marsden_online: (write)
Today I added my body to a Women's March here in Christchurch, a sister and supporting event to one focused on Washington, DC. Because,
- as their manifesto says, Women's Rights are Human Rights and I support that. Both in the specific and in the general sense that improving women's rights will by extension improve the lot of (at least) every other marginalised group containing women
- and I feel it is important for progress that men are seen to be supporting that, because sadly many men are still more likely to listen only to other men
- but also on another level because I feel it's also important for the well-being of men that women are seen and treated as equal.

Here I just want to pull together a few threads from around the internet on why I think there is still a long way to go in western, particularly New Zealand society.

1. From an early age boys have been told to "don't be a girl", teased for being "girly" or put down for "hitting like a girl" in response to failure, asking for help, or expressing any "negative" emotion except anger. As well as indoctrinating the idea that women are somehow less than men in both boys and girls from an early age this negative approach to dealing with emotions also contributes to New Zealand having one of the highest rates of youth suicide (especially among young men) in the developed world.

Things are getting better on this front (I believe) but there are generations of us still alive who need to challenge those ideas within ourselves and strive to do and teach better.

2. If a little boy pulls a little girl's hair "it means he likes you". Not only is the reverse not held to be true, this normalises attack (physical or emotional) as a form of showing affection. Follow the chain and you get coercion seen as a valid form of obtaining affection in the form of sex, women criticised for not responding positively to catcalls or unwanted advances, and "he only hits me because he cares".

Again, NZ has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world.

3. There's this thing about queer/gay being used as a slur. Why is it that being romantically/sexually attracted to men is percieved as a bad thing by other men?. I'm theorising here, but coming back to my first point could it be that being attracted to men is something women do, so it is another accusation of girliness? Or could it be, as beautifully laid out here that a lot of men are afraid that a man attracted to them will subject them to the same form of unwanted attention they know they give the "objects" (women) of their affection (or even passing interest)?

I believe that in our hearts we men (most of us anyway) know that this behaviour is wrong because we become uneasy at the idea of it being turned on us. Knowing that it is our responsibility to try and
- firstly face up to the discomfort and accept when we are called out on it, then try and do better.
- secondly publicly represent and model for that better behaviour
- the hardest of all (and I fail at this often myself; pick your battles): call our friends and family out on it and support others - whatever their gender, orientation or colour - when they call others out on it in our presence.

If men can step up and do this instead of passively supporting the status quo, then fairness for women (and intermediate/null genders) will come a lot faster than if they have to keep wading through us every step of the way.

With all that off my chest, here is the gallery from todays march.

Victoria Square to Cathedral Square
The leading banner
marsden_online: (write)
There's a bit of a zeitgeist going around at least in my echo chamber about 2016 and the deaths of a number of celebrities who were of great influence on my cohort in their formative years. I have been mostly an observer in all this as I have never really attached to a real-world role model in this way. Partly because growing up I never had exposure to the same mass-media which made them household names elsewhere, but as I read more about what each of these people meant and represented to people only a click away through social media it becomes clear that it is also greatly because as a cishet white male on an easy course through life I never needed that role-model to aspire to. (Which isn't to say that I wouldn't have been the better for some more varied role models in my life.)

This was particularly well summed up in what I think was a retweet I saw a couple of days ago but have been unable to find to quote exactly, thanking "Prince, David Bowie, George Michael for showing me there was more than one way to express masculinity". Searching has however shown that this is a very common sentiment.

Today it is Carrie Fisher (among others, to be sure) we are mourning; and I do mean we because although I do not have the same strong personal connection I am not so emotionally stunted that I can not respect and and share in the grief for a woman who stood for - and spoke out for - so much to so many.

But to quote one angry man we "lost" in 2015
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away...”

These people and many others both past and still with us are the butterflies which create storms on the other side of the world with a flap of their wings. But they did (and do) it not by flexing their own but by inspiring others to do the same, until the beat of a million wings upon wings creates a force which can not be ignored.

With their passing the storms which are their legacy still rage and they will not be forgotten as long as those they inspired, and those whom are in turn inspired, over and over ... as long as we continue to beat our wings, sing their/our songs, carry their light*.

* I don't believe Princess Leia ever used a light sabre. But I believe wasn't entirely unrelated that that she was dressed in light/white, and Carrie stepped up to be a beacon in the real world.

It's particularly poignant for me that I write this today as I remember a friend of my own.
marsden_online: (write)
I communicate with the pollsters by e-survey, especially since auto-dialers put me offering my phone completely. One particular company often starts with the question "What do you see as the biggest issue facing NZ today.", or something similar. This week it was beefed up a bit and led to an extended series of thoughts which I posted on FB (as being the most convenient format at the time) but am repeating here as a less ephemeral record.

