Depression

This week is national carers week in Australia.

Watching someone you love battle demons and not being able to do anything material about it fucking sucks. I’m sure it’s the same for other issues other than depresison. I don’t have the experience with other issues so I can’t speak to them.

This is the reality of being with someone who has depression. This isn’t a complaint, it’s not a guilt trip, and it’s not even a warning. It is a calm if sad acknowledgement of the facts. Depression is like a mountain, I can wish it were not there but wishing won’t move the mountain. In this case it’s not even my mountain to move. Obviously when someone you love is in pain you want to be as helpful as you can be. But when issues are so deep, so ingrained, so personal you can only be so helpful. You can tell them what you think, what you might change if you were in their position, you can suggest strategies, you can be honest, blunt, objective, kind, empirical and soothing when they cannot be. But tugging on one thread often reveals that what you thought was solid ground was in fact just a light scaffold that could come down at any second. Sometimes hearing just how close to the edge that person is just knocks the wind out of you.

It’s hard because you want to make a difference. You want to be the balm that soothes them. You want to make it all better. It’s childish in a way. But it’s an understandable impulse. You want to be important to them. What’s the good of you if you can’t help them feel better when they are in pain? It may not be a rational thought but it sure is an understandable one.

It’s important to acknowledge that we who love those in pain are also affected. It’s important to acknowledge that it’s hard. This isn’t a slight to those in pain. It’s not a zero-sum game. My acknowledgment doesn’t somehow take away or minimise from their suffering. I wish I were strong enough to feel that kind of anguish and still turn up to life every day. But it’s also worth admiring those that stick by them and understanding those that can’t.

And so sometimes, because you only have so much fortitude and so many tools you just have to sit there and watch them fall apart, but you’re not doing nothing, you’re wondering.  Wondering if a better person would be doing something differently. If a smarter person would have more answers, if a stronger person would be able to lean in and shoulder the burden better. Wondering if a someone else would know just the right thing to do at this moment when you have no idea.

Because it feels so wrong just to accept that you can’t do anything. Of course, it is wrong, you do, do things. You help. Your presence matters, it does make it better but right there in that moment it’s hard to see how. Neither of you have the perspective to see what things would be like without you.

But people who care for others are important.

Advertisements

What the left needs to stop doing.

So, I’m about as left-wing as they come. “So left wing I only fly in circles” as Rodney Dangerfield may be saying if he were left-wing and not dead.

But some things about the left shit me. One of them is that the left has is high horse that they love climbing on at the expense of any rationality.

For instance: Recently there was a shooting in Las Vegas, it happened at a concert, the guitarist in the band that was playing at the time, a life-long second amendment supporter. After the event he changed his tune. He came out publically and said “Ok, guns are bad. I was wrong”

And he got attacked.

The feeling seemed to be that if you are going to change your mind you must have access to a time machine and do it pre-emptively and before you have reached the conclusions that you have reached.

Let’s think about this:

  1. Changing your mind should be celebrated. Should it take a tragedy for people to change their mind? No but let’s think about all the people who saw that tragedy and didn’t change their mind while you are railing against the people who did the right thing they getting a free pass?
  2. There is something that you are tragically, execrably and horribly wrong about.  It doesn’t matter what it is. But it’s there. NO-ONE is exempt from being wrong. Now maybe at some point you will change your mind about that thing, maybe you already have, it doesn’t matter. Let’s not act like we are all perfect beings with perfect knowledge from the womb and we have never been wrong about anything. That is the height of hypocrisy and delusion.
  3. When was the last time you came out and publicly admitted you were wrong? I’m sorry is that never? Yeah, never would be par for the course. This guy did. That is to be applauded.
  4. Can people not have legitimate differences from reasoned standpoints? You think this guy was wrong, ok that’s totally fine. But then he changed his mind to your standpoint and you still had a go at him? Sorry that seems less like you have a legitimate difference and more like you’re an asshole.
  5. Do people have to know what you do when you know it? Is that how the world works is it?
  6. Judgement is easy, forgiveness is hard. So you’re taking the easy route. Good on you, that’s never gone wrong.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people changed their mind on the evidence instead of after a tragedy? Sure it would. And there is such a thing as too little, too late. But this guy wasn’t the shooter, he was just a guitarist in a band. And he even made an EXCELLENT point. “We had security they had guns, guns they wouldn’t draw because they knew when the police arrived they would be shot”

And yet again I saw this today from a page on Christians who are now supporting SSM but at one point did not. So here’s my message to people from the left who want to marginalise and antagonise those who change their mind. Fuck off. If you haven’t changed your mind about anything then you have probably never really thought about anything deeply. Changing your mind demonstrates that you have at least spent time working through a problem. That you have analysed the issue. It’s easy to feel you are right. Hard to admit you are wrong. Take your hat off to the better person, extend your hand, hold your tounge.

