“I’ll Take A Bag Of Mixed Lollies, An Anti-Psychotic, And A Shot Of Vodka…”

“Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.”   – Ayn Rand

Pain.  When we’re small our mothers slap our hand away from a stove top so we don’t burn, hold our hand when we’re going down the stairs so we don’t fall, tell us to squeeze our eyes shut while shampooing our hair so we don’t get soap in our eyes.  So from a very young age we are programmed to believe pain not only hurts, but is bad and must be avoided at all costs.

I’ve been wondering about the affect of this training?  When we are in pain we now not only have the pain but feel culpable for allowing ourselves to be in a situation capable of creating it.  I shouldn’t have been near the fire; I should have been holding someone’s hand; I should never have opened my eyee25626b72f688051a50164a0dd6d10d2s.  But I’m here to ask – what the hell is so wrong with being in pain?

Pain, as we all know, is the body’s mechanism of warning the brain of a credible threat.  This hurts – move now! And because buried beneath our higher-functioning, reasonable cortex is that primeval instinctual base that saved our ancestors from falling asleep on cave fires, our bodies can barely tell the difference these days between a broken heart and a broken leg.  Same pain function, same functional warning.

We live at a time when it’s just not okay to have anything wrong with you.  We seem to have whittled down the definition of “normal” to a goddamn toothpick.  They give out anti-depressants these days to “treat” menstruation, HRT to “treat” menopause, Rogaine to “treat” baldness, Viagra to treat willy-nillys, psychotherapy to “treat” sadness.  We’re even told we have to “Soldier On” if we’ve got a cold!  I’m not allowed to have a miserable cold?  No.  Soldier the fuck on.  (I know you all have that jingle as an ear worm now and I don’t care – why should I suffer alone).

When Rhett Butler challenges Scarlett on the existence of a hell, she assures him she knows there’s a hell because she was “raised on it”.  That’s powerful stuff right there.  It doesn’t matter whether hell has a postcode or not – it simply exists for anyone raised on it.  Much like the teachings we absorb about pain, it becomes more than the abstract possibility of paper-cuts and bruised hearts, and more of a real physical place that we wall up each time and promise ourselves never to return to.  Our bodies have no false-alarm system.  Even though you’re not going to die from emotional pain, our body behaves as if the threat were as credible as a knife wound.  You can’t fight pain and I suspect all the new-agey do-gooders telling me it’s a learning experience are just smart marketers profiting off of the fact that as a race we’ll do anything to avoid pain in the first place.

Emily Dickinson wrote: “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.  The Nerves sit ceremonious, like tombs”.  So is that the pay-off? That tomb/womb like peace that inhabits nerves exhausted raw? The necessary emptiness that is just a part of the body’s other remarkable management strategy – a type of anesthesia? ECT never cured anyone of anything – it just induces a post-seizure calm.  Band-aid anyone?

If happiness is the proof of moral integrity and loyalty to the achievement of goals we may all be screwed.  Watching the ship sail away…there it goes…going…going…

High time someone ‘fessed up and said it’s okay to take a pill, take a drink, and get on with it.

Bloody Ayn Rand…

 

Goodnight, Mama

‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.  I am not afraid but the sensation is like being afraid.  The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.  I keep swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.  There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.  I find it hard to take in what anyone says.  Or perhaps hard to want to take it in.

It is so uninteresting.  Yet I want the others to be about me.  I dread the moments when the house is empty.’

-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

She hated cut flowers.  She’d send them to other people to let them know she was thinking of them.  But it seemed to irritate her when people sent them to her.  A single stem, one perfect curvature of orchid, she could tolerate that.  But she was quite hard on an ostentatious armful of cut flowers.  I don’t think she could see the kind intention behind anything beautiful that would soon be dead.  Why don’t people just leave them in the garden, she once said.