The question:
What are the main social problems in New Zealand that the Government and community as a whole need to address?
My initial answer:
Inequity and poverty:
With our GDP per capita there should be no excuse for not being able to provide everyone with the basics of a warm, dry, private space to call their own and sufficient to eat; as a matter of right with no need to jump through any hoops to prove they are entitled to it.
Address this issue and a great number of other issues which stem from or are exacerbated by it will also recede.

Half an hour or so later I also wrote the following (edited a bit for clarity):
Ongoing thought about why our current social welfare system doesn't work very well wrt eg housing and food.

It consists of (reluctantly) giving people money and then leaving them to be able to procure the required services from "the market". But they're not dealing with /one/ market they are dealing with /many/ markets - accommodation, food, electricity ... - /each of which/
- has the goal of acquiring as much of that money as possible /without concern/ for the balance of the customers' needs
- and prices accordingly.

The result of course is that there is not and probably will never be "enough" money - see also for example how private rent increases have tracked the accommodation supplement.

The supply industries also benefit in their pricing strategy from individuals being given the money to spend rather than the services being purchased in bulk by a central authority with the clout to negotiate and keep the prices down.

For this reason I'm not opposed to government purchasing services from private providers; I /am/ opposed to the private providers being selected on the basis of lowest cost or metrics such as how fast they can get people off their books (churn). The correct metric has to be based on standard of care.

That would unfortunately require the government to care about the well-being of it's /entire/ constituency, not just those who voted for the "ruling" party or contributed to its coffers. :/

Back to now and a couple of other thoughts

Dealing with poverty is not a problem which can be solved by a single approach.
- Giving people money (or some form of equivalent discretionary resource) directly so they can target their own needs in their own situation is one part of the solution and has been shown to work well for getting people back on their feet. But as a sole or primary approach it risks capture as described above; where funds meant to help people into a position to better their lives end up straight in the (mostly metaphorical these days) pockets of "service" providers.
- /But/ poverty is relative and targeting the affordability of common - even "basic" goods and services is another piece of the puzzle. Not in an ad-hoc manner (eg taxes on/off fresh/processed foods - this has been a regulatory nightmare wherever it has been tried, save it for genuine luxury goods) but in a whole-of-market approach like Pharmac.
Bulk demand can shift the costs down but this is not something those already struggling with their living situation are in a position to organise. In a democratic/capitalist welfare society this should be a function of government.

One government department I think could make more of an impact here (if they were permitted) is Housing New Zealand; right now they are limited by having to use their own housing stock (which they have been forced to run down and sell down over the past decade); but if they were also able to function as a not-for-profit property management company effectively handling maintenance and property standards for those who for example
- have an investment property "retirement plan" but find the details of renting it out more effort than it is worth
- have a social conscience
- will accept a low-end-of-the-market-rent-range return

they might well be able to
- apply downward pressure on rental prices
- fill up some of those homes we hear about sitting empty
- reduce their waiting lists
- provide security for a lot of people who currently have found they can't ever trust they will still have a place to live after the next review
- upgrade some of NZ's abysmal housing stock
- and potentially be in a position to acquire some of those properties to replenish their own stocks when the bubble bursts

Yes the deal would have to be structured so as to appeal to the property owners opening it up to the criticism of being a government handout to that class; but I am reasonably certain it could be made to work for no more than is currently being handed to them indirectly via the accommodation supplement and putting beneficiaries up in motels for a week while simultaneously lumbering them with a paper debt which will, realistically, never be recovered.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Normally the news that a company like energy efficiency and insulation business Right House has gone into liquidation would pass through my radar with just a moment to pause in sadness for those whom have just lost their livelihoods. However this time there is an indirect personal connection - it was a telemarketing call from Right House house and the following obligation-free quote which made me decide that then was the time to start the ball rolling on actually getting grid connected solar installed here.

The first step of course was googling up solar installers in NZ and sending off for more quotes. when it came down to it though two I already had bookmarked gave the best results. A shout out here to CPS Solar (Canterbury based) who provided a lot of useful information and food-for-thought in our conversation. Definitely consider them.

My choice though has gone to Solar City despite the fact they they were the tardiest in replying to my enquiry. I'd like to write a bit about why.

First off is their innovative Solar Care offering. For $0 or $1000 down they will install panels on your house and sell you the electricity generated for a fixed monthly cost for the next 20 years. (You then use or sell excess power into the grid.) This effectively locks in the cost to you of that much power for the next 20 years, and the contract is set so that the cost-per-unit is probably lower than you are being charged now.

Personally I think projects like this are what the major generators should be doing, to conserve hydro and fossil-fuel (ugh) generation for night time and winter use. But of course they don't make money by providing people with cheap power :-/

I was almost sold on this, it works out very well for both the homeowner (who gets rapid access to solar without massive expenditure or worries about insurance, monitoring etc of the panels) and for the company who get regular cashflow (instead of constantly having to chase new installations) and to depreciate the value of the solar panels on their books :). Had I investment properties I would be having Solar Care systems installed ASAP. Any of my home-owning/paying-off friends I strongly recommend taking a look.

