Archive for September, 2009

A Lamb Leading Lions: France Wants Bhutanese Happiness

September 27, 2009

Bhutan is one of Earth’s poorest and happiest countries, hugged between China and India with about 700,000 people. We compare nations with Gross Domestic Product, the amount of wealth we can share. They use Gross National Happiness – psychological wellbeing in money’s place.

Bhutan defines happiness with 72 categories including time use, living standards,  mental fitness, community vitality, health, education and ecology. These pave four main pillars: Development, Culture, the Environment and Good Governance.

Even Griffith can grasp this, with our stereotype of wine/fruit/drug moguls clutching money bags and sneering “Happiness? I don’t need happiness! Go back to your board games, or whatever poor people do!” We’re all wired to find contentment. A recent BusinessWorld article states that economics is designed so the goods we buy gain value with time. We always pursue more material comfort and happiness, or ‘utility’ in Jargon.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy plans to replace GDP with Bhutan’s GNH model. He claimed that by chasing money, “the world almost plunged into chaos” recently, announcing “A great revolution is waiting for us.”

Sarkozy, no! Do you like having a head? Never invite the French to a revolution!

This has unleashed earth-shaking debate among sworn materialists, enlightened hippies and the microscopic minority in between. Any argument so close to home will shove almost all of us to one extreme side – maybe those who aren’t shaken and swept up see the objective truth, but 99% of the time, they’re drowned out by the loudest, blindest voices. Not GNH – everyone is on its side against an atom-tiny few on the GDP axis.

Of course a poor country with nothing to lose created GNH first. Personal gain is a cycle – the more we have, the more we crave. Where were billboards and three minute ad breaks when we were medieval farmers, or stone-age hunters?

TV didn’t arrive in Bhutan until 1999. This idea tortures us, the way living without every little luxury hurts a tycoon’s 12-year-old son. Because we left our other entertainment behind, our creativity doesn’t grow out of necessity, and we who grow up with the screen need it. We only desire what we don’t have anymore, and TV hadn’t robbed Bhutan until then.

This liberated bliss has earned GNH countless jokes. More evidence for it – nice, revolutionary ideas usually draw oceans of blood. Satire newspaper The Onion reports on its introduction in 1971:

“King Singye Wangchuck ascends the throne, stating his goal to increase Gross National Happiness. President Richard Nixon cuts off diplomatic relations, stating that Wangchuck’s goal is diametrically opposed to that of the United States.”

Appearing in The Area News, Griffith, Friday October 2

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Love and Fuck: The Same Word

September 25, 2009

I drove home to Triple J, the only radio station here that’s allowed to swear, the other day. Even the local studio has a framed list of absolute laws on their wall – [station omitted] Rules To Live By, all ten lined up under this cold black warning  in two columns, like the Commandments. Tailing column one, #5: No Swearing, under any circumstances.

In my DJ training, a lifetime ago, my tutor watched me at that studio’s switchboard, oversized headphones swallowing one ear. The 12-year-old’s erotic dream, lived by a shy glaze-eyed child, an exact opposite to the batshit crazy journalist he’d be eight years later. This tutor explained, I paraphrase, “Never let the air go quiet. The song starts while you finish talking, you talk while the song fades out. Three seconds of dead air is a long, disastrous time in radio. There’s one exception – if you think they’re about to swear in a song, take it off. I don’t care how long it goes quiet, get it off the air.”

True, it’s local radio. People often burst in and scream naughty words, knowing this is the one place they can swear without anyone hearing. But not really. They kicked me off after a year and a half, either for not showing up or swearing. I was a depressed 13-year-old bastard presenter, to be fair.

So, swearing in the media refreshes me. On the Js, an underground rap track pounded out a deep line: The first half I forget, probably something about being poor, then ‘… love, spelled f-u-c-k.’

One of those babyish ‘ahhh’ moments fell on the world, sunlight seeped from the road brighter each moment and floated my car through the weightless air. Above my head, two treetops parted quiet and gentle for the breeze of knowledge, because the idea lightbulb smashed last time I got high.

From flml.com - notice the passion expressed the same way with both words.

From flml.com - notice the passion expressed the same way with both words.

This isn’t just a hedonist’s idea, a sour belief that love is only hormones, searing pleasure and withdrawal symptoms. It’s unbound passion. I will now prove that ‘love’ and ‘fuck’ are literal synonyms.

Wikipedia is our first assistant, because investigative reporting takes actual effort, and going to a website doesn’t. See, children? Efficiency. In the entry for ‘love’:

The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure (“I loved that meal”) to intense interpersonal attraction (“I love my boyfriend”). This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.