Wandering about her house late at night while she slept, always on high alert, listening for anything unusual, feeling like a naughty child because she wouldn’t like me wandering around her house at night.  She’d think I was up to something.    Eyes burning from lack of sleep, rocking myself the way she once did, second guessing every decision made and unmade and made again.  Now still, vacillating between the yeas and the nays even though she’s dead and it won’t make a lick of difference.  Except it does.  Would she want that? Would she prefer this? Seeing that stutter in a sister’s eye and withering with the pain of believing you are not only ticking off the dead but irritating the living.

Folding up her clothes knowing she wouldn’t like the way I was folding this blouse and it shouldn’t be folded anyway, it should be on a hanger with soft arms that won’t ruin the fabric.  Only it doesn’t matter anymore.  But she’s like a hangover I can’t shake – “No, Di-dee, let me do that.” – and my fingers become brisker and all-business until I’m shoving stuff into plastic garbage bags and criticizing my sister for doing the same.  Dad tells me he’s leaving her books for the nursing home library, and he’s so fragile he’s almost translucent.  ‘We have to flick through them,’ someone says.  ‘She used to slip important photos inside her books.’  And I don’t stay for that in case there aren’t any of me.

I take her hairbrush and her glass nail file, which are still powdery with her, and brush my hair until my scalp hurts. I understand why people cut.  At the moment she stopped feeling anything I started feeling everything.  The air is a different colour, and those kind condolences seem to be coming from a long way away.  I respond the way I have been taught how, to comfort those kind voices.  I’ve always had good manners.

‘She’ll always be with you.’  ‘She’s in a better place.’  ‘You’ll see her again.’  I know it’s not true.  Mama knew it wasn’t true.  She’s gone.  She has ceased to exist.  I’m careful not to disillusion the god-botherers though.  No need to upset anyone.  I’ve always had good manners.

It’s a kind of madness, you know.  I have gone a little bit mad.  This isn’t grief – it’s a bomb-hole, a yawning pit girdled by jagged edges and you climb and climb and all the climbing in the world will do nothing but fill your mouth with dirt.  There’s nothing for it.  And I am completely alone.  We all are.

If Colleen Had A Dick…

 “At least a third of a woman’s life is marked with aging; about a third of her body is made of fat. Both symbols are being transformed into operable conditions so that women will only feel healthy if they are two thirds of the women they could be. How can an “ideal” be about women if it is defined by how much of a female sexual characteristic does not show on her body, and how much of a female life does not show on her face?”  – Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

 

1422596159009Colleen McCullough was this week honoured with an obituary in The Australian which opened with the following:

‘Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth.  In one interview she said: ‘I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men’

This is the translation for anyone not yet up to speed:

‘Although she was fat and ugly she still managed to have some smarts and charm.  And overall she’s okay ‘cause men still wanted to fuck her.’

I’m not naive.  I know that the way a woman looks, matters.  It is what it is.  It shouldn’t matter, but it does.  We know this because even our representatives of the “ideal” in this culture have the shit photo-shopped out of them.  Women, and men, are prescribed a female beauty standard that is cruel, unachievable, and extraordinarily limiting.

So we start there.  From infancy.  Women being told they are fundamentally flawed in order to sustain the cosmetic/beauty industry and men being told a woman’s worth is dependent upon her striving for the cruelly unachievable, in order to be attractive to the very men who use the unachievable ideal to criticize real women.  This becomes even more diabolical as women and men age.  Women are cautioned about aging as if it were a disease, an illness which can and should be treated.  A woman with a soft belly and stretch marks, ample bottom, and boobs like pendulums, is thought to have “let herself go”. ‘Exactly where have I let myself go to?’ I always want to ask.   Seems like my body is going places without me.  And as my body goes it seems I have to get louder.

Men, on the other hand, have no such sanction.  They can become fat.  They can wrinkle and go grey and be bald and be impotent and people will still listen to what they have to say.  The world has created forgiving and respectful euphemisms for fat, old, impotent men.  They are well-built, dignified, regal, and have EDD.  EDD, for fuck’s sake.  And this pomposity is completely accepted.