However the desire and years of expecting to outright own the installation asserted itself and I was unable to bring myself to deviate that far from the plan. What actually sold me on a fixed install from Solar City installation was not the price but the opportunity to become involved with / contribute to a new initiative they are setting up with the University of Otago to (quoting the flyer)
Conduct a comprehensive study into household and commercial solar energy use, to better inform and guide the nation towards a 100% renewable energy future.

(As a bonus, "Customers will have the opportunity to beta test new technologies in the energy efficiency and solar space." Eh-heh-heh ...)

This will involve a period of monitoring before the installation which is fine because for me "starting the ball rolling" on a project like this means I have a 12-18 month horizon in view for actually affording and completing it. This is something I make clear of my requests for quotes but find a lot of companies have difficulty with - and their pressure (and oft-times effectively bribes) to commit sooner is something which I find distinctly off-putting.

Companies, I am (charitably) sure that you are genuinely interested in making sure your customers get good value for money but if you want my custom please do me the courtesy of understanding that I know and understand my own values, finances and finance options and that I am not undertaking such a large project on the spur of the moment. If I am not the typical customer in this, well that is simply a sad observation on today's society.

Another issue where I have struggled to reach common ground with all the companies I have talked to is my desire to install more generation capacity than is "economically efficient" for me. (The generators don't pay a terrific amount for home-solar production fed into the grid and these tariffs have only been dropping.) The concept that I might have broader, non-economic goals like future-proofing the amount of generation on my roof (nominally economic), or happily working towards overall lower power prices for everyone else by feeding cheap power into the grid and setting an example for wider home generation is completely foreign.

(I've had to temporarily throw in the towel on that one, but the system I am getting is eminently extensible at a later date by the addition of more panels and micro-inverters.)

Speaking of finance options this entire post / mini-rant was actually triggered by a quote from the Right House article.
But the business had not had the demand for their services, from home insulation to energy advice, that it had hoped for, Fisk said.
"I think that has been influenced by whether people are getting offer subsidies to insulate their houses," Fisk said.
The company failure may seem "counter-intuitive" when there is a housing boom especially in Christchurch and Auckland, he said.
Asked if the government cuts to home insulation subsidies in 2013 had affected Right House, Fisk said he believed it had "some effect".

Now this is a Stuff article so don't assume that quote from the liquidator (probably not yet familiar with the company finances) is entirely in context. It's obviously being played a bit by the reporter and as such I believe it reflects a wider feeling that the only reason people might be interested in getting into solar (and more broadly other technologies) is the money. That's a meme I'd really like to squish out of society's group consciousness because there are so many wider possibilities once you broaden your view from what is purely best for the individual.

[tangent]For example Christchurch (City Council) is currently looking at painful rates rises and having to privatise some of it's utility assets to afford the costs of the earthquake rebuild foisted on us by the national government. But we could build a new asset as a (somewhat seasonal) electricity generator right alongside the rebuild to offset some of that cost if only by generating some of the power required. I think most households and businesses would be happy to have some council-owned panels on their roof in exchange for the promise of lower rates increases (or the offset in lower electricity costs).[/tangent]

It is true that for the majority of homeowners (unlike well-privileged, mortgage-free, no-dependants self) the availability of subsidies will probably have a significant impact on the affordability calculations. (And part of the genius of Solar Care is how it simplifies that calculation.) It is good business for eg. an installer to point out the available options which may make what they are selling more affordable.

[aside]If you have a mortgage with Kiwibank also check out their Sustainable Energy Loan (link not guaranteed to be current).[/aside]

But I don't believe it is broadly good that our consumerist, buy now (worry about paying later) culture tries to rush people into accelerating financial plans that should be taken time over and focuses on the monetary payback value of long-term purchases to the detriment of other values. And just like if your business relies on the government topping up your employees wages because you don't pay them enough to live; if your business relies on pressuring people into making financial decisions for cashflow perhaps you should take a hard look at how sustainable it / its growth path really is. When I look at who I give significant amounts of my actually-earned money to, you better believe I'm taking that into account. Often it is through [your business'] salespeople that I have the most direct experience of that.

[aside]No I'm not a fan of commission sales, why do you ask?[/aside]

Disclaimer: this has not been any sort of solicited promotion and I have no connection (yet) to any of the mentioned companies except as outlined above. (Haven't even signed and returned the quote.) :p
marsden_online: (Default)
Maybe take time to ponder not only workers rights, and their erosion over the past few decades.

But also the rights of the "non-worker" in an age where many of the jobs that existed during Samuel Parnell's time and the decades thereafter have been supplanted by technology without technology necessarily creating similar or greater numbers of other jobs in their place.


Sep. 21st, 2014 10:53 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
Like most of my friends I went to bed last night in a state of grief. As the number of non-voters has come clearer today and the relatively small % of people who actually produced National's likely dominance of NZ politics and discourse for the next 3 years became apparent that grew into a deeper sadness.