 

Privilege

 

I’m going to talk about human experience and psychology and I’ll try to keep it on topic. Basically even though humans are empathy engines, we have certain blind spots. One of the major identified blind spots is that we can’t extrapolate experience from facts, only from stories. So a 900 people dying in an earthquake in Sumatra does not have the same gut punch as when that little girl Ann who lives near you, remember when she was run over by a drunk driver? she was trying to save her new puppy “Arlo” when it ran across the road, she was dragged 52 feet whilst still alive, the people who witnessed it are still kept awake by her cries.

To empathise with people, we usually need to have perspective so we have trouble not thinking that our sorrows are the worst sorrows that there are. Privilege leads to lack of perspective. I can cognitively know that someone who is below the poverty line is having a worse time of it for me but it’s hard to FEEL that. I might think “Well I’ve been poor” which is true I have, when I was younger I had weeks where it was a choice between food and rent but I also had a support structure that meant I didn’t starve and I probably couldn’t have starved in the street. The number of times I actually went hungry were few. I might also think “Well if they had a job or a better job than they wouldn’t have this problem” and this is where we run into our first difficulty. I have been unemployed. BUT by and large I’ve been working in good well paid jobs nearly my entire adult life. I have a good work ethic, I think that I am a good employee, I think I bring a lot to a job. It is difficult for me to think “I am an educated white male who speaks well and went to a private school and that privilege has got me jobs” because it didn’t feel easy. I worked hard and it feels like I did most, if not all of it myself. It’s very hard for me to pinpoint where if anywhere my privilege would have given me a leg up.

Thinking this also leads to a paradox. Am I where I want to be in life? Wealth? Love? Other aspects? If not, then I have to quietly admit that I either don’t work hard enough OR there are some aspects of life that working hard won’t overcome. Others may have had advantages, good fortune…perhaps some privileges that I didn’t. Once again we fall into this meritocritious fallacy that we all on some level buy into “I work hard, therefore I will be successful and good things will come” but we rarely ever see that in everyday experience.

If you think that privilege for most people means that they sail into jobs and it just rains money, then you are more deluded than those you rail against. In the top 1% it might work like that but the average experience is VERY different. If and when privilege kicks in it is often only a small leg up. It’s there but it’s not some secret handshake that makes all doors open for you. Usually it just means that some never quite shut.

While we are at it, this may come as a shock. But life isn’t easy for anyone. We all have to deal with life’s tiny pins no matter what. My friends still die, my love life is still chaos. I feel that have no real idea how to be a father and that bothers me. I still worry about things, I still have to overcome adversity. It’s just not the same level of adversity. Or, sometimes it is. I still have to live my life. I still ball up and cry on the couch when bad things happen, it is a nicer couch though and I own it. In my day-to-day I am probably no happier or sadder than anyone else. What I do have is a safety net. But an invisible safety net is often no comfort.

Think about it like this. Without perspective people just don’t realise what a dick they are being, with perspective they usually stop. People in pain ask for pain medication, in hospitals there is a pain scale and you are asked how bad the pain is from 1-10 and how much relief you would like. Uniformly if people say it’s above an 8 then they request strong pain medication. In war however it’s different. People at war often report terrible wounds only being around 3-5 and often refuse medication. Why? Because they have perspective. You aren’t going to waste valuable medication when your buddy has no legs. You KNOW what real pain is by this stage. Mild discomfort can be tolerated, not medicated.

Saying that I have privilege because I’m a white male also doesn’t tell the whole story. I am not a single vector. I’m also an atheist, a nerd (not a jock), divorced, with a history of anxiety and depression. So it might be easy to slap a PRIVILEGED WHITE MALE sticker on me and call it a day, but that’s not really a fair picture.

I don’t want to think I have privilege. I want to think that I achieved what I achieved on my own merits. I don’t want some invisible hand assisting me. This might be the thing that leads people to say “Yes bad things happen; you know what I do? I suck it up.” And do you know why this is such a prevalent attitude? Because there’s an element of truth to it, bad things do happen, but we still have to endure. What is the alternative? What we might not see is that for some people enduring is MUCH harder than for us.

But…..If we are outraged at everything then nothing is outrageous anymore. Not every little thing deserves to be blown up and scrutinised to death. Not everything is someone else fault either. Not everything is rooted in malice. In fact, most things aren’t. Yes, there are assholes. Yes, there are people who are actively love making other people’s lives misery. And when I see then I will come with you to protest them, or laugh with you when they get punched in the face. But they are in the vast minority. And our culture does itself no favors by making everything louder than everything else.

