Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good reasons to become a lesbian

Please excuse me - I'm going to have a rant that really should be relegated to my private journal, but I'm in the mood for publishing it on the net.

Men are just not interested in me! Ok - a few qualifications: 1) When I say 'men', what I really me is 'a significant majority of the men I know' (no need for grose generalisations); and 2) When I say 'not interested in me', I don't mean 'not interested in me as a means of fulfilling their needs and desires'. I mean, 'not interested in me as a person'.

I just had lunch with a friend. I won't mention his name, because this is the internet, after all, and I'm about to say some things about him that are less than complimentary. Most of the time, we talk about HIM. He's not the greatest conversationalist in the world, so I spend my time with him racking my brains for things about him that we can talk about. Cricket, tennis, his work, his family, rugby, football - most of these themes I'm not actually very interested in, but because he is somewhat passionate about them, I grit my teeth and ask him questions, and then attempt to engage with the subject matter of his answers. He asks about me, but only out of politeness, or out of a conviction that he really SHOULD ask, as part of the universal 'give and take' rule of which he is vaguely aware. I usually give him short, slightly vague answers that don't really reveal must information about me at all. It's not that I don't want him to know - it's that I know he's not interested and that by revealing anything real about myself, I have to deal with the blunt reality that he doesn't give a flying fuck.

So anyway, today I thought 'fuck it', and I told him a few little details about how I was REALLY going. I kept it positive - told him about answering the buzzer to people desperate for a meal or a clean syringe, and how I responded. I told him how I'd run into someone I knew at Fed Square, who was watching the cricket, and that he was really angry because no matter what he did or how hard he tried, he just couldn't find a place to live, and was forced to camp in the Carlton Gardens. I invited the guy over for dinner, and he helped me cook, and I learned about his story, and it was wonderful. So I told my friend all of this. He wasn't really watching me as I was talking, but I kept going anyway. Screw it, I thought, I was going to tell him how I was! I finally finished my long, excited monologue, and sat quiet, waiting for a response. Nothing. There was five minutes of sheer silence and finally my friend piked up. "So do you mean to say that you were actually at Fed Square watching the cricket?" I confirmed that no - I hadn't developed a sudden interest in cricket beyond painfully boring conversations with my friend - and we left it at that.

I ate my Greek salad and he munched on his Hawaiian pizza all in relative silence. I continued the conversation inside my head. See, you're never interested in me, I thought, glaring at the thread of cheese dangling from his lower lip. The one time I actually give you any real information about how I'm going, your only response is to bring it back into YOUR realm - like the most important part of the story, or the only bit you actually heard, concerned the cricket. Your snide remarks about how I'm a 'bleeding heart'; the way you talk about my passions as my 'little causes' - well, you are probably too self-absorbed to realise this, but the only reason I'm friends with you is because of my fucking 'bleeding heart'! I should tell you that. I really should. Oh but I can't. You would be destroyed by the truth. My bleeding heart prevents me from telling the truth. You still haven't noticed that I'm shitty. Well, I'm not going to tell you that I'm shitty if you haven't figured out on your own that I'm shitty. I'm just going to sit here in silence, shoveling my Greek salad, and glare at the growing pile of pineapple on your plate that you're picking off your pizza.

We finished lunch and I asked him which train station he had to go to. He looked slightly surprised (how thick is the guy!) - I told him I had some things to do. We said goodbye, and felt instantly terrible. I should have told him. The poor stupid guy - he doesn't know what he's done. Maybe he has a right to know that the reason he has no friends is because he's not interested in anyone except himself. I should call him. No, dammit - he should call me! But he probably just thinks I'm being a weird woman - she's probably got her period, he'll be thinking. He won't call, until the next time he gets lonely, and then he'll pretend nothing ever happened. Sigh.

And that's just one guy. It seems like it's all of them at the moment! I've been on a couple of dates lately, and each time I get to the end and think, 'This guy doesn't know the first thing about me!' Even in the awkward silences, they won't think to ask, 'So, you know that interesting tit-bit that you threw into the conversation before about something that you seemed passionate about and might shed light on the fullness of you as a person - please tell me more!' No - they will either tell me something else about themselves, or else wait for me to ask them another question about themselves. And I usually do, and I really shouldn't. Maybe I should just launch into something about me. But that feels too weird - I feel like I should be asked the question first. And sometimes even when I am asked a question, I feel like I can't answer it properly - I feel like I've been given this little window in which to talk, and I'd better hurry up and explain myself, because it will be closed in a second. Not exactly conducive to bearing one's soul to a potential partner.

But I have faith that they're not all like that. In fact I know that they're not all like that - I've met plenty who aren't. And so, I suppose, I will continue to live in hope. Or become a lesbian. Not such a bad idea, I've been thinking lately.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mental health and human rights

Went to visit a friend in hospital today. Well, I suppose it's not technically a hospital - it's called 'extended care'. My friend is in the psych wing. She is researching human rights, because she says that her rights have been taken away from her. She has no choice but to take the medication that she is given, and no choice as to where she will stay. It's like being in prison. She says that she'd rather be in prison.

My friend wants to take the health professionals to court, arguing that her human rights have been breached. I didn't tell her that I'd studied law, and in any case, I really didn't know what cause of action you'd take the health authorities to court over. I thought about the Charter of Human Rights in Victoria - section 10(c) says that a person must not be "subjected to medical or scientific experimentation or treatment without his or her full, free and informed consent."

