleviation of suffering held by Epicureans, and certainly, the prospect of reflection in my own Garden is desirable, the principal of lathe biōsas isn’t.

While I don’t desire fame, nor harbour urges to dictate the ins and outs of other people’s lives, I still most definitely intend to live politically, and loudly at that! The life unseen indeed!

If I’d wanted to live some kind of ultra-libertarian, hippy commune lifestyle, I’d have moved to Nimbin and tuned-out, or something, maaaaaaaan.

I can’t honestly say that the spirit of hedonism in which I take my meds, is anything more than semi-Epicurean. I care too much about other people to lock myself away like that.

(Call it a kind of Pharisees paradox: while I don’t want to live like a Pharisee, or make myself a hypocrite, I don’t see meek silence as practically compatible with achieving the goals of anything like a universalist hedonism, especially in as far as anything foreshadowing modern utilitarianism).

And no matter how long I take escitalopram, nor how often he cherry picks Epicurus (and other philosophers), I don’t see Alain de Botton’s proposed temples to atheism as any kind of curative, to anything serious at least. AdB takes the problem of human flourishing to venal, and unproductive new lows.

(It seems he’s done away with lathe biōsas as well).

Dawkins is on the money

There are better things to spend this kind of money on. A bit stuffy-classicist perhaps, next to AdB, Dawkins comes off looking like a working class hero.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Alain de Botton should end all his tweets in ‘#firstworldproblems’.

Do you see how apathetic anti-depressants make me?

Huxley doesn’t do SSRIs

I’m sick of the Brave New World dystopian take on antidepressants, now more than I’ve ever been. I used to humour the idea back in the 1990s when the available medications of the time were less precise than they are now. I was told, during the latter years of the recession, that public funding of anti-depressants was a way of suppressing dissent and keeping the populace docile.

(This charge being levelled at the then Howard government, incidentally).

This was little more than a paranoid, overwrought amplification of the ‘happy pill’ rhetoric used by people who don’t use ‘happy pills’. SSRIs don’t make you happy, they treat biological shortcomings that are impediments to happiness*, much in the way insulin injections treat a shortcoming in diabetics (that is also an impediment to happiness).

If your unhappiness is entirely psychological, SSRIs won’t fix it. SSRIs don’t just pave over difficulties the way recreational drugs sometimes appear to.

Perhaps you need to be a doctor, or to experience these things first hand, or perhaps you just need to be a bit empathic and understanding, to fully understand how antidepressants are not narcotics.

Of course, it’s easy for us to criticise Huxley’s take on psychoactive drugs, given what he had to work with at the time – primarily psychedelics, which Huxley experimented with, early tricyclic antidepressants only being around for less than a decade before his death (over two decades after Brave New World).

Still, there’s Brave New World in context, and then there’s the snobbish pontificating about drugs taking away all the life problems you can’t and won’t deal with.

No, I don’t take it back

There’s a tendency amongst some of the people I’ve had run-ins with, in real life, to attribute our disagreements to my depression. Oh, you were just depressed, that’s okay, I understand…

Right… so now that I’m on medication, that’s altered reality or history? Suddenly by fiat, whoever was disagreeing with me is correct, simply because I’m on medication?

It should occur to people that even if I was wrong, my antagonists could still be wrong as well; we could both have been wrong. That this gets overlooked exposes all-too convenient dismissal for what it is.

Now that I’m taking Lexapro, Mr/Mrs Condescending, history has altered so that you; never said ‘Hitler should have finished the job’; never uttered ‘Asians can’t drive in traffic because of their squinty eyes’; never blamed women for inciting men by showing a bit of cleavage; never racially vilified your Indian co-workers behind their backs; never postulated about the supposed potential problems caused by future racial-mixing between white Australians and Sudanese refugees; never accused me of being a threat to you, despite only ever protecting you from real, actual threats, at great personal expense; never fabricated the story, telling mutual friends just to show how progressive you are, that I don’t like lesbians; never… etc.

None of this history goes away just because I’m taking a medication. I don’t suddenly become apathetic to any of this because I’m on SSRIs.

Fighting on

Subjectively, frustration takes on a whole new meaning in the context of dysthymia. Already I’m noticing that the usual bugbears, while still unhealthy to engage with at any great length (much less humour), don’t feel as corrosive.

This isn’t a comment on morality or subjective revulsion – I still find the same things morally repugnant for the same reasons. It’s just that these things, even at this early stage, don’t seem to wear me down the same way as they used to (although they still can).

I suspect my motivations will change with time – I’m only human and hence still subject to my passions.

But still, the ‘happy pills’ aren’t making my conflicts just up and disappear, and I’m becoming a whole lot more enervated about fighting the fight.

~ Bruce

* Amongst other things, such as the ability to concentrate, which is a big-ticket issue for me.

Bye Bye Little Buddy

If you have been reading what I write for the past year or so, you will remember my dog Joe, who has been (as a reductio ad absurdum) argued to be God by way of a non-falsifiable hypothesis. Joe is a fun loving dog, and if he could understand the absurdity of Intelligent Design and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I’m sure he’d find it funny.

Unfortunately, Joe hasn’t had much to smile about lately. After years of slowly losing control over his back legs, he has finally lost all control together and let me tell you, it’s not as endearing a scenario as that experienced by that dog on Family Guy. Further, Joe has recently had an outbreak of demodectic mange which is quite ugly and quite irritating for him. The sad thing is, in old dogs (Joe would have been born in late 1992), outbreaks of demodectic mange in 70% of instances point towards cancer.

Joe isn’t doing too well. The real giveaway though is that Joe doesn’t smile much anymore. Joe used to smile most of the time just a couple of months ago and when he was younger, could barely be seen without a smile. Immobile, unhappy, sick and uncomfortable, we have decided to do the humane thing and have the little fella put to sleep this Friday.

I’ll remember how he used to be the most dexterous dog I’d ever seen; as a young dog jumping up the barbecue like a mountain goat to stand on top of the chimney and look over the neighbour’s fence. I’ll remember his cheeky sense of humour and naughty nature, a nature that did however have limits. Joe never tore up good clothes, just old rags, he oncejumped up on my young cousin who then cried and he never did it to a child again (even though it was pretty harmless to begin with). I’ll remember how if he was hurt and someone was distressed for him, he’d be more concerned with cheering them up than about his own injury.

Joe has been a smart dog, an independent dog and even a crazy dog, but also a kind and good friend. A better friend to others than a lot of people in my estimation to be frank.

Bye bye little buddy.

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RIP Joe 1992-2007.

Good news: Mansour Osanloo is a free man

Eric Lee writes;

Following a very large international campaign that brought together the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Transport Workers Federation, Amnesty International, the European Union, and thousands of individual trade unionists who participated in the online campaign on LabourStart, jailed Iranian trade union leader Mansour Osanloo is now free after a month in jail.

(Eric Lee, 2006)

This is but a small success in an on-going struggle. While we can breathe a sign of relief that Osanloo is free, the situation that lead to his wrongful detention still persists; totalitarian oppression. We need to repeat this success over and over again until Osanloo and his colleagues are free to perform their duties representing the workers of Iran.

Seven thousand signatories from over the world is what we achieved in this campaign, but GetUp! can get more Australian signatories for worthy causes not quite as important as this.

Osanloo has been released under (unfair and ambiguous) bail conditions, while still paying bail for a previous period of detention. We need to stay vigilant and be prepared to rally to the e-campaign should actions like this be repeated.

We can do this thing…

More news here.