We’ll take the obvious move:

The word fuck can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure (“I fucked that meal”) to intense interpersonal attraction (“I fuck my boyfriend”). This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes ‘fuck‘ unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.

This is especially valid if you have sex with food.

Indistinguishable

Indistinguishable.

The opposite page takes more thought:

Fuck is a transitive verb meaning sexual intercourse. By extension it may be used to profanely or negatively characterize anything that can be dismissed, disdained, defiled, or destroyed, and it is due to the convergence of these two weighty concepts (sex and destruction) that the term can carry such overloaded emphasis, although it is frequently used as a mere intensifier.

Sex and destruction. Such a perfect way to define that last half a minute, whether you’re panting and growling, clawing at each other’s backs. Or writhing together in your partner’s begging clutches while the world outside your bedroom, kitchen, movie set or whatever does it for you strange animals crumbles in the subtle embers you’re just barely sweating to. The latter climax is called making love. If last time was too perfect to remember its physics, pay attention near the finish next time – compare your speed to when you started. Yes, you fucked.

Are you blushing? Well, most acts of love are banned from primetime viewing, even the metaphorical eros around them. Society in its most superstitious, puritan time came to fear its public discussion. Your grandparents might still refuse to talk about it, or they’ve accepted the times and unwound with them. Swearing on radio gets you in mischief for the same reason – this is the height of human experience, and around Victorian times it lodged in our heads that children should be ignorant to the experiences they’ll be drawn to someday, still thinking of them as impure, unclean. The next justification was that children aren’t mature enough to handle intercourse. Which is why they can’t fall pregnant or feel desire – nature, taking care of us? Funny, that. Our two favourite words are still recovering from ignorance, the only true sin.

In each context, the words above both mean intensity. The moment you’re torn from thought into a present where you always belonged, but only now when you agree with everything do you realise. That is the philosophy propelling ‘love’ and ‘fuck’. Complete acceptance, the ability to say for example, ‘I fucking love video games’, or ‘We two girls love cups, soft piano music, bodily fluids and fucking. How shall we pass the time?’

Those two words always appear in the same sentence when we express enjoyment. It's no coincidence.

Those two words always appear in the same sentence when we express enjoyment. It's no coincidence.

Mobs, Pitchforks and an Iron Fence

September 18, 2009

This is a true story. If you prefer hatred over humanity, it’ll be unpleasant.

September 2009, the townsfolk gather around his little house and roar. A monster hides here, born with no understanding, regret, sadness, only the most desperate thirst for everything you adore. Once they’d hide in the ceiling, or a basement. Their families could feed your community without being feared for what their blood created. Today, an advocate left along the driveway with his head high. The butcher down the road picked him aside and asked, rhetorical, how he could help this creature survive. Because he’s human? Yes, but he’s not one of us. He’s the same shape, born to two parents, he eats, sleeps and thinks? You lie, he couldn’t. They all say he has no heart.

Then why is he still alive?

Because if we removed this tumor, the law that labeled him malignant would condemn us too. Then we would be murdering monsters. It’s not the conscience that makes us human, it’s what the neighbourhood whispers. It sounds absurd, caretaker, but try disagreeing with them when that near-soundless wisp becomes an outraged cyclone, a whole suburb chanting and hanging warnings on your government-commissioned fence. Keep your children away from the ogre. Wouldn’t it deafen you to every other sanity? Look – you disagreed by helping him, and the first thing I wanted to do is topple you and your false morals.

False? Mister butcher, he wants to recover. An itch overcame him, the way the crowd deafened you. He hurt someone, corrupted them the way you nag his past sins closer and closer to his heart until he gives in and you prove yourselves right. Do you want less monsters in the world, or one less near your home, turned away in anger to find another victim? Either you want this monster to remain dangerous, or the hatred in your protests is borderline insanity. He’s atoning.

Atoning? How does a monster know how to atone? What did you get him to do?

I didn’t know about it until just now. He’s … well, he was a charity worker.

From ABC News, Wednesday September 16:

Ferguson has also confirmed that he has been selling items to raise money for Diabetes Australia at various locations around Sydney for the past three to four weeks.

Among the items he was selling were key rings, fridge magnets, pens and toy bees.

Diabetes Australia has contacted police and is reviewing its screening process …

… Diabetes Australia says it has received $230 from Ferguson for one tray of merchandise. It says it will confiscate the remaining items.

No, Caretaker, he chose his actions. He doesn’t deserve humanity. We scream through his windows and start fistfights outside this little fence because there are no morals here. Why should we advance when he doesn’t? He’s a monster. We call for blood and gather here like predators, because he is a hideous animal. There’s no humanity here, we’ll never treat an ogre like a human being – whether or not he’ll believe us and maybe become decent, self-controlled – because we don’t want one more human. That itch to be right tempts us more than we can control. We can’t have him contributing, helping scientists and diabetics. They’re above him! If a mob this big cries enough that there’s a heartbeat under his impenetrable freezing breastplate, it’ll become so. That’s why we protest.