Yes, there is privilege. But it’s not just that people can’t see it, they don’t want to see it because it changes their story. We all want to believe that we are the plucky hero struggling against great odds to live a better life. And in that narrative, there is no room for some magical assistance that we can’t even see making our lives easier than for our neighbor who happens to be female, foreign or of a different sexuality.

“I know that I am not right about everything, and yet I am simultaneously convinced that I am. I believe these two things completely, and yet they are in catastrophic logical opposition to each other.” Will Storr

It’s difficult to deny privilege exists. But it’s also difficult to quantify, difficult to identify and difficult to stop and it’s difficult to see how I have privilege.

Privilege is when armed white men can take over a federal building in Oregon in the US, saying that they are prepared to fight, conduct an armed standoff with police for a number of days and then be acquitted of doing anything wrong. A simple thought experiment will tell you what might happen if people of any other nationality were to try that.

Privilege is where nobody looks at me and wonders if I am fulfilling a diversity quota at my job. This is an example of an unkind thought that I’ve had about someone that made me realise how privileged I am.

I am not considered a drunk, even though I drink and often, people don’t make the “drinky, drinky” motion behind my back or wonder aloud “What it is with my people and alcohol”. People do not worry about me being violent even though most spousal abuse is perpetrated by white men.

Nobody is surprised when I turn out to be an articulate, educated white guy.

When I make a mistake no-one says “Typical White people” if I’m a bad driver no-one goes “I don’t want to seem racist…. but he IS white”.

Privilege is never having to change my name to anything that is easily digestible for a white audience. (although when on the phone people still call me “Mike” for some reason I’ll never understand)

Privilege is not having any terrible historical event that is prescient in your thinking that people will tell you “You have to get over”. Because your race was the one doing all the terrible things to everyone else. “Because we had the better technology”. Because that’s an excuse.

It took me a long time to believe in privilege. Because I was fighting all these factors.

One of the first steps towards realising that privilege was real was this logic puzzle.

“A boy and his father are injured in a car accident. The boy and father are taken to separate hospitals. But when the boy is wheeled into surgery the surgeon sees the boy and the surgeon says “I cannot operate on this boy, he is my son”. How can this be true?

The fact that I didn’t immediately know the answer told me something.

These are complicated issues. And let’s be honest there are idiots on both sides that muddy the water. You have to be better than to listen to fringe elements on either side and then mistake that for the majority view.

Pauline Hanson is right.

HA! just kidding. See what I did there? There are few things I like less than Pauline Hanson. It’s as if a deity said, “Let’s put all the things that Chris despises about humanity in one package”

  1. Xenophobic? Check
  2. Inarticulate? Check
  3. A celebration of ignorance over substance? Check
  4. Fear driven politics? Check
  5. Uses patriotism to hurt people rather than bring them together? Check

 

f3f56eff457be8f84a20d1cfb1156be4

“These are a few of my favorite things…”

 

She is the living embodiment of the childish impulse in people to play with the box the toy came in, that’s all she is. Wrapping.

But, she will not be to blame if there is a terrorist attack.

Pauline is an idiot. Her Burka stunt in parliament recently made everyone stand up and take notice…. That…… George Brandis may not be the morally bankrupt angry potato that we have always suspected. But even though she’s a repugnant moron with the wit of a deceased herring. She will not be responsible for the next attack. Terrorists don’t need excuses to be terrorists. And their radicalisation isn’t going to begin and end with Pauline Hanson. Her supporters don’t have that comfort, however. There is the good reason to believe that anti-Muslim sentiment may well radicalise youth faster than the promise of 72 ready virgins. But that is also victim blaming and abdication of responsibility. No, no-one can or should say Pauline and her abhorrent views are helping. They aren’t. And she should be deserted for what she thinks and says. But she also should have the right to say what she likes, without someone murdering people because of it. And the Greens should know better. The response to terrorism shouldn’t be to silence our morons but to allow the freedom for people to say what they like. After all, that’s exactly what the terrorists are fighting against (if your playing the Chris Tyler Ruins everything drinking game you should drink now).  Should we listen to Pauline? Of course not, she’s a fucking moron. But really, it’s the worst thing you can say about a group, ever, that some idiot doing fancy dress in parliament might make them angry enough for them to murder our citizens.

 

Review: A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian

It’s easy to be critical of Peter Boghossian. He’s an asshole.

41MchZGqb3L

Truly. Whilst I might agree with many points in this book, whilst I might have sympathy for the ideas that it puts forward and whilst I might love the Socratic method or believe that everyone should study logic. I might even believe that people should be honest when they don’t know something and that engaging people in honest debate is a good thing. It’s all kind of ruined by the fact that Boghossian is a massive inconsistent asshole.