This post is just a stream-of-consciousness, spit-wadding ideas which are floating around in my brain out against the wall.

First to note I'm not against National in general. My politics are well to their "traditional" left but that doesn't mean they don't have good policies. There are multiple ways to get things done and government in NZ is (supposed to be) about influencing which way - or preferably which middle path - is taken to address the challenges we face as a country. Unfortunately NZers in general don't seem to have wrapped their heads around the idea of consensus politics, and I include senior members of our parliament here.

I am against the sort of cult of personality, right to rule politics practiced by the current National leadership. I am strongly opposed to a lot of stuff the current national party is implementing which seems driven largely by ideology rather than with regard to proven (or disproven) outcomes or I fear by ulterior motives by which I mean the true results which is being sought are not the ones which are being promoted. This is unfortunately an inherent problem in politics.

My echo chamber is full of anger at the people who didn't vote/appear to be uninvolved or uninterested in politics. It is possible that this actually reflects positively on the general standard of living in NZ that so many people are able to feel that it won;t negatively impact on them regardless of who of the "right/left" is in power, but the truth of the matter is more likely that many of these people have such busy lives just keeping whatever standard of living they have that they do not have the luxury of taking time to engage with the issues of the day. Which to me is an indicator that society is not overall as well off as people think, because in a well off society this time would not be a luxury.

I've seen a lot of confusion over the way so many people seem to have split their vote Labour/National. In a lot of ways I see this blatant vote splitting as a positive, it means that a) the people who are engages understand the difference between who represents them locally and who has overall control of the country and b) the Labour/National(Greens) tribalism is starting to die off. Under MMP it should be perfectly feasible for a National/Labour coalition to form, given that the two parties aren't that far apart on many things. The only thing preventing closer relations between the two parties is that so many old-guard have so much invested in the brand of *not Being X*.

"The right" certainly did get it's vote out better that "the left", even given that explicit support does appear to have dropped since 2011. I think while everyone was distracted by the Brand Key sideshow behind the scenes they actually did work their networks and the party machine make sure that people were going to go to the polls, where the left relied heavily on people going to vote "for the greater good". "The right" understands at a far more integral level that once you have power/influence you have to work to keep that, constantly, and they have. Sadly they chose do do this through the last term by dirty means rather than on the strength of the outcomes of their policies, which one would be expecting to see by the end of a second term. Unfortunately it can be really hard for Sam Citizen to tell the difference between outcomes from policy and mediocre outcomes from a favourable environment.

The general agreement in the part of my echo chamber which talks about such things seems to be that the majority of non-voters probably fall somewhere between Labour and the Greens in the political spectrum, that there is a large gulf there who probably once would have been Labour but can't bring themselves to move Green. There is a lot of talk of Labour having to re-invent itself. Frankly I think Labour would do better splintering along it's well-recognized internal fractures into multiple smaller parties rather than trying to be "The party of the Left" that they once were - only that way can they actually address the spread of issues rather than failing to be all things to many people. It wouldn't hurt National to split either come to that. In my view that is the political landscape which would best show the power of proportional representation for actually building contextual solutions which address the concerns and interests of a majority of those affected, which grouping is going to be different for every situation, and thus widely accepted.

I do wonder how much of the non-vote was younger Internet party support which didn't actually get around to voting. Good on them for stirring up the youth and at least getting them enrolled (I think they had a positive effect there). Hopefully some of those young people rather than being disillusioned and put off politics for the next decade of their lives will maintain an interest and maybe help fill the desperate need for voices speaking up about issues that matter to that demographic, issues which in a lot of ways do overlap with mine but then I'm not "typical".

One thing is clear though - even if the bulk of NZ is doing OK this government is unlikely to do very much - or even less - for a lot of the people who are near the bottom of the heap in NZ, which means that the rest of us with the means to do so are going to need to step up even more. I may have to bring forward some plans I was not planning to implement until after putting more retirement savings / personal buffer aside.

Look after each other out there.
marsden_online: (write)
I have realised there is an important point I only touched on indirectly in my previous post on Consent and KAOS, and that is to do with personal responsibility.
This post is a follow-up to address that point.

Rules and Disclaimers

Same as before:
1. Mild trigger and hot-button warnings for conversation around sexual assault, non/consent and KAOS party behaviour.
2. I've tried to keep this as gender neutral as possible - I know we're socially conditioned to automatically cast thse events in a M-on-F light but F-on-M, F-on-F and M-on-M events are equally problematic, and often more difficult to speak up about.
3. Conversation seems to have started at Livejournal for the original post anyway, so if you are reading this on Dreamwidth please go to LJ to comment on this post as well. Anon comments will be screened automatically.
4. These are my opinions; opinions do not exist in a vacumn. I'm happy to engage further in conversation/debate; I'm happy for people to share their experiences if they feel like doing so; I will not tolerate personal attacks, criticism of peoples actions/reactions in an event or well-intended advice in response.
5. At points in these posts I've straight out borrowed from a few other people who have already said the things I would like to say, often better, with permission for the big chunks. I haven't attributed these because I want people to be able to choose if or how they enter the conversation. If you recognise someone's voice or comment from elsewhere please respect that. If you see your words in here, thank you.
Personal responsibility )
What do you do? )
Advanced suggestions )
Conclusion )
marsden_online: (write)
So this weekend the periodically re-occuring discussion on behaviour and consent at KAOS parties fired up again. And it feels like there is a new vibe to it this time, a more positive one than I have experienced in my going-on-20 years of seeing it repeated.

