Saturday, 26 September 2015

Things I'm grateful for this September afternoon

It continues to be brought to my attention that being grateful is a great way to replace negative emotions, so here's my 3rd gratefulness post:

- I'm grateful for the special woman in my life
- I'm grateful for the return of a long-lost friend
- I'm grateful for Skype, Twitter and Facebook, which allow me to communicate with both of them
- I'm grateful for the free tickets I was given to a play with feminist themes
- I'm grateful that my work as administrator for The Sydney Feminists' Facebook group has made a difference
- I'm grateful for the care my mother and father give me
- I'm grateful I have the opportunity to study at university, and the ingenuity to know when there's a better alternative
- I'm grateful for radiators on cold days
- I'm grateful for my psychologist, who is helping me rewire my brain to optimise my experience
- I'm grateful for my openness to experience, which colours everything I do
- I'm grateful I travelled to many places in Europe this year, learning more about each culture, and seeing some places for the first time
- I'm grateful for JB Hi-Fi's low cost CDs, where I found the Sugababes for $5, for example.
- I'm grateful that I don't have to give up the taste of coffee, what with all the decafs out there
- I'm grateful for DuoLingo, with which I am learning Spanish

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

More vegetables, less meat?

If you're a meat eater who feels compassion for animals but doesn't quite want to give up eating meat, have you considered simply eating more vegetable-based dishes as opposed to meat-based ones?

I'm personally not strict about reserving meat for the weekends - I just try to consciously work vegetable-based dishes into the highlight of the day. I've learnt that my favourite Thai noodle dish tastes almost the same with veggies, and I can breathe easier knowing that one less poor animal might be killed for my culinary pleasure. We are conditioned to place meat in a starring role of our diets - we even have the saying 'getting to the meat of the problem/issue' - but I was was surprised at how little I missed having it in almost every dish, day after day. I'm probably not going to become a full-time vegetarian anytime soon, but it's good to be able to find a compromise with such far-reaching, beneficial effects.

Monday, 7 September 2015

On sexist compliments and dangerous ideas

Before I had even entered Australia, the customs official put me in my place with one single word - "Babe." That was his address, as he sought my attention. Having had no sleep for two nights, I was unsuccessfully trying to use the machines at customs to get my documents approved. Here he was, trying to help me - but in the process he was asserting his right to treat me as a sexual object first and foremost. It was my defining characteristic to him. What a welcome.

Things got better. On Saturday I attended a speech by Murong Xuecun, a prominent critic of Chinese censorship who has managed to evade arrest due to his abstaining from directly inciting people to get politically active. Nevertheless, his social media account has been shut down a lot. He keeps "reincarnating" online, as he calls it. He taught us how the entry of more English words into the mainstream Chinese vernacular had produced "democrazy" (the Chinese Communist Party promotes the idea that its governance is actually democratic) and "shitizen" (after the sense that things aren't quite alright in the country). More importantly, he brought home the expansive nature of Chinese censorship by identifying examples when it has played out within Australian shores. With its large Chinese immigrant community, Chinese Australians are very much affected by the propaganda of the motherland through the media they consume. The unspoken take-away from Murong's ideas was that we should put pressure on our government to engage with China in a way that doesn't accept its totalitarian policies. 

Obviously there is a vast difference between freedom of speech in China and that in Australia, but there are still things I don't feel comfortable saying in Tony Abbott's Australia. We can't claim to be a full democracy when people are locked up (out of sight, out of mind) in psychiatric institutions for feeling and thinking the socially unacceptable. Our vindication of the notion of insanity marginalises ideas which are extreme outliers - ideas which are often very good, or, at the least, contain very good elements. It's no co-incidence that the average intelligence of a person who is hospitalised is through the roof. We abuse our deepest thinkers, drive them to isolation within the wider communities and then limit their human capacities by necessitating that they take brain-altering drugs. Freedom of speech remains a myth. (Possible exclusions for some areas of Finland.)

Maybe one day I will give a speech of my own at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on this topic. I can't see things changing dramatically in Australia anytime soon, mainly because the mainstream is suspicious of the revolutionary ideas required to get us there, but you never know. At the very least, I can write a blog post about it. And keep my hope alive.