Boghossian wants other Athiests to be “Street Epistemologists” that is to say; people who use logic and reason and the Socratic method to “prove” to other people that their faith is incorrect. And he has created a manual for this.

I guess I kind of diverge from Boghossian on a number of different levels.

  1. I think that people’s faith is their own business. Of course, if someone engages you then sure, I have no problem debating them but I’m not about to spend hours on a bus or a plane bleating on about how Pascals Wager is bullshit when all the guy next to me wants to do is sleep and maybe watch the new Marvel offering.
  2. I worry about having a planned conversation when I think that in honest debates you simply “Tell the truth as you see it”.
  3. I don’t want to have to explain Logic to someone who has never studied it. I’m going to sound like an arrogant asshole……like a more arrogant asshole.

The anecdotes that Boghossian all kind of follow the same form “I met this person, I engaged with them, they seemed more than happy to talk about their faith even though every time I open my mouth I step outside the bounds that normal society would allow and then…I never hear from them again. Did they turn into Atheists? I have no idea”

You know if I were writing a “manual” I would want to know that what I were writing a manual about really worked.

Perhaps worse is that there are lots of good reasonable and convincing objections to religious argument and religious apologetics. But either Peter doesn’t know them or he decided in a book that is supposedly devoted to arguing with thiests that they are not worth knowing about.

Maybe that’s not fair. Some of the advice he gives is ok. Some of what he says makes sense. His introduction to the Socratic method is….ok. Not the best I’ve read but not terrible. But he does far from giving you a real insight into debate, different styles of debate and how to engage with someone who isn’t on board with your position.

Instead he says, “Attack their faith” faith to him is the weak point. Faith is “Pretending to know something you don’t” well maybe. I would say that that is certainly an atheist’s definition of faith. I wonder if theists have a different one? Broadly I agree, going head to head with apologetics can send you down a rabbit hole of dubious logic and slightly bendy thought process. You can hear things like “But atheists just have faith in science!” or “Just being able to conceptualise God means that there is one” or “The fact there are Atheists means that there is a God” or my favourite “Science belongs to Christians, all scientists are Christians” But conversations

s-ATLAH-large.jpgYou can hear things like “But atheists just have faith in science!” or “Just being able to conceptualise God means that there is one” or “The fact there are Atheists means that there is a God” or my favourite “Science belongs to Christians, all scientists are Christians” But conversations are give and take, and his suggestion to “Just take control of the conversation” might not sit well with…oh I don’t know…anyone. Now some people might argue that I do that anyway but doing it deliberately is a different story.

What he does put forward might be of dubious use to you. He talks about how all beliefs can be “Properly basic” (the idea that a belief can be so self-evident that it requires no justification or any kind of Doxastic requirement) and so leads us to the great Pumpkin argument. Which is fine but he doesn’t talk about the thorny area you might be in if your mark knows Plantinga’s rebuttal. Which is a shame because it might not be immediately obvious why this isn’t a good objection (in my opinion). In fact, he seems to have no idea what to do if the person you are talking to has any apologetic background at all. I guess you either use your own brain or run. I suspect Peter would run. Now I write manuals and I know you can’t cater of all contingencies. But then that’s why you teach the basics at the start.  Now look I personally think that there is no good argument for having a non-doxastic belief but that doesn’t mean that other people might not have a different opinion, or a good reason (heh) for believing something like that and it seems to me that if you go in going “I’m just going to destroy this person’s faith” then you aren’t entering the argument with any intellectual honest.

And then there’s this….

“in the last 2400 years of intellectual history, not a single argument for the existence of God has withstood scrutiny. Not one. Aquinas’s five proofs, fail. Pascal’s Wager, fail. Anselm’s ontological argument, fail. The fine-tuning argument, fail. The kalam cosmological argument, fail. All refuted. All failures.” – Peter Boghossian A Manual for Atheists.

GREAT! I’m keenly interested in how all these arguments fail…. wait…. where do you list where they fail? A paragraph? A precis? A footnote?

Nope.

So, and yet another entry into the “Annoying Atheist” camp. I read an article recently that basically said “Hey, if you’re an atheist you might as well convert because people don’t trust you and the people who represent you are assholes”. Well it wasn’t a persuasive argument but Peter Boghossian isn’t helping.

 

 

SSM

Do I really have to write this?

Really?

Oh goodness.

Ok fine.

Here’s my take on Marriage equality.

