Election Dysfunction: Zero Wing politics and how all my vote are belong to me

"Yeah, but will the ballot box and papers be recycled?" - Me, trying reeeeally hard to care.

“Yeah, but will the ballot box and papers be recycled?” – Me, trying reeeeally hard to care.

When I couldn’t vote, it meant so much more to me. I’m a bit sad about that.

With the election in NZ looming, social media’s been exploding with political facts and opinions across the entire spectrum. At first, I saw it as an opportunity to read up on things I’m not familiar with and match political goals with the faces and names getting thrown around. I wanted to see how people from different demographics were processing this information. That was true, things were good and I was learning a lot, but sadly only up to a point.

See, I’m not too happy when I feel I’ve been lied to. This applies to politicians first and foremost. Unfortunately, it’s the more ancillary things that are starting to annoy me this time around. Things like:
• the conductors of polls being narrow with their participants, then doctoring the results
• media outlets showing unprofessional bias, thus fueling discord between consumers of said media over its authenticity
• the way people are attaching personal stories (of themselves or others) to seemingly unrelated political agendas

…and a few other points I’m probably not well-informed enough to start shit over. What I’m trying to say is that all this cognitive dissonance is really starting to fry my noodle. Seriously, it’s crispy now. And the MSG I’ve been left with is one of despondency. Honestly. If this situation was compared to a fortune cookie, I’d be eating the paper inside without reading it and hoping that the wood pulp would at least contribute to my nutritional needs later on, knowing it won’t. Basically, I’m annoyed and probably hungry.

And just like Paul Henry, I'm not 'me' when I'm hungry.

And just like Paul Henry, I’m not me when I’m hungry. Even during pastel-hued hangouts with friends. Would he be my ‘spirit animal’ if he was an animal and I was spiritual? Hard to say when you’re peckish. Awww.

Before I felt pressure to have a political standpoint and before I was able to do my own research, I was excited about exercising my right to pick a leader. I sat in front of the news with my parents and observed their reactions to anything political. I felt it was important to note how my parents are so different as people and so similar in their views, so I asked them about what they thought – what they wanted in a leader and what they thought about the talking heads involved in debate. I started getting to know these leaders like heroes and villains; I was too young to acknowledge that these people have day-to-day lives. I was too busy joking about making caricature-style trading cards to see them as people. I found it all very engaging and couldn’t wait to play this adult game.

Then, I turned that magical age – eighteen. I started getting orange letters and forms sent to me and was excited once again at this opportunity to demonstrate my political leanings in the form of ticks in boxes. I felt lucky that I had the internet within my grasp and even luckier that my parents aren’t dicks about the boxes I like to tick.

And during this round of research I had a partial awakening: these political figures are people too. On one hand, it was reassuring to feel like they’ve got more things in common with the public than I thought. On the other hand, I was frightened. If they’re people too, then they’ve got very powerful emotions based on human experience. Mix that with the power they have and my palms start to sweat. These are no longer the people I used to joke about and idealise from a distance. What they do affects me in ways I can no longer deny.

Then, that fateful day came around and I sauntered along to my nearest polling station. I was proud that I knew the main points of each party and I made sure my choice reflected that. I don’t wanna go on about it, so I won’t (although I’d like to shout out to McGillicuddy Serious for entertaining my family as I was growing up. They were notably absent from the list). Yay, democracy! Done and dusted, right?

This is my third NZ election and I feel hardly anything has changed, apart from the levels of cynicism and ennui I’ve been noticing lately. I’d say it’s been like this the whole time, but I’ve only just twigged on to it. What’s terrible is that I’m part of that sea of discomfort. I find myself getting fired up about something and how it’s treated by those who have power / want my vote, then I end up crumpling in a heap of despair, woe and feelings of insignificance. Cyclical. Troublesome. Depressing. ADJECTIVES. This ‘adult game’ has me feeling like a pawn and… yeah, it blows pretty hard.

That said, I’m pretty sure who’s getting a nod from me next month so my research hasn’t been in vain. But it was hard to get excited about it, that’s all. I miss how idealistic I used to be when it came to these things. Now I’m the one who says things like, “Who cares what wing you’re on when all the engines have failed / the bird is flightless?”

I’m damned if that’s not kinda sad.