This post collects a lot of my thoughts and opinions on the subject into one place. Because FB discussions are hard to reference later and verbal discussions even more so, and heck some of these are just jotted down in my notes for my contribution to an somewhat improvised speaking at the 48-Hour party just been.

Rules and Disclaimers

1. Mild trigger and hot-button warnings for conversation around sexual assault, non/consent and KAOS party behaviour.
2. I've tried to keep this as gender neutral as possible - I know we're socially conditioned to automatically cast thse events in a M-on-F light but F-on-M, F-on-F and M-on-M events are equally problematic, and often more difficult to speak up about.
3. Comments on this post to be directed at the Dreamwidth version please. Anon comments will be screened automatically.
Update: conversation seems to have started at the Livejournal post anyway, so comment there.
4. These are my opinions; opinions do not exist in a vacumn. I'm happy to engage further in conversation/debate; I'm happy for people to share their experiences if they feel like doing so; I will not tolerate personal attacks, criticism of peoples actions/reactions in an event or well-intended advice in response.
5. At points in this post I've straight out borrowed from a few other people who have already said the things I would like to say, often better, with permission for the big chunks. I haven't attributed these because I want people to be able to choose if or how they enter the conversation. If you recognise someone's voice or comment from elsewhere please respect that. If you see your words in here, thank you.

A matter of scale )
Surfacing the experiences )
Framing the problem )
Partial solutions )
Missing stairs )
Calling people out )
Your responsibilities when you bring a friend to KAOS )
Modelling consent )
marsden_online: (write)
"Mind your own business". How many genuine expressions of concern have been rebuked with those four words? How many internally-voiced concerns have not been acted on because of fear of being met with them. How many when met with them have given up and walked away (the socially correct response) instead of pressing on and risking a scene?

[rambles a bit before getting to the point]
Not-particularly-hypothetical-situation: suppose I'm at a party and I see someone drinking heavily - too heavily in my estimation. Someone I haven't seen/interacted with at a party before; someone whose alcohol tolerances I don't know. Someone whom if it were a friend I would check in with and suggest they slow down, but I don't even know any of their friends well enough to feel comfortable giving them a nudge in that direction.

If they are new to the social group they probably don't know me from a bar of soap .. or a creeper. Segue - what if someone I know to be a missing stair seems to be chatting them up (intoxicated or not) and they seem fine/consensual with the attention so far.

How do you approach someone you don't know and say "hey, I think what you are doing right now is a bad idea?" and expect to be taken seriously?

Too often we "mind our own business" until there is a clear problem, until it's too late and there are pieces to pick up, because then there is a clear justification for presenting concern and (hopefully) we become one of a group of others doing the same thing.

In my own social environments I probably have the mana if not necessarily the confidence to approach anyone I've been even casually introduced to or raise a concern with someone better placed than I to deal with it; yet I do not. One part of that is that watching out for people - especially people you don't have a personal bond to - takes precious energy; energy I'd be better spending trying to enjoy myself. No-one wants to spend their time at a party riding herd or playing policeman. And I've learnt the hard way that sometimes you have to let people make their own mistakes.

So you hope that there are enough people just sort-of keeping an eye on things that someone else will pick up on anything that needs picked up on that you don't feel up to dealing with, and try to convince yourself that your worries are unfounded, push them out of your head and mind your own business.
[Pushing them out of my head never actually works.]

But I do notice things. Lots of things. And as an "elder of the tribe" along with that mana comes responsibility to look out for others; responsibility I do take seriously. I do try to keep some sort of tabs on what is going on and with whom for reasons beyond being a gossip-hound by nature. So I've turned this problem over in my mind a lot; inconclusively to date. Recent events have bought it back to the fore.

The one conclusion I have come to is that the currently socially-mandated definition of what is ones "own" business is harmfully narrow for society as a whole. It leads to individual disengagement, it hinders the development of support networks and it further hinders those networks functioning effectively.

This does not go unobserved elsewhere - for instance I've seen a number of webcomic strips over the past while (couple of years I suppose), none of which I can be bothered hunting down to link but which share the theme that perhaps the person next to you in the elevator or sitting across from you in the train shares your "crazy" dreams or interests. But you'd never know because we're taught to mind our own business, don't talk to strangers etc etc.
[For those of us who are naturally shy this is particularly reinforcing.]

