How You Can Help Bridge The Gap Between Rich and Poor This Valentines Day

I hate to name-drop, but I found myself in the same breathing space as two former prime ministers a couple of days ago. The first was Malcolm Turnbull, one of the many speakers at the Side By Side conference run by the Wayside Chapel, who had been invited to discuss the crucial role of students in political conversation. And the second was an icon of mine, Julia Gillard, whose “misogyny” speech was voted the most unforgettable moment on Australian TV this week, and who was the special guest on The Guilty Feminist, a stage show of the popular podcast that was on at the Enmore Theatre.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Two Australian politicians from two different political parties, who share a similar vision when it comes to how to measure success and how to improve the way we care for the marginalised people in our community.

You may know that during his time as prime minister, Malcolm was criticised for his privilege – for being a wealthy, self-made man – and for not being a natural communicator when it came to the people. And in spite of his valiant attempts to prioritise climate policy in his party – a view that ultimately led to his downfall – he remained a somewhat elusive personality who the voters were frustrated to never really get to know.

From the other side of the tracks was Julia, our first female prime minister, who became a target of the predominantly middle-aged, white men in her party and the opposition party as a result of her gender. Throughout her stint as prime minister, she was forced to fight the sort of infantile sexism and snobbery you expect to find in an all-boys private school. Nevertheless, she stood her ground against it – hence, that speech – and if the level of applause at her arrival on Friday night was anything to go by, her reputation among Australian feminists is legendary.

How wonderful to see, in this terrifyingly narcissistic period of political history, two such prominent figures (who in spite of both being retired from politics), came together to help the marginalised community in our society.

Malcolm was appearing at the Side By Side conference run by The Wayside Chapel, to which I was invited (I assume) because of my paltry donation of a Christmas lunch to ease my guilt for one of their residents last year. The organisation, which is based in Kings Cross in Sydney, works predominantly with and for the homeless – for those who have hit rock bottom due to physical illness, job loss, mental illness, addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse and trauma. They are citizens and victims who could be any one of us, who have fallen on bad times – typically through no fault of their own – who are being ignored by society.

The Side By Side conference was about reducing the stigma about poverty and exchanging ideas about how we can narrow the gap between us and them.

But change takes time. As Julia Gillard reminded us during her chat on The Guilty Feminist, it will probably take another century before we see any real equality in terms of female leadership in Australia – whether that’s in the workplace or in politics – and without women in those positions, we remain under-represented. The same is true for the poor. Unless society shows more compassion and changes its priorities, the gap will continue to widen.

What is certain is that to effect the necessary changes we need leaders who have vision and who are prepared to listen to our young people and our experts in the field.

It is not only middle-aged lefties like me who are disillusioned with the direction the western world is heading. When a government prioritises a Religious Freedom Bill over crucial preparations for the annual bushfire season, we have to ask why. And our kids are asking those questions too – which is perhaps one of the reasons so many are struggling with their mental health.

The Wayside Chapel’s conference was a call to action. Progressive, well-known CEOs spoke about how businesses can help donate part of their profits to help bridge the gap between rich and poor and to help protect the environment, and the message that stood out was that if we all become a little less focused on success and more on caring, there is a chance that we can do exactly that.

“Together we can make no ‘us and them,” was the clear message of the event. And they’re right. Imagine how frigging awesome it would be if everyone of us did something tiny that could make a real difference to the confidence of one person on the poverty line. Because, trust me, their situation could happen to any of us, and an increasing percentage of the current number of the homeless population are middle-aged women.

I’m aware that “activism” is harder than just sitting at home on the sofa, watching those heart-wrenching stories play out on the The Project. It requires a concerted “movement of feet.” And even though we’ve had to put our hands a little deeper into our pockets of late, I am certain that there is something that most of us can do. For example, this Valentines Day, instead of buying your partner a tacky card and a sad bunch of dead petrol station flowers, you could donate $20 to waysidechapel.org.au/valentines, or any organisation that helps people in need. That small donation will give someone a shower, a new pair of undies and socks and some toiletries. It’s a much more sustainable way to show someone you love them and it will make all the difference to someone who isn’t feeling the love right now.

There is only one guarantee in life: Everything changes

Some people are resistant to change – particularly from middle age onwards – while others embrace it. Some of us want to cram as many crazy, new experiences into our twilight years, while others take comfort from what they know.

On a personal level, I have always embraced change, which explains my itchy feet, numerous house moves, and embarrassingly full resume, but for many others change signals a threat to their safety. It explains (not justifies) the reaction of some people to immigrants or women in more powerful positions in the workplace.

I stole the title of this post from a piece written by Zach J.Payne on Medium. It seemed appropriate to discuss the comment as we race towards Christmas with its obscene display of overspending at the same time as bush fires rage around us and tv series such as Years and Years keep us awake at night.