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Dreambox: I saved a baby this time!

Now that it’s the afternoon, I feel I can comment on how weird this morning was.

I woke up to screeching and creaking of things that sounded metallic and heavy.

In that blurry fugue state between sleep and alertness, I consciously left my dream. Just decided I was done with it, like I knew I didn’t need to see what happened next and I knew waking up was something I should do instead.
These natural disaster / apocalypse dreams happen more often than not lately. It’s new to me, considering I used to be that kid who rushed into the kitchen most mornings, excitedly tripping over my words in an effort to blurt everything I remembered before it was forgotten. I dreamed of flying off glassy cliffs into oceans of thick fog; reaching a plateau and slapping holes in the mist, still hurtling and giggling as I veer to avoid shafts of light from a purple sun. I dreamed of so many different special powers and abilities; I remember being fascinated with being invisible and not being too pleased with the ability to go through things (I went through everything. Fell through the earth and out the other side. Lame).

Now I dream about disasters. Before I go any further, I’d like to say I’m not one for reading into the shit I dream about. I don’t have any more access to what’s going to happen in the future than anyone else and there’s no way I’d be up-myself enough to imply that I have that kind of insight through my subconscious. Because it’s just subconscious-stuff. Things you’ve seen, things you’ve had on your mind, things you forgot. It’s generally pretty obvious to me which parts refer to what’s been on my mind and which parts are completely arbitrary and could be ignored. That said, dreams have higher value to other people and that’s fine. But I’m not going to be too impressed if someone calls me at 4AM saying they dreamed I died and had to check that I actually didn’t.

Last night’s delicious dumb-brain doom-time had me hitting the ground running. I was in a crouching position and there was a helicopter overhead. Everything (I mean everything) was caked in mud except for the pilot, who was waving goodbye as he(?) left me in the mud pit. It’s some time in the twilight hours, approaching dark. And it’s very cold. <<SHOULDER_CHECK>> appeared in letters that glowed a nice aqua-blue in front of my face, seemingly out of thin air. Like lines of code from an automatic heads-up mechanism. I think it felt weirdly normal.

<<TACTILE>> pending
<<OCULAR>> pending

Oh right… As I brush both my shoulders and swat at my upper back, I find cold metal slung behind me. An assault rifle.
Next, I’ve got to look behind me on both sides while being as quiet as I can. Just mud and twisted fences. The orange letters disappear, then the blue after a while.

<<KNEES_CHECK>>
<<RIGHT_SIDE_INJURY>>
<<FIND_ASSAJI>> pending

Assaji – I remember this character from Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Buddha’. The boy’s father was a savage hunter, so Assaji resolved to live in service of nature and follow Siddhartha around until he sacrificed himself to hungry animals in the wilderness.

Next thing I know, I’m aware that I’m running late and that I can feel small earthquakes. It’s not that they wouldn’t read highly on the Richter scale, but I felt they weren’t deadly. Annoying? Yes. Because I’m driving a truck through a wall and I’m trying to travel in the straightest lines I can manage. I think ‘Assaji’ is my child.

I’ve just broken into a hospital and there’s a fire on the other side of the wall I tried to get through. I still have the rifle, so I try shooting a padlock on a door to my right. The recoil fucks up my shoulder and right chest. More powerful than I intended, but at least it worked.

<<SHOULDER_CHECK>>
<<RIGHT_SIDE_INJURY>>
<<FIND_ASSAJI>>

That’s super helpful. I hate this. Where’s my son?
There’s a bed at the end of a short burning hallway. Light fittings are falling and shattering… chandeliers in a hospital? Hmm. There he is; feet sticking out from under the bed. Everything shakes. Time slows as I approach the event horizon. Beyond the bed is more fire, then we’re not far from a black hole, apparently. My left arm stretches for a few metres to grab one of his legs, which meets me in the middle. After an age of painful pulling, I’m standing and holding what looks like a one-maybe-two-year-old by his ankle and he seems glad to see me. He slithers up my arm and onto my shoulders. Fuck, that hurts. But he’s safe now. He’s laughing? At least he’s not crying.

Screeching metal. Rattling of chains. Shifting of gears. Thump and clatter. Awake for a few seconds.