I think Colleen McCullough was beautiful, and her beauty was the least of her triumphs.  But that’s because I listened to what she had to say.   And the tragedy is, if she had a dick, The Australian would have celebrated her beauty as much as I do.

Bullying and Self Esteem

“People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.”

― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

 

So people who love themselves don’t hurt others?  I’m calling bullshit on this one.     8wAE51

It’s a good lie, perpetrated for decades on end by the psychoanalytical elite and spawned during the salad-acid days of the self-esteem movement and post-modernist mummy blaming.  If this person had only been raised to believe they were special.  If only they had a sense of their own self-worth.  If only they loved themselves. If they had been breast fed longer, not been breast fed so long, had been held more, had been cosseted less, if they had only been permitted to express themselves, if they had just been told to shut the fuck up occasionally…some parents are so thumb-screwed by PC fascism that they are actually afraid of their own children.  Loathe to do something that will impact on their child’s self-esteem, many choose to simply do nothing at all.

I’ve never believed that bullies have low self esteem.  They seem to me to have an excess of self-esteem.  The willy-nilly over-application of child-praise seems to create a disturbing sense of entitlement in them while simultaneously draining out any vestiges of empathy.  Our child-worshipping culture is like a catheter – indulgent self-satisfaction in, narcissism and conceit out.  Self-confidence, self-regard, self-approval – self, self, self – the roots of self-esteem and bullying are almost indistinguishable.

I know I may be out here on my own again, but I think that sometimes it’s okay to tell little Johnny he’s just being a right little shit.  Sometimes it’s ok to bypass the hours of analysis and counsel, the behavior plan, the positive reinforcement and every other accoutrement in the psychologist’s arsenal, lobbed into the void in an effort to discover and placate the origins of little Johnny’s anger.  Has anyone just considered telling him that it is a requirement that he stop tormenting his peers?  God forbid we just throw some good old fashioned discipline at little Johnny – the latest American psychoanalytical studies are touting that asking a child to take sole responsibility for the pain they cause others is retaliating against the bully with bullying.

Here’s the rub: they who bully with impunity as children, bully with impunity as adults.  And then they raise more little bullies.  More of us should be standing in the face of this and saying “No”.  Quietly, firmly, unflinchingly – No.  And teaching our children to do the same.  This in no way implies a deficit of compassion, but it does require a lack of fear in all of us.  Sometimes it’s okay to tell little Johnny he’s just being a right little shit.

 

The Darling Bitch

I do not fight against men, but against the system that is sexist.

~ Elfriede Jelinek (Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004)

I answered the phone at work the other day and a fellow gave me his name and the company he was calling from.  I asked how I could assist him.  And he said: “What I’m calling about darl, is – “ I cut him off there and asked: “Did you just call me darl?”  He said: “Yes.”  So I hung up on him.
He called back within seconds and immediately said: “Look, if you don’t want to be called “darl” you just have to – “  I hung up again.
He called back again within seconds and said one word: “Bitch”.
I should preface this by saying that I knew this was a marketing call.  I always try to be polite to marketers (they’re only doing their job) unless they get me on a bad day at which time I tell them the owner of the company, aka The Chosen One, is currently in conference with Satan.  I must also add the waiver that I do have clients who call me “Love”, usually older gentlemen who think I’m the slightly-smarter-than-average-secretary, and I have no problem with this because I recognise the motivation is pure and their choice of language generational.
But lately I’ve been thinking about the fact that for a lot of men, in professional situations, I am either “Darl” or “Bitch”.  I don’t know if it’s specific to the industry I work in or not, but I do get called “Darl” or “Love” a lot.  Here’s the thing – whether I’m standing in front of you or on the telephone with you, I always seem to remember your name.  Miraculous, isn’t it? And in a group situation, even when there are more than two of you, I still remember your names.  If I find myself in a situation where your name escapes me, I revert to “Sir”, because that is the etiquette, isn’t it?  You seem to remember the names of all the men in the room, but still I am, always and somehow, “Darl”.
“Darl” might do your laundry, get you coffee, pick up your dry-cleaning, or give you a toothless blow-job in a back alley for $50, but she doesn’t pay your invoices, or remedy your contract issues, or carry out the logistical and administrative requirements necessary for keeping multiple construction sites up and running.  And confiding in me that your secretary is a bitch tells me a whole lot more about you than it does about her. 
And you know when it is I segue from “Darl” to “Bitch”?  The moment I insist on being spoken to the same way you would speak to a man calling to hire a chemical toilet.  The second I insist on maintaining professionalism when you want to reduce me to a vagina, I become the “bitch” without a sense of humour.  I can’t fucking win: if I’m friendly I’m a flirt and if I’m firm I’m on my period (oh yes, that’s been said to me too). 
 