I thought that individuals could use the Charter to take an authority to court. But I've just looked up the legislation, and it turns out that individuals can use the Charter to take statutory authories to court if those authorities have breached a human right. But it also looks like you need to have another action first - in other words, the breach of the Charter can only be an add-on to some other legal argument. So, for example, I guess you could sue an authority for negligence, and then also argue that the same action or ommission had breached a human right.

So, I'm not sure if this legislation will really help my friend, because I can't think of another legal cause of action on which you could base a claim. I assume the health authorities have statutory authority to force her to take her medication, and also statutory authority to admit her without her consent. Although I should really look into that.

I don't think this Victorian human rights legislation goes very far at all. It requires that all Bills introduced into Parliament include a statement of human rights compatibility, but the failure to do so doesn't make the Bill or subsequent Act invalid. If a Bill or Act does not comply with human rights, then Parliament can make an 'overriding statement' which says that the Act will be valid despite the fact that it doesn't conform. The Victorian Charter is nothing like the US Bill of Rights, which people can appeal to directly to stop individual breaches of rights.

There is debate about introducing an Australian Bill of Rights. If it's anything like the Victorian one, I guess you could say it's better than nothing, but it really does fall short of all that one expects when they think of a 'bill of rights'. I would be very surprised if Australia introduced a proper bill of rights. It would be a pretty radical move, because it would mean the introduction of a whole new area of law that nobody knows about. Making Parliament and statutory authorities abide by human rights would be a vast, unrestricted requirement - human rights tend to be broadly defined and I imagine that it would be very open to interpretation as to what authorities could or could not do.

But, I think it should be done! Exposing government authorities to a public that demands human rights will cause legislators and bureacrats to scrutinise every decision and action for compatibility. Common practices - like force-feeding drugs to psych patiends - would be reconsidered, and possibility publicly debated. I'd like to look into some other human rights legislation around the world - apparently we're the only Western democracy without it. What does the other legislation look like? How has it been used by the public? Has it been effective to defend human rights?

This thing is not a canvas!

This a poem I wrote about a few men in my life.


This thing is not a canvas!
It is soft and curved,
with spikes jutting out here,
and some uncomfortable potholes there.
It is smothered with slathers of paint,
all different colours.
Some of it is still wet -
careful now.
This thing is not a canvas!
and I am at a loss
as to how you mistook it as such.
I guess you see
what you want
to see.
But if you try to project yourself
onto this thing,
you will find
that it won't take your image
very well.
It won't reflect back
a picture
of you.
It can't.
It's already a thing -
coloured and textured,
ugly and beautiful,
all the dimensions present.
This thing is not a canvas!
If you want to look at yourself,
please don't look to me.
Go find yourself
a blank canvas,
devoid of bumps and freckles and laughlines.
Or even better,
Go find yourself a mirror.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


There is all this political talk about 'security' - national security; global security. In this context, the orthodox idea seems to be that 'security' is synonymous with 'military'. Security is achieved through military interventions and war.

What is security, really? On my definition, it is to feel safe; to feel free from harm...in a global context, to be without conflict. There is an idea called 'human security', which goes much further than the typical militarised version in explaining what security really is. On a 'human security' definition, we look at geopolitical, social, economic and environmental conditions that might endanger or negate the quality of human life. Immediately we see that for humans to be secure, we need to involve much more than the military. We need to fight poverty, injustice, discrimination, environmental degradation. We must stop conflict. But increased militarisation is not the way to do this.

Australia is involved in 'securing' places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but it doesn't seem like those places are very secure. In fact, the military intervention that defines security has resulted in a lot of civilian death, a lot of homelessness and a lot of poverty. Also a lot of environmental degradations - Iraq is really radioactive now, as a result of all the nuclear-powered artillery used there. Australian Defense Force public relations is quick to remind us about all the reconstruction work they conduct in Afghanistan. Yet after 7 years of Coalition forces in Afghanistan, the country remains in tatters. Average life expectancy is 44 years. Between 53% and 80% of Afghan people live below the poverty line. Adult literacy is 29%. The continued presence of war and violence is not helping things. The UN and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has condemned indiscriminate killings by US-NATO forces of unarmed civilians, including wedding parties and many children. Military effort in Afghanistan, aimed at establishing a 'democratic' (or pro-US) government, is not making things very secure.

If US-NATO forces left Afghanistan, there would be no pro-US, puppet government. However, the region may actually be more secure. Some commentators suggest that the continued US presence actually revived and provoked the Taliban, by providing a clear opposition and fuel beyond their otherwise domestic concerns. A NATO withdrawal could facilitate a peace process. The solution lies in peaceful dialogue, not military violence.

The ridiculous, thoroughly ingrained paradox is that violence leads to peace. This is a myth. Violence never leads to peace. It might suppress conflict temporarily, but the conflict will rise again, like ants from a hole that has been sat on by something big. Certainly, violence does not contribute to security. Security is achieved when there is social, economic and environmental justice.

The 'violence to peace' myth permeates our society. It is seen as a legitimate form of conflict resolution - in the home, on the street, in the bars and clubs. Police shoot knife-wielding 15 year olds, rather than finding nonviolent alternatives. This is not security. This simply promotes more violence.