I have no interest in Marriage. I feel that it’s an outdated union originally religious and social in nature I feel that it no longer reflects the society that we live in. I feel that it’s a celebration that comes before doing the thing that is worth celebrating. Why not have a big party after you’ve been together for 10, 20 or 30 years? That would be worth celebrating. As for a commitment ceremony? Well, why? If it’s over it’s over whether you are married or not. As a ceremony that signifies a holy union? Well,…that’s not really for me.  However, I do realise that I may well be an embittered curmudgeon and there are certain legal rights that come with being married that people may wish to have. But even though I want no truck with it I respect that people I know want to be married and I respect that they feel differently to me for a multitude of reasons. And frankly, as far as I am concerned if they want to be married that’s good enough for me. Whether they be gay, straight, some kind of supernaturally animated stationary. Whatever.

Done! Ok, lets mov…what? What do you mean that’s not good enough?

When my friends get married it’s important to me that they have a good time, that it goes well. That affects me. When people I don’t know get married. Well. There is no possible reasonable way that it can affect me in any way shape or form, without some kind of strange and unusual circumstance.

It might be glib and pithy to say “If you don’t want gay marriage don’t get one” but it sums up how I feel completely.

Just like I don’t want a wedding, but I don’t begrudge anyone else one. I would hope some of my friends might be surprised at my thoughts towards marriage. Why? Because it’s my attitude and my business. Not everything I think needs to be broadcast to the world especially things that are personal beliefs that affect no-one else. I don’t think I have ever said to any of my friends “Don’t do it!” even as a joke. Hopefully, I have always been as supportive as I can possibly be when friends of mine get married.

Will I be voting yes in the coming Plebiscite?

Yes.

Why? Because my beliefs and attitudes shouldn’t affect anyone else ESPECIALLY when these things really don’t affect me.

This+is+me+not+caring+_354b544c9edf41f1453a7dd18bcd9662

Should there be a bloody plebiscite? No. The government should either shit or get off the pot. They should either say “It’s our job to make decisions, it’s our job to do what is best for the Australian people and it’s our job to make life equitable for our citizens no matter what our own personal beliefs” and just do it. OR they should say “It isn’t going to happen. We don’t like it, we can’t get it together and we can’t make it work because of religious bigotry, maybe the next government will represent all citizens”

I have never heard an argument against same sex marriage that wasn’t religious. And even these usually boil down to “Won’t someone think of the children”.  And frankly, that’s not good enough.

As for a “respectful debate” I’ve already heard both Bronwyn Bishop and some minister go on about the slippery slope argument as in “What next, people marrying animals?” to which I would respond. “What next? People getting divorced? People allowed to marry their cousins or uncles? Or foreigners?” Or in Bronwin’s case their helicopters. So, I look forward to a really respectful debate in the next month. Don’t forget to enroll and be part of the needless bullshit that should have been sorted out at a ministerial level but is none the less the right thing to do anyway.

Category Errors or the problem of information

Some of you have never had the pleasure of arguing with a creationist. And you have no idea the joy that comes from seeing their little squishy faces. One of the things that creationists talk about. A LOT is that “Information can’t come from nothing; you need an intelligence to “write” information…so explain DNA!…smartarse”

DNA is an amazing substance. It’s just a chemical, simple in many ways but what it does is so complicated that we still don’t really know exactly how it works. The popular consensus is that DNA carries information from our parents and ancestors but just saying this is a category error. Because the way that we use the word “information” and its associated connotations, suddenly “information” is being used in an eccentric way.  What we really mean is that it carries “Data”. Why am I being so pedantic? Well let’s look at it.

Information requires a sender, a receiver and a decoder. We humans are “intelligent receivers”, which means that we are capable of divining information from inert sources such as data sets. Data is raw, it’s not directed or intelligent, it requires no sender and it requires an intelligent receiver for interpretation.

A rock falling is not consciously giving out information, a boiling kettle is not intelligently sending a message, a blooming flower is not consciously trying to tell bee’s that it’s ready and yet as an intelligent receiver I can take all this information, gather facts and create assumptions. To an intelligent receiver the world is filled with useful and not very useful data.

Further muddying the water is the human tendency towards apophenia and paerodolia.  Seeing patterns where none exist and divining meaning from random data.

In 1967 the first signals from Pulsars were detected. Pulses of extremely loud broad spectrum bursts were separated by 1.33 seconds, originated from the same location on the sky, and kept to sidereal time. It was first thought that these were too regular to be anything but an indication of alien life. Finally they were signalling us. They even called the signal LGM-1 or Little Green Men. But of course it turned out that this was not a signal. We thought it might have been information..but it was only data. We now know that a Pulsar is a spinning pulsating star. Spewing out gigantic bursts of broad spectrum radiation from one side of the star. But for a moment that star looked like an intelligent signal. This is a form of paradolia. But the signal has no intrinsic intelligence behind it, it is we that brought meaning to it.