But it is not only Australia’s archaic approach to climate change or our problem with overspending that has taken the bang out of the crackers this Christmas. It is also a tiredness caused by the never-ending murders and abuse of women at the hands of the patriarchy – in the last few weeks, another woman was burnt to death on the way to her rape trial whilst another died in a menstruation hut. It is a tiredness caused by the increase in mental illness in our children – that no one seems to be tackling with any seriousness, and a tiredness caused by tragedies such as the White Island eruption with its timely reminder of the fragility of our lives.

But perhaps the biggest source of my fear is what is happening on the political world stage right now, with the terrifying rise of the right, the possible impeachment of Trump, and the British election today. The scariest truth to come out of this year for me is that even democracies can be governed by self-serving lunatics.

It is really not surprising that the tinsel and fairy lights have done little to assuage those fears, when it is increasingly hard to feel any positivity about the state of the world – even from my position of privilege. The only thing that keeps many of us going is hope. It is the belief, however far-flung it feels right now, that everything does indeed change, and that in general, good beats evil. After all, the Berlin Wall did come down, fascism was beaten in two world wars, Irish women now have the right to abortions, and there are continued improvements in our treatment of serious illnesses – which means that in the west our longevity improves all of the time. That is, if we still have a world to live in, of course.

And on a micro level, we experienced one of those changes last Sunday, when our son joined us at our Christmas party.

As you know, Christmas is a special time for me. It represents everything I aspire to in terms of family, togetherness and belonging – even if our reality isn’t always that chocolate box version. But his arrival was a surprise. Why? Because we have organised many family events over the past few years that he has promised to attend and then been a no-show. He is, after all, a young man in his early twenties who is not comfortable with large groups – especially large groups of Boomers and Gen Xers who are aware of his struggles. So much so, (was it) only a few years ago that I truly believed that one day we might end up estranged, to be reconciled in twenty years time on one of those cheesy programmes on tv, or (worst case) at visitors time in prison.

Actually, that’s a lie, because my worst case scenario was when I thought he might not be here at all.

And yet, if anyone asked me twenty-two years ago if I thought I would find myself in this position, I would have laughed in their face. I mean…I’m far from perfect parent material, but I am a middle-class woman with privilege who tried (desperately) to tick most points off Dr Spock’s checklist.

But I had a child who was and is (very much) his own person. One who only now is growing happier in his own skin – although it is obvious he will never embrace the “system” he was born into – who also suffers from a neurological condition that makes life that bit harder for him. And while I may be a tad prone to catastrophizing, (which my friends will confirm), those fears about his future felt very real at the time. And so, even now, (and we’re far from out of the woods), it takes only the smallest gesture of love from my son to throw me into an emotional tailspin of gratitude and relief – much to my daughter’s disgust.

But as time moves on, I have seen that shit happens to everyone – it’s just that most people don’t feel the need to write about everything that happens to them :). That’s life. The good news is that (in general) we learn how to cope with the holes in the road that try to fuck up the suspension on the car. And as the journalist Jan Fran said when she was a guest on the Wilosophy podcast and was asked about the thing she is most proud of in her life – a huge measure of our personal success has to be how we REACT to situations and change.

It never ceases to amaze me how capable we human beings are in the face of pain and tragedy. Right now, in Queensland and New South Wales, homeowners are risking their lives to save their properties alongside volunteer fire fighters who will be giving up Christmas to help them. Those homeowners don’t know if their houses will still be standing tomorrow – all they have is hope. But they are coping, because they have to. Today, the families of those killed on White Island will feel utter hopelessness as the bodies of their loved ones are retrieved to be laid to rest, but one day they will find some meaning to their loss – because what else is there?

Everything changes and not always for the better, but we are more resilient than we think. 2020 is another year that will bring new change and challenge. That lunatic Boris looks like he will get back in, I have no doubt that Trump will find some corrupt way to out-manoeuvre the US judicial system, and Scomo will continue to pray to his god to put out the fires. The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

So all the rest of us can hope is that other changes that come out of next year are for the better, and that more activists like Greta Thunberg and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez don’t give up and stay angry enough to lead them.

It’s OK To Be White AND A Man, Just Don’t Abuse The Privilege

 

nick-fewings-532590-unsplash (1)Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Evidently, certain people have a chip on their shoulder about the terrible onus of having white skin.

I agree that it is terrible to be discriminated and victimized for your race and gender, and Pauline Hanson’s motion in the Senate last week reminded me of the backlash that has risen amongst certain male ranks since the #metoo campaign gained traction. And let me be clear, I do not include men that have been abused in that statement.