Back inside a truck, I wonder how we’re outrunning the pull of a black hole. I look over at the boy and notice he’s not too fazed; he’s too busy squirming out of his restraints to play with my muddy hair. I turn on the radio as we drive over what’s left of a wire fence. The boy falls asleep. I think he likes Ministry. As I hear more screeching metal and hanging chains, I pull in next to my current house as I know it. I get out, walk around to the other side and scoop up my sleeping son, careful not to rely on my right arm (I never want to drop the baby, no matter how fictional). Then I enter where I live like any other day, but this time with a child. My child. I tiptoe up more flights of stairs than normal, then reach my bedroom. It seems smaller, but I know that’s my bed. I put the boy down and tuck him in, careful not to fall asleep while doing so. Then, when I’m sure he’s deeply asleep, I sit on the end of the bed and face the door.

More metal, more chains. The drone of a large diesel engine. We’ll be fine so long as I stay awake while the boy gets his sleep. Something heavy and rusted has been dropped and all I have to do is wait. It’s safe to leave now.

And so the dream ends as I wake to the handles of my drawers rattling to the moan of a digger in the neighbour’s yard. I’m awake now.

There’s good-weird and bad-weird… still trying to decide what that was.

Murderspelling

Watched this episode (‘Bluesklok’ – the one when the show goes wrong so they go to Mississippi to learn some shit) with Scumbag Mike yesterday and thought I’d like to see a screencap of this shot, turns out someone’s switched-on enough to already have done one. Nice.

I don’t have a favourite roommate / flatmate (screw that Sophie’s Choice carry-on; each and every human is lovely in their own way, blah blah), but I gotta admit I missed ol’ Mikey pootling around on the ground floor. A rather good chap, yes.

Fear and milkshakes in Central Dunedin: thoughts on discrimination and why I hope everyone has an inner child

Here’s a good way to give yourself a migraine: try spending just over a week categorising, reading and writing about all the different kinds of discrimination you can find in history and leading up to now (some future ones also; I admittedly spent far too long trying to come up with anti-cyborg slurs, just for a laugh. Later in the day, I’m reading Astro Boy and berating myself for thinking like a robophobic BITCH). Really! It works! Think of the ills and -isms created by focusing on our differences in a negative way and you’ll be reaching for the blister-pack in no time. You’re welcome, Nurofen; you can have that one for free.

Nonsense aside though, I’ve spent a few days feeling torn between a few different frames of thought, including:
• Disappointment in people and their fear of the unfamiliar
• Happiness at the fact that a lot of things are more socially acceptable now
• A gnawing type of ennui that tells me I shouldn’t care because it can’t change anything and that I should just keep my head down and fend for myself and I’ll be fine.
I’ve been trying really hard to ignore that last one, because I think that type of thinking isn’t very useful, at least not when it comes to the concept of ‘the greater good’, which is something I happen to care about.

I think I’m that annoying type of person that feels if they don’t care about something, if I think something is truly ineffectual, then you should feel the same way. Like, say, if I lean towards ‘rational apatheism’, then if someone asks if I believe in God, I’d be all up in their shit with something like “Well, what is God? How can we discuss such an ill-defined concept? Why’d you bring that up and why are you wasting my time?”
Upon further thought, I’m sure the correct ‘apatheistic’ response would be… nothing. Or maybe something like, “I do not have the wherewithal to discuss that. Let’s go get milkshakes.”

Basically, I’m starting to think I’m bad at not caring. Anyway, I’d make a crappy ‘apatheist’ because I’d still care enough to try and win people over to my side of the discussion. Let’s all not care! Together! Yeah! What do you think? Not that I care! Seems like a mental dead-end, that’s all. Reminds me of someone making jokes about the Anarchist Collective and how it’s totally a thing.

And why shouldn’t I care about discrimination and what it entails? Every person who has ever lived has dealt with it in one way or another, whether it’s about colour, gender, political beliefs, what kind(s) of sex you enjoy, existential beliefs, level of perceived intelligence, et al. I truly believe that. Every single one of us has come under fire in one way or another because someone or a group of people has decided who we are due to some kind of hazy and ill-defined impression and that it makes us bad enough to be rejected in some way.