So to intelligent receivers we can divine data from different sources and we can also make mistakes.

And this is the mistake we make with DNA. It SEEMS intelligent and yet the evidence says that it’s not.

So we are special, we as intelligent receivers have the ability to make sense or data, but what of our poor dumb companions on this planet. Could intelligence have evolved? Without an intelligent receiver? The answer must be, yes.

Evolution to an unintelligent receiver presents no problem because natural selection overcomes its lack of intelligence. By giving living organisms the harsh lessons, those that are pre-disposed to dangerous action do not get to reproduce. Those that make mistakes do not get to reproduce. Over LONG periods of time the organism “learns” even if it does not have any cognisance of the useful information that has been imparted.

Creationists like to talk about information as if it has an intrinsic value and life of its own. The analogy is inevitably bought to computers who have to be programed. The trouble with this analogy is that computers only contain the representation of information, not the information itself. The words, not the meaning. What good is information if you cannot receive it? In effect a computer is a long delay line between a sender and a receiver just like a book is. But the map is not the territory. As amazing as they are, they have yet to evolve beyond sophisticated calculating and information retrieval systems. Computers cannot yet comprehend the information that is stored within them. I’m not going to get any deeper on this because this is close to where we run out of understanding. Some might ask “How do we know that humans comprehend the information we are receiving” and that’s an excellent question. One I am not equipped to answer.

Creationists believe that because we are calling DNA “information” then it must have been encoded from an intelligent source. “Information can’t come from nothing” they say and they are right. But data is just there. It requires no intelligence to have placed it anywhere, merely a set of forces that are in action in the universe to have something happen to observe or be acted upon. They believe that since a computer is programed, DNA must have been programed. But DNA is not information. It is a representation of learned and earned chemical interactions that have happened over some millennia.

There is an old joke.

Three people are arguing about what the world’s greatest invention is:

“It has to be vaccines” says Greg, “think of how many lives have been saved because of vaccines, diseases that would have run ramshod over populations have been nearly eradicated”

“Vaccines are good” says Dawn “but I think it has to be the Telephone, the telephone has been at the forefront of every communications advancement that we have made, because of it we are able to talk to people on the other side of the world, we are able to speak to astronauts on space stations because of this one great breakthrough”

“You’re both mad” says Jim, “Clearly the world’s best invention is the thermos”

Greg and Dawn look at him incredulously.

“The Thermos?” Says Dawn”

“The thermos” Says Jim defiantly “think about it, it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, I mean…how does it know?” Back when I heard this joke Jim was Irish.

Yes, DNA contains meaningful data but no more meaningful than the match is to paper. It creates complicated reactions. The only reason that we see DNA as a code is because we have invented codes. We have cyphers. We have bought meaning to DNA not the other way around.

We are, as far as we can tell or know right now. Unique. There is nothing like the human experience that we know of in the world. But that does not mean that we were created by an even bigger, more powerful version of ourselves.

Our wonderful government and its fantastic communication

Does the government have a media office? A media liaison? I’m sure they do, if they don’t then I volunteer for the position. Because there is no way I could do a worse job than whoever is doing it right now.

monkey_face

Stop judging me!!!

Penalty rates are being take away from workers. In what some see as a first step towards the abolition of minimum wage. Don’t worry though there are good sound reasons to take away the weekend penalty rates and you can see them all listed cogently in this video that the government put out on Friday…..

Wait…no, no you can’t. Because no such video exists.

There may well be good reasons to reduce the number of penalty rates that Australian workers get. But because of the way this government functions we have to make them up ourselves. The idea that this will boost business may have merit, the idea that Australians value their Sunday less than they did 20 years ago might be something I would consider.  The idea that we live in a 24/7 economy is something I might even get behind. Except that since the government has a “You’ll suck it and you’ll like it” policy around its decisions it’s hard to see it as anything but more of its war on unions and rewarding business for just existing.

danger-469871

And if anyone should be rewarded just for existing it should be giant eyed, Saurians.

Frankly there are good arguments on both sides of the penalty rate debate, that’s not what I’m really writing about, what I’m writing about is the arrogance of the government and the expectation that the people will “Just go along with our decisions…. because…we are the government”. What they didn’t learn from the last Prime Minister is that you can’t just make changes for no reason. You have to sell your ideas. And you can’t go blaming the media for everything, if you want your ideas to get across, state them simply and get the message across another way. Don’t get Piney or Barnaby to get on the 7:30 report and look useless.

nqp05vo

Or worse…..

Create media, create an argument for your reasoning.