And yet, what these whinging, self-indulgent groups don’t seem to understand is that while it is okay to be white – and it’s even okay to be a man, I suppose – right now, these fights are not about them. These fights are against white people and men that abuse via the privilege of their skin color and gender.

When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

Let me say that again: When feminists point the finger at the harm men do and talk about toxic masculinity, the accusation is not directed at EVERY man.

It is directed at the men that abuse; the men that refuse to listen to victims, ridicule them or call them liars; and the men that don’t denounce abusers or stand up publicly for equality.

Isn’t it funny how the same people that use #notallmen or “it’s okay to be white” in their defense, are typically the ones that refuse to listen to the opinions of others or support a group that is working to create a mutually beneficial society between the sexes?

I suppose it is inevitable that when a race and gender have held power for a long time that feathers will be ruffled. I get that. I don’t like it when I am ridiculed for being a white feminist, but while I do not feel I need to apologize for my whiteness, neither will I endorse the behavior of certain breeds that are running scared of losing their privilege. 

I am not ashamed to be white. I have never knowingly abused my privilege and I am not a racist. And yet, I have benefited from a system that has always worked in my favor. Maturity has made me more conscious of that. And for the record, I do know that most of the men in my circle believe in equality, and would never harm a woman, but I also know that many of them are scared of change, and that fear breeds anger.

I have never been overlooked or stereotyped as a result of the color of my skin, hence I have never suffered from the social and financial ramifications that go hand in hand with such discrimination. However, I have been felt compromised by my gender.

And yet, I don’t believe that I have the right to moan about my woes in the context of the current climate. Not when refugees are still being caged like animals; not when women are still being killed in their own homes; not when people are still being judged for their choice of faith, and we watch them in shame, powerless in the face of governments that refuse to listen to us, the people that voted for them.

I will excuse Pauline Hanson’s latest shocking attempt to instill fear because she is a mockery to humanity, whiteness, women, and politics. But I cannot excuse the selfishness and arrogance of those who persist in putting their own agenda ahead of minorities at this turning point in history.

And this IS a turning point in history. We are marching for equality; we are marching for our rights and we are marching for what is right. There is no doubt in my mind that change will take time, and there will be many times when it won’t sit comfortably with everyone, but the tide is already turning.

I’m More Concerned About Trump’s Policies Than The Size Of His Dick

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There’s been a lot of talk about fruit and veg in the press this week. First, about the loonies here in Australia that think it’s funny to put needles in strawberries, and then there’s Trump’s mushroom-shaped penis, the image in my head of which, I can’t unsee.

It’s not that I actively sought out the flagrant details of the US president’s knob, but they are hard to avoid on Twitter.

Albeit a feminist, I’m not a fan of the “kiss and tell” or tit for tat memoir, and I’ll admit to something close to the stirrings of a loose bowel movement when snippets of Stormy’s passionate (?) affair with the President first came to light. Personally, I believe that if you are going to “tell,” a “less is more” approach can be far more salacious. And frankly, the detail of Trump’s tiny manhood – while deservedly humiliating for him – doesn’t alter my opinion of him. I’m more interested in the man’s policies than the size of his dick – although, it’s true that it would be hard for my opinion to sink much lower.

In a very sad way, perhaps the size of his todger is a tiny excuse for his behavior – “small man complex,” and all that.

But you have to admire Stormy, who must surely be cognisant of the avalanche that she has triggered in the media, and which is certain to descend upon her once they get over the titillation of her lover’s small cock. Give her a few days grace before they cut her back down to size and force her to pick up the mantle of the fallen woman again, in spite of Trump’s infidelity and his proclamations about the virtues of family life.

Monica Lewinsky has never walked away from the smear campaign against her, while Bill continues to be canonized for his roving eye. So I hope that Stormy is as strong as her name suggests, or that the revenue from her book is worth the wrath that she has ignited in the White House – particularly if Trump gets re-elected.

Telling the truth at the expense of a man’s reputation is a risky business for women, and stronger women than Stormy have sunk under the weight of their aggression in a duel. The #notallmen retaliation suggests that men are fighting back against what they believe are unfair accusations by women – even though it is only abusers that are being accused, so I’m not sure what the majority of them have to worry about.

In a world in which leadership positions are dominated by men, (and for the main part, by white men), women do not fare well when they stand up for their rights; particularly against powerful men, as proven by those female Liberal MPs brave enough to speak out after the government spill and the cartoon of Serena Williams in the Australian press.

Trump is not known for his forgiveness. He is now known for his mushroom-shaped dick, which, however vulgar that might sound, is still (sadly) unlikely to contribute to the worst parts of his legacy.

 

A Day In The Life Of Donald Duck… Erm Trump

It’s so discriminating when all you want to do is play a round of golf with some celebrity or white supremacist and minor events, like the funerals of the latest teenage shooting victims, get in the way.