"Not my business / somebody else's problem" leads to some tragedies and *force multiplies* others. People who step in to help a stranger being assaulted or the victim of a car accident or challenge an armed robber in a dairy (to name a few of the things I've seen on the news) are written up as heroes; a lot of people do a lot of other good things daily which don't make the news but that doesn't change the fact that they are portrayed as exceptions when they should be the expectation.

In the smaller scale of peoples day-to-day lives - individually we may never be on the scene of any of the above but on a regular basis we all let lesser ills go unchallenged or untreated. And that is understandable, as I said above it takes precious energy to risk getting involved andw e must all choose our battles. Just ... let's be honest about why. Maybe we *didn't* notice the signs, maybe we weighed it up and made the decision that what we were doing *was* more important, maybe we didn't want to take the *risk*. But let's not claim we were "minding our own business", because the well-being of those around us is *everybody's* business.
marsden_online: (write)
During my years hanging around university clubs I have noted a pattern to do with group/event management which like many things at University is a condensed* version of something that happens a lot in the "real" world.
* condensed by virtue of University being a relatively short period in most people's lives where certain social chains of events are are by nature compressed.

It goes a bit like this:
(wherever I mention "year" below you may substitute a suitable periodic interval for whatever happening you are thinking of.)
- One or a handful of people will have an idea for an event (or club), and the idea will catch on
- some or many people will put in a lot of hard work (the good kind) making the event (or club with great events) happen; this will not feel like work because all involved are having fun
- everyone has a great time and says let's do this again (anywhere from next month to next year. For simplicity I am going to use "year" from here on.)

- Next year some of the original team have gone but with the benefit of the previous year's experience and a bit of new blood the original core puts on something even better.
- it still doesn't feel like work (because things are often easier the second time around) and from the outside it looks polished and easy.
- Usually it is the next actual calendar year where things hit a snag.

- By the third year most of the original core have moved on to other things, and surprisingly so has some of the new blood from the previous year.
- The remaining originals are starting to feel that it is time to move on to other things as well and looking for people to properly take over the event. However all the new-new blood looks to them to tell them what to do, and it is easy to get frustrated at the questions, and the time it takes inexperienced people to do things, and especially at the new (and old) people who -don't- deliver on what they say they will.
- Running the event starts to feel like *work* (the bad kind) for the old hands *and* for the new hands who based on what they saw as attendees the previous year(s) expected it to be much less time/effort than is actually required.
- Additionally some old hands fall into the overconfidence trap and under-remember / underestimate how much time and effort they will need to put in, leading to last-minute rushing and relatively superficial preparations on their part, which for a big event often flows into frustration for those who want to get on with Y, but need X done first.

- This 3rd time may be the peak (because the remaining old hands will still pour more-than-they-really-have into making it happen), or it may be the start of the decline.

- because the old hands are in frustration still taking on many of the tasks themselves when the new hands fall (or for lack of new hands) there are limited opportunities for new people to come in and succeed in their own right, or own their failures and experience the consequences on the event.

- Fourth year - most of the remaining old hands from the first couple of years (and there are usually only 1-3 remaining) are burnt out but reluctant to let go of their "baby" because "other people nearly caused the event to flop last time". The previous year's new blood are disillusioned about the amount of time and effort they had to put in *and* the abilities of the old hands; or feel that they weren't given a proper chance to show what they could do the previous year and are at best ambivalent about the odds of being given any better chance this time.
- the event runs mostly on the momentum of the successes of previous years, but everyone can feel the change in atmosphere ....

From here the event/club will either limp along for a few years until a new group with a great idea and fresh enthusiasm come along and reinvigorate it (and the cycle repeats), or will eventually wither and die, maybe to be resurrected again by a completely new group.

Such is life, but rarely with the clean delineations produced by the university year.

My experience (I've been at all points in the cycle; some repeatedly) doesn't actually leave me with much useful advice. But thoughts:

Regardless of where you are at it is *actual work* to open those opportunities for new people to succeed or fail; to stand back and not step in to fix things (damage control around the edges sure). By year 3 the absolutely best thing you can do if you are still involved is *mentor* rather than lead or manage or run. Mentoring is not the easiest skillset in the world to pick up.

It is never easy to walk away from something you have poured so much passion into but if you want it to grow into something more I seriously recommend doing that after the second year; before *you* rather than the *event* become the institution. Make this clear early on and stick to it. It may mean the event falters a bit in the third year but it's far more likely to then catch its step and grow again in the 4th and 5th year (expect another dip in the 6th).
- Maybe the idea was only ever going to be a shooting star; maybe it will take on a life of it's own; either way this is the point where you really need to think seriously "am I willing to commit a significant portion of my life my life to this as I would to my child?".