Right now EVERYONE is doing a better job than you getting the message out that this is a bad idea. And I can list their arguments clearly. And I gotta say a lot of them are compelling. People who are on penalty rates usually need that money, it’s not like it will be affecting me or upper management. Will prices drop on products? Will service get better? Will there be more staff? Or will what happens classically just happen, “Oh look a windfall, I keep more profit and my staffing levels that I’ve been juggling for the last 3 years can remain the same, WHOOT!”. Who is it helping? Isn’t the idea to help the largest number of people? Well workers far outnumber businesses?? Also isn’t the fact that the rate does not get handed to restaurants meant that it is JUST SIMPLY a handout for big business?

tumblr_m9ik33JoiI1qh0m7qo1_1280

Seriously…they do not.

Some might say “Well it wasn’t the government, it was Fair Work who proposed it”, sure but the government doesn’t have to take it up and I’d say if they don’t understand the decision then they shouldn’t.

As its popularity dips yet again to lower and lower levels. It might be worth the government thinking about how it communicates its message. Governing is a privilege not a right, you are there to serve not to dictate and its only when they start thinking like that will the poll numbers change.

A nice hot cup of Milo.

On one had Milo Yiannopoulos is awesome. He’s awesome because very often I find myself having to hold back. And with him? Well I don’t have to. It’s a breath of fresh air. Here is someone with all the arrogance and ignorance in the world and I don’t feel that this business suit bred with a psychopath deserves any of my restraint. He is the far right’s wet dream (if that admitted to such things) here is a Gay man who openly says that Homosexuality is perverse. Someone who calls himself a “Provocateur”.

Bill Hicks, Richard Prior, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin. This is a list of provocateurs. They provoked thought. But he is using it in the original French meaning “one who provokes.” Or, an asshole.

There is nothing clever or rewarding about being Milo Yiannopoulos. He is a troll IRL. He says provocative things because he needs to think about people being disapproving to get hard later on.  He’s a stupid person’s idea of a smart person. If you ever watch him interviewed his “arguments” are just rhetoric. And his “bon mots” are the mewling of the emotionally stunted.

He lacks wit, substance, style (except for his hair and his suits, which are fabulous). His one instinct is to say the most outrageous and offensive thing he can. And lucky for him that is also his career. Except now he’s discovering that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.

During a discussion about consent, Yiannopoulos recently referred to “coming of age” relationships which occur “in the homosexual world, particularly”:

“Those older men help those young boys to discover who they are and give them security and safety and provide them with love,” he said.

He then specifically referred to relationships between 13-year-old boys and older men.

He also referred to abuse he himself experienced when he was a child, saying, “I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.”

On one hand my thoughts are “well what do you expect, he’s an asshole” but this is dismissive and it misses the point. What he has said show a deep lack of understanding about power imbalance and the psychological reasons for abuse. Which is strange because, he reports that he was abused. So what is this? Well it’s not really surprising to someone who has met with abuse victims. This is someone perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Much like people who were hit as children defending it. “It didn’t do me any harm” yes it did, it made you think that abuse was ok. So much as he wants to appear like he is strong, a loud defender of people’s rights to free speech, someone defending the right from the tyranny of the left. I find him a pitiable man. He is a child saying what he needs to say to get attention and like a child he still confuses attention with love.

Why people choose alternative medicine

My grandfather is dying. He has cancer and he has a heart condition. He’s had four heart attacks in the last two years and one stroke. He’s in his late 90’s so he’s already beaten the odds. And some would say “Well he’s had a good run”. And that’s a reasonable thing to say. If you’re not a member of his family who love him. On paper things are dire. In practice he is not doing great but he has all his marbles, wants to do things and wants people to tell him if there is a way he can get better. He wants to get out and do more. That might be an unattainable goal but it’s an important one for him. Yesterday he said to me “I need to go for a walk because I have to strengthen my legs”.

The problem is that trying to get appropriate care, care that takes into account his needs, his likes, dislikes and his abilities has been insanely difficult. There’s a wall we keep running into. And that is a “one size fits all” philosophy. “He has cancer? Heart issues? Late 90’s? Well then he needs very high doses of pain meds and to be in palliative care.” Except he doesn’t, not yet, that time will come but it’s not now. People seem to think that he’s been this way for a long time but it’s really only in the last 2 years that he has lost his independence. He isn’t in a lot of pain. And yet. Doctors keep prescribing him morphine. Not just small doses either but high doses of morphine sulfate. That’s a no fucking around pain killer. Except he’s not in pain so it just makes him dopey and upsets his stomach. And when we dialed it back to “pain management only on request” he got a LOT better. Doctors keep wanting to put him on anti-depressants. They especially want to do that when he is in care. Because for most patients it’s depressing but it’s also good for destroying the libido. Not that he in particular is a problem but some are so why not dose em up? He didn’t like them. And he wasn’t told that he was being prescribed them and neither were we, I only found out when I looked at his chart. He is hard of hearing, you have to yell for him to hear you and his replies are often left of center…but frankly that’s nothing new. And he is still sharp as a tack, but he has his own way of seeing things. Always has. So people don’t try.