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And then there are those persistent (and frankly, annoying) rumors about being in bed with the Russians and several strippers, which means Melania refuses to talk to me, in spite of the new gun I bought her by way of an apology. Note to self: put the parenting controls back on the internet, or before I know it, she’ll be bleating on #metoo as well. Also, ask Bill how he handled this type of situation.

 

I can’t even moan on Twitter these days without some official rapping my knuckles. And they call this privilege.

 

How’s a working-class man supposed to unwind from his responsibilities? When is a man to find the time to perfect his swing and complete his Seven Kingdoms empire?  There’s far too much crap to deal with in this job – gay marriage, equal pay, gun control. Before we know it, women will expect control of their own bodies as well.

 

Imagine the reality of that – no baby Trumps to go out and fuck the world over.

 

It’s not like my election was ever meant to happen. The campaign was only a ruse to start with, to make sure Ugly-Dyke-Clinton didn’t get in, and to meet the challenge of that n… Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes, I’ve-Got-A-HotAF-Wife-And-I’m-Black. Is it any wonder that Osama got in with all the black voting power he let into the country.

 

We can’t let that happen again. A black president – what was the country thinking? Anyway, I kind of miss those blackface parties. Soon we’ll be taken over. They’ll be climbing that wall like White Walkers if we’re not careful – although obviously, we’ll have to call them Black Walkers – ha-ha! Are Mexicans even black? Which reminds me – do I need to cancel my lunch at the gun club to check on the height of the wall again – if only those migrants could add up.

 

So much to do, so little time to play golf.

 

Note to self: Book a tee-time tomorrow before the paps get up and read the fake news first. Check that no recent disasters (for which you will be accountable – boring), need attending to, and to be safe, anesthetize your tongue.

 

 

I Blame Trump For My Anxiety

It’s not cold here in Sydney today, thankfully, because up until the last week or so it felt like it had been thirty-fucking seven degrees since 2016. But metaphorically it feels cold, that is since Trump entered the building, threw his toys out of the pram and began to shake up the foundations of diplomacy and world politics like a small earthquake. His presence in power has created a similar feeling to that frisson you get when something doesn’t feel quite right. blizzard-1245929_1920

 

I know his type, and I truly believe he thinks his policies are for the good of the people who voted for him. But he is a Narcissist whose self-importance has blinded him to all consequences of damaging or hurting his followers during his trophy hunt.

 

It’s hard not to feel anxious when our leading politicians – the people who make those big, crazy decisions about our survival and who have their sticky fingers so temptingly close to the buttons – can’t conceal even their own personal, little boy frustrations. We’re all hugging our babies closer – Gwyneth would approve.

 

The world media has gone into free fall since Trump was elected; jubilant initially at the gift of so much fodder, and now panic stricken that he might actually shut them down. I can’t decide whether they’re loving the shit storm they’ve created or if they’re secretly thinking that this could be their last work.

 

But for us pawns of the general public, it is an anxious time when we don’t know what to believe, or where to turn to. We don’t know who we are anymore. Are we racists? Should we be scared? Should we allow that Mosque to be built? What if we can’t get Baklava anymore? Some days it feels as though there’s no positive news at all and everywhere you look Trump’s name dominates the headlines. “Breaking news” these days is always about what’s going wrong in the world, and is usually linked to analysis of his latest verbal comeback on Twitter. The Oscars fuck-up made a welcome change, but when sacred shit like that hits the fan, it’s time to take a step back and reflect. Thankfully, Ryan Gosling’s sister’s breasts distracted the media for at least 48hours afterwards.

 

Our own Prime Minister, normally a reserved, quietly confident kind of man, has looked like he wants to throw the towel in and go walkabout with his ancestors for a while now, and equally, many want to throw the towel right back at him, hard, for not standing up to the bully in the playground.

 

So how are we, the minions of society – those who never usually step out of line, don’t squeak too much, pay our taxes dutifully, put our bins out on the right bin night, and adhere to most of its demands peacefully in return for safety and security – how are we meant to cope exactly with this impending doom?

 

This week they discovered a fossil on Mars that suggests that there is other life – FFS! – in preparation for which I increased the strength of my anti-depressants.

 

It feels cold outside.

 

Not as cold as it is for those at the real coalface of inequality, racism and persecution, of course. Not as freezing as it is for those in direct risk of losing their lives, families, livelihoods and self-respect, because someone with power, (who likes to wield it a lot), likes to also talk out of context and invoke fear.

 

No, this is a first world “cold” for most of us and needs some perspective.

 

Let’s get real here: for the majority of us, it is an unsettling breeze on a mild day where you wish you’d brought your jumper. We can still watch Netflix, we can drink wine, our families are tucked up nicely in bed at night.

 

For others, the real victims, a severe weather pattern is forming.