If you are coming in as a new hand and you are really passionate about the event by all means push your way to the top level of organisation. Don't feel you have to defer to the old hands just because they are old hands. Don't disregard their advice either - but understand how they may be a little jaded. You have something to prove and the energy to prove it, and these are important. (The next year you will be n old hand and the shoe will be on the other foot so to speak - don't lose sight of that either.)

One more note - people often talk about writing a reference document about how to run an event. My experience is that these rarely get written (*hard* work for most of us) and then rarely get referenced. An easier but also one of the most useful things you can do though is if your part of the event involves contact with outside groups keep a good record of who those contacts are that you can pass on to your eventual successor. This perhaps more than anything else can help establish a public perception of continuity to the event and save starting from scratch again every single (or second) year.

Final note - established, successful clubs and events follow a slightly different pattern. With a little care yours will mature to that stage too.
marsden_online: (write)
I was in a conversation last night which included a friend who is one of the excellent people who work for WINZ and several friends who have to deal with the system as "clients". One comment in particular, about the public perception of beneficiaries and "a few bad apples making it hard for everyone else on a benefit" triggered one of my hot-buttons.

It is emphatically not beneficiaries* themselves who are responsible for the public perception. it is the politicians who have invented the myth of the "dole bludger" and "DPB breeder" to make beneficiaries a whipping boy and scapegoat in order to polarise and arouse their (non-beneficiary) support base; and it is the the media who have either swallowed the hook or considered it better business to run with it or even fan the flames.

"Everyone loves a good hanging" as I'm told they used to say. And you can hang a well crafted straw man over and over and over again.

I'm going to link again to Werewolfs excellent "Ten myths about welfare' which comprehensively lays to rest these imaginary monsters which we seem so keen to let ourselves be stirred up against. There are plenty of genuine monsters out there which we would be better using that energy to fight, ironically many of which find fertile ground / easy prey in those very same (vulnerable) people at the bottom of the heap.

* I'm going to repeat here something I said in my earlier post. I consider the terms "benefit" or "beneficiary" to be critical misnomers. There may certainly be other benefits of unemployment for some but I fail to see how receiving a paltry sum for the government in exchange for repeated jumping-though-of hoops can be considered one of them.

So there is another harm caused by this stigmatisation of those receiving government assistance, and that is that those genuinely in need and fully entitled to this assistance that society provides through the mechanism of government are dissuaded from asking /receiving it for fear of being tarred with this brush, subject to this witchhunt. Dealing with WINZ is well known as a far more stressful experience than it ought to be for an organisation tasked with delivering well-fare and especially so for those who are already in highly stressful and desperate circumstances. We - our representatives - should not be raising this additional social hurdle in front of them! We as caring members of society (I hope) must not propagate the meme through careless word, deed or buying into false stereotypes.

- I admit to my own fallibility here; I am regularly challenged to examine assumptions I didn't even realise I was holding about this or that segment of society. Really, that's all I asking others to do here.

Yes there are a few "bad apples" and likely always will be; but surely for those people being on a benefit as such is merely a symptom of larger underlying issues. I consider the relatively insignificant portion of resources they consume an acceptable cost of the far greater benefits of having a decent, functioning social welfare system.

[And just to head off any beneficiary bashing OR bitching about WINZ in the comments; a) you obviously missed the point and b) the frontline staff know how bad the system is, OK? This post is not about the flaws of either of those groups, it's about government and politicians and the media and NZ society and "culture".]
marsden_online: (skull)
Is fine if you are an ocean-roaming near-apex predator. Otherwise relies on the assumption that any of those other fish are going to venture from the safety of their schools to take a risk on getting to know this possibly dangerous stranger; &/or the assumption that some form of significant bond forms quickly when two "right" people meet approximately at random rather than being something that builds over time. The ocean is a *big* place.

IME most people don't live in an ocean. A better analogy is a series of small coastal ponds and streams, occupied by people sharing common background or interests; people who are already predisposed to at least like each other by virtue of this commonality. In the internet age these pools and streams are more defined by social ties and less by real-world geography or village/town/district/city population than they used to be not even all that long ago.

If you are unhappily -not- surrounded (physically or virtually) by people who already share your interests and likes or every stream and pool and the nearby coastline really does seem to have been thoroughly explored perhaps it is time to throw yourself to the mercy of the ocean currents and see where they take you; risking those apex predators and a myriad other hazards. Some people thrive on risk.

For the rest of us - well we may look for more streams to explore and see what time and tide build around us.


Aside: I'm sure some interesting research has been done comparing things like people's emotional risk profiles to their investment risk profiles. Probably all the same behaviours - for example overweighting short-term risk; overestimating long-term returns - apply.