Last week we went to his cardiologist. A guy who we keep getting told “is the best” a gerontologist and cardiologists, a rare mix. We went in, talked about my grandfather’s issues and fears, he took his pulse, tapped his back, didn’t even use a stethoscope. Asked how it was going, we said it seemed to be going ok. We asked about his medication and its side effects. He didn’t know, he didn’t know what medication he was on. We asked about prognosis and quality of life. Well…not great. Ok, what can we do? Nothing, ok how can we make him more comfortable? Don’t know? What about his ears? I’m not an ear expert. He literally said “well he’s old, what do you want?” Then we were ushered out. Total time 7mins. Total cost $250. If he’s the best the worst must just put their clients down as soon as they come in the door. I would love to say that’s a terrible one off. But it’s not. I continually have to ask “Why is he on this medication” and often the answer is “Well…that’s just what we do when they get to this age”. And then they get annoyed that I am questioning the system.

And that’s the issue for me. If this were a free service, then fine. But it’s not. This guy, apart from his moral responsibility has a responsibility as a service because we are paying him. Rather a lot.

“Sure…this is all very sad and frustrating…But what the hell does this all have to do with alternative medicine?” I hear you ask.

This is in sharp contrast to an experience I had a month or so ago. When in desperation over my feet I went to an acupuncturist. Now I will be clear, I do not believe that it helped my feet but the guy is an old acquaintance and the experience couldn’t have been in sharper contrast to what my grandfather experienced.

I went in, and we had a nice chat. Simon (for that’s his name) couldn’t have been nicer and I suspect that even if we weren’t old acquaintances it would have been the same. Simon had all the time in the world for me. He wanted to know everything, why was I here, any issues? difficulties etc? I could not imagine him saying to my grandfather “Well your old, what do you want?” he was professional and caring. He talked about the realities of his practice and how there probably was an element of placebo to it.

He made sure I was comfortable, that I knew what was going to happen that I felt looked after. Every single step was explained and nothing was left out. And I’ll be honest I left feeling really good. That feeling didn’t last, but it was there and I felt like I hadn’t wasted my money. In fact, I intend to go back to see if it really can work I just haven’t had time. Now I’m not saying Simon is a quack, on the other hand I’m not saying acupuncture is a cure all that is real. What I am saying is that the quality of service, regardless of the outcome is sharply contrasted to what we get with traditional medicine. So of course people vacillate towards it. Frankly the heart specialist guy did nothing, so it was an insulting waste of time and money for someone to basically tell us to get used to the idea that he was going to die. In that instance I would prefer to have someone talk to my grandfather and make him feel good rather that what happened. And it’s not like these places he’s going to are cheap, cut rate doctors or dodgy nursing homes. My family isn’t poor; these are supposed to be “The best” it makes me terrified for those that don’t get “The best”.

I know I’m biased. I am, and I can’t help but be. But seriously if I am paying money for a service “Well he’s old” isn’t a good enough excuse for it being shit. My money isn’t old. It’s doing fine and your bloody happy to be taking it off me. Do your damn job. I can’t think of another service that I pay for where they still get paid if they don’t do anything and they insult you. I think part of the problem is that people don’t know what they are being paid for. Triage? Yep that do that very well, if there’s an emergency they are good. Medication? Well they can provide that by the truckload. Actual care? Nope not our business.

Except it is. How do I know? Well I spent most of last year writing a Cert IV in Aged Care. I know what you are supposed to do, what you are supposed to know and what you should be doing for a client. The question I get asked the most is “Oh are you a doctor?”. No. I just want decent service for someone who has earned decent service.  Ok so maybe there isn’t anything that can be done to increase his longevity and maybe it’s silly to try. Fine. But I refuse to believe that you can’t get simple things like “He likes to have a shave once a day” right. I refuse to believe that he needs ALL this medication. I refuse to believe that he can’t be more comfortable.

So now he’s home and we have hired a home care provider and he seems to be doing a lot better. Because we can monitor everything and this provider only has one client. And obviously they provide a tailored service specifically for him. It’s not perfect because we can’t afford to have someone over all the time and at night. Where either I or my mother take shifts when we can. But it’s better than it was.

And yes now we vet medication. I did a medication audit with his new doctor and we were able to take him off a surprising number of medications. And adjust the dosing as required. (some went up some went down).

So for now things are good. But that’s because we can afford for them to be good.