You see, caretaker? Anyone can chase him out, but with our hatred and neverending cycles, we protect our livelihood.

It's easier if you forget they're a person. That any of us could've been him, with the right upbringing.

It's easier if you forget they're a person. That any of us could've been him, with the right upbringing.

A Sermon Without Religion

September 15, 2009

Faith, Religion, Spirituality – the difference between these synonyms has become universal.

Countless figures have demanded reconnection since the Crusades faded into history – Alan Watts, who introduced us to Buddhism and so gracefully warned us about rushing through life to find Heaven, “it was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

Swami Vivekananda, the 1893 Parliament of Religions’ Hindu rep taught us that his people consider every religion built on the same purpose – his master worshipped Kali, Muhammad and Christ in order.

Eckhart Tolle, the softest and loudest New Age voice, suggests that evil only lives in uncontrollable thought, ego and humans’ funny addiction to pain.

Vivekanada. Inset text: One infinite pure and holy—beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee

Vivekanada. Inset text: One infinite pure and holy—beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee

I’ve always wanted to write a sermon. In preaching it, let me join the Countless:

There is so little difference between humans. We only get a body and life’s warmth at birth. Not even disability takes this away. Yet twenty years later, “He’s a painter,” “She’s a Muslim,” “She’s a homosexual,” “He’s a genius.” What changed?

Nothing but perceptions. This is how your faith and others differ – a thought.

Alan_Watts

Watts, seen imploding someone's brain with a single thought.

The Italian and Sikh use such different herbs recreating their grandparents’ recipes, but both are hungry. Both eat. The Turkish and Koori kid drift asleep to their folk tales at 8:30, finding the same comfort in different beds. So, the Christian, Muslim, Taoist and Scientologist put down their Bible, Qur’an, Tao Te Ching and Tax Invoice feeling the same peace in life. They know we’re far more than brain cells, molecules and a sex drive. Here those Three Synonyms meet, before Inquisitions, holy wars and fear poison them.

The earliest prophets weren’t dictated to, like you are, my children. They just knew how to hear themselves.

Staring at the camera is every spiritual leader's one weakness.

Staring at the camera is every spiritual leader's one weakness.

Appearing in The Area News, Griffith, Wednesday October 7.

Newspapers: A Dollar. The Truth: Free.

September 11, 2009

Print is for old people. City papers grasp for the young with columns by whippersnappers, youth stories and trends, but they do it for a generation who live in their rooms, would rather send video game bullets through their friends than kick a football to them (but who wouldn’t?) and unlike their oldies, know not to trust one story’s side alone in a form of media whose history is tattered by bias, propaganda and public opinion’s ignorance. Like, say:

Slave auction advertisement, 1829

Slave auction advertisement, 1829

Smoking makes you happy, mid 20th Century

Smoking makes you happy, mid 20th Century

... and the 21st Century.

The 21st Century suffers in motion

The internet exposes us to all this. We watch harmful opinions, celebrated violence – people die while we watch on YouTube’s raw news reports, seconds after it happens. But unlike the paper, so much more is splayed before us. Free, as knowledge should be. We all have not just the intelligence and power to see what’s worth believing, but the common sense. Imagine if the papers told us this – how many more of us could accept the angry, caught-up opinions that spit at us without logic, say in the Letters to the Editor page? We’d see so much further than them, rather than write back with all the scarce poison we can find in ourselves.

We are not apathetic. We were never ignorant. We are none of the stereotypes that fall on the youth’s shoulders, then slide dejected to the ground, realising they were wrong all along. “Kids these days care about nothing.” “I’m so sick of these kids and their petitions to help the starving.” “Why don’t the young go outside and play — no, grandson, I’m happy sitting in my chair all day, I won’t play with you.”

The fogeys who crucify their descendants are good people, misinformed so many times they believe it. If the internet only belonged to these people, maybe then we’d have less available to us. The upcoming online filter would censor far more things we have a right to know exist. With their eyes shut and ears blocked to reality, we have such an advantage. This is our time, our technology. Unlike previous generations, we will not fuck it up.

"No, we didn't label Iraq as Egypt. When we invaded, some jarheads wrote 'Egypt' in huge letters across the whole country. Yeah ..."

"No, we American journalists didn't label Iraq as Egypt. When we invaded, some jarheads wrote 'Egypt' in huge letters across the whole country. Yeah ..."