So here’s the deal:  when you call me “Darl” or “Love” I promise to turn into the nail-filing, gum-snapping, breast-enhanced, fake-tanned, stiletto-wearing, high-school-drop-out you assume I am.

Don’t be surprised when your phone calls don’t get returned, your invoices get misplaced, your messages shredded and your urgent business shuffled to the bottom of the pile I plan to get to in 2016.  Just because I don’t carry my brains around in a sack between my legs, don’t assume my IQ is no bigger than your shoe-size, love.  “Darl” is a feminist issue.

 
Oh, and did I mention? – My eyes are up here….

Why the Terror Teat keeps ’em Sweet…

“So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

This week children attending the two large Islamic schools in Perth, schools I visited regularly as a bookseller, were advised not to wear their uniforms on public transport.  The reason? – They were being emotionally and physically intimidated by members of the public.  Got to remember these kids probably also carry backpacks – that’s some scary shit right there.  They say they’re just carrying homework and a cut lunch but we don’t want to take any chances.    
 
During the same week, a man entered an Islamic school in Sydney swinging a machete and asking if this was indeed an Islamic school.  Kids hid under their desks, got all upset – bit alarmist really.  I mean, this bloke was clearly terrified.  He has a right to protect himself from little Johnny.
 
And then there’s the young New Zealander who was bailed up at traffic lights on the Gold Coast by a car full of patriots who threatened to behead him.  In their defense, the young man had a beard.  I’m sure Mr. Abbott is currently looking into some facial hair legislation to ensure we are at least threatening the right people.  Because we just can’t have bearded people with darker skin driving willy-nilly around the neighbourhood.  We have a right to feel safe.
 
Mr. Abbott’s War on Terror.  This is some of the best goddamn marketing I have ever seen.  The whole idea of marketing a weak product (and you are far more likely to die of Ebola right now than succumb to a terrorist wielding a cutlass) is to artificially inflate the need this product will satisfy.  Like the War on Mould in my shower: clearly the mould will kill me so I must buy ridiculously expensive industrial strength toxic products that burn my eyes and irritate my skin unless I’m wearing a full body condom while applying them.  Marketing convinces me that filling my house with poison will keep me safe.
 
These poisons are a great distraction too.  There’s lots of tiny, tiny print on the bottles, and websites you can visit that describe what Mould does to your respiratory tract.  I don’t want any of that microscopic shit controlling my life, except all of a sudden it is.  And I lose track of the fact that if I rescue one more cat I’m more likely to trip over one on the way to the toilet in the middle of the night, crack my head open, and bleed to death before morning.  And the Mould will end up living longer than I do.
 
It’s the same principle as showing something shiny to a screaming baby.
 
So climate change, the cost of education, the insidious threat to our personal freedoms, pensioner poverty, homelessness, welfare hysteria, our violation of human rights, the depersonalization of people who look and sound different to us, and every other nasty little right wing agenda-laden product peddled to us during the last 12 months will slip into the back of our consciousness because all of a sudden there’s something much bigger to worry about.  But Uncle Tony will protect us. 
 
Fear.  No matter how contradictory or boilerplate the origin, fear remains the one great controller and captivator of both individuals and entire populations.  And we’re all suckling now…