Failure is

Jan. 12th, 2014 09:47 am
marsden_online: (Default)
- an option
- the most common method of learning
- only imperfect success
- an opportunity to do better next time
- the best way to improve

[x-posted from Tumblr]
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Back to my current favourite source of advice on procrastination
The procrastinator is in the bad habit, bordering on addiction, of letting the monkey win. He continues to have the intention to control the monkey, but he puts forth a hapless effort, using the same proven-not-to-work methods he’s used for years, and deep down, he knows the monkey will win. He vows to change, but the patterns just stay the same. So why would an otherwise capable person put forth such a lame and futile effort again and again?
The answer is that he has incredibly low confidence when it comes to this part of his life, allowing himself to become enslaved by a self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s call this self-fulfilling prophecy his Storyline. The procrastinator’s Storyline goes something like this:
For the Have-To-Dos in my life, I’ll end up waiting until the last minute, panicking, and then either doing less than my best work or shutting down and not doing anything at all. For the Want-To-Dos in my life, let’s be honest—I’ll either start one and quit or more likely, I just won’t ever get around to it.
The procrastinator’s problems run deep, and it takes something more than “being more self-disciplined” or “changing his bad habits” for him to change his ways — the root of the problem is embedded in his Storyline, and his Storyline is what must change.
And the takeaway - good advice for anything you want to achieve in life...
3) Aim for slow, steady progress—Storylines are rewritten one page at a time.
In the same way a great achievement happens unglorious brick by unglorious brick, a deeply-engrained habit like procrastination doesn’t change all at once, it changes one modest improvement at a time. ... The author who writes one page a day has written a book after a year. The procrastinator who gets slightly better every week is a totally changed person a year later.
So don’t think about going from A to Z — just start with A to B. Change the Storyline from “I procrastinate on every hard task I do” to “Once a week, I do a hard task without procrastinating.” If you can do that, you’ve started a trend. I’m still a wretched procrastinator, but I’m definitely better than I was last year, so I feel hopeful about the future.

This storyline concept has shown up in a number of other articles I have read and also in my counselling sessions. Here are some of my most pernicious - by externalising them here I intend to given them substance whereby I can challenge them going forward.
marathon post )
marsden_online: (write)
What makes a place more than a shell of ordered construction materials? Use and purpose; a past, present and future; history and memories; hopes and dreams. People.

These things make a house a home, a restaurant a favourite, a business an attraction.

Not "if we build it they will come" edifices of steel and concrete and glass designed to hold someone, anyone for a period of time and then have all trace of the occupants scrubbed away in preparation for the next. Not malls, travelled by hundreds of people everyday but where next week a favourite business might be gone, replaced by something completely different with no sign it was ever there. Instead places built (or used) with purpose, meaning something special to somebody.

Buildings like people can have scars (or tattoos) and each one is a story. Like people (or as an extension of people) their purpose can change without losing the sense of what has gone before. (Buildings can even undergo more extreme "surgery" than people - completely torn down and *rebuilt* while still retaining the sense of place, purpose and history.)

A real building is like a tapestry woven with threads from people's lives. Places where each owner has left their mark, even if the who and the why have been forgotten. An extension here, an alteration or repair there, people say "oh that used to be the so and so" even though they do not remember it themselves.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
One of the things on my to-do list for this holiday was to step back and assess my life from the new vantage provided by higher mood. To see what looks different from up here and what new options may be visible; to see if there is anything old or new I now feel it is within my power to change for the better.

This post pulls together some of those thoughts.

insecurity )

procrastination )

fear/pain )

This post has felt like forcing myself open from the inside and I've procrastinated more than a little while writing it, but I think I have reached some insights. Still more yet to come, later.
marsden_online: (Kea)
Trickle - vertical, start some distance from (above) what you are trying to affect and hope it gets there
Ripple - horizontal, start on the same level as what you are trying to affect. Instant results.

Trickle - each level extracts value from the level below it in exchange for assistance (money flows down, but wealth flows up).
Ripple - value is retained in and cascades through the area.

Trickle - you (as the initiator) want to retain value as above.
Ripple - you -throw- something away from you and if the ripples reach back to you that's a bonus. (To extend the metaphor, ripples reaching the shore are wasted.)

Trickle - makes the recipient look up and reach up, but only to to catch it. Distracts.
Ripple - lifts the recipient on a wave, maybe only making life better for a short while but providing the opportunity to glimpse new horizons, and maybe jump up and catch something which was previously out of reach.

I throw things away a lot. Since I'm a bit short on disposable income it is other stuff I have a surplus of - time, wheels, knowledge, recently pumpkins :D (and now you know how they fit in).

They cause very little ripples, but they make life better for people who are important to me and maybe to people who are important to them. And actually that has value to me.
marsden_online: (BlueDragon)
I loathe this 'advice' and it's variants. They invariably result in the rising urge to grab whoever is issuing it by the throat and shake them to see how they like it. I'm very literally minded like that.

The inference is that the thing to do is take what you want by force/violence - perhaps not directly but nevertheless by demand, intimidation or manipulation. That is unacceptable, especially where other people are at all involved. Which they always are in a social context i.e. the modern world.
marsden_online: (Default)
Every time I get a higher resolution monitor, all the video gets smaller at normal viewing and looks worse at full screen.

(possibly I need a better media player)

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