I can’t claim to be smart enough to know why we do that to each other. But I can try and remember the times I’ve been the discriminatory bad guy (thankfully mostly during childhood, followed by explanations as to why closed-mindedness is something to be ashamed of) and dig into those memories to find possible motivations. And the usual suspects are all there:
• fear of change
• immature jealousy
• tit for tat (because railing against someone keeps you from being marginalised, right? Wrong.)
• beliefs impressed upon me from past generations.
Things like that. Lots of fear and feelings of being threatened by the presence of something thought of as ‘other’. After the cringing is done and I’ve at least attempted to forgive myself, I’ve realised that I think the concept of discrimination is in itself kinda ill-defined. But only kinda.

I mean, is all discrimination bad? I remember reading somewhere that a teacher in the United States had some serious shit coming at them from the parents of their students for commending the young ones on their discriminatory abilities. Or maybe it was just one kid. Anyway, upon further reading, I felt it was obvious, though maybe not at first, that the teacher was meaning they were pleased that the kid(s) was (or were) picky and uncompromising about something they knew to be important. I think it was grammar, punctuation and spelling, although I might be wrong. The teacher’s usage of the term falls in with the definition I learned when I was younger, although I once thought it was the opposite of “incriminate”, which made more than a few teachers smile. Bless. But at the base of it all, the primary definition is something like… ‘to discriminate is to distinguish or to differentiate.’

My inner child is not havin’ it (please shush with the ‘multiple personalities’ thing, I prefer to call this ‘identifying with a past self to gain insight’), not for a second. The mental image of myself at five years old with my glorious French braids and forest-green sweatervest trying to start an argument is too precious to ignore. I digress. What I’m trying to say is that a childish voice in my brain is asking, “What’s so bad about knowing the difference between things? Is this word ruined? Why did we ruin it? Can we go get milkshakes now?”

And… well, shit. I think Li’l Weenie has a point. Being ‘discriminatory’ has been relegated to being an undesirable trait, but only in a social context. It’s one thing to have a discriminatory taste in electronics, because that can be construed as someone only wanting the best technology they can get for their money. But it’s another thing to have a discriminatory taste in people.

This is where my brain starts to melt, but that’s never been the kind of thing to stop me. Gotta push on.

So… I know it’s OK to discriminate against certain objects that may not be fit for purpose. You aren’t going to be branded a bad person for thinking a certain guitar pedal isn’t ‘good enough’ or that a certain type of calligraphy pen is inherently shitty for always getting blocked up, just to spew fat globs of ink when you’re nearly finished, destroying what you made. You can resolve never to buy that brand again. You can warn others so they don’t have to deal with the annoyance of that kind of thing, if you’ve got the energy and will to do so.

But another thing I know is that we all discriminate against something. I wonder if discrimination is inherent from the moment anyone decides that something is bad or good, in contrast to something else. Should that be seen as a problem or as a truth? Or am I wrong about that? I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. See? Brain-melt. Blehhhhh. I’m losing patience with myself.

Thankfully, the inner child pipes up again. “Isn’t it obvious? If you treat people like objects it makes you a dick. I don’t wanna grow up to be a dick. Don’t do it.”

That’s fair. To go around telling people not to trust or like a certain type of person because you’ve lined up one of their so-called defining traits or characteristics with being ‘bad’ or ‘worth less than others’ or ‘unfamiliar, therefore hostile’ makes you a dick and people who do that shouldn’t be surprised if a room empties not long after they enter it. That’s a given. People can’t be ‘fit for purpose’ and you can’t define their worth in any way that holds true with everybody. Don’t do that unless you wanna get hit. Got it.

And it’s OK that people use the word “discriminate” in the place of the phrases “discriminate against” and “imply _____ is inferior due to being / having _____”. Actually, it’s not just OK, I think it’s good. I don’t mind if “discriminate” leaves its old word cluster, because we still have the words “differentiate” and “distinguish” and others, which are good in their own ways. So there’s no need for me to get all pedantic and feel like the English language has taken a hit somehow, because it hasn’t (sorry, teacher-person-I-mentioned-before. I hope you either agreed to disagree or simply found another word to describe students’ efforts).

Li’l Weenie pipes up again: “That’s the stuff. Nice! Now think of the stuff you believe in about people and think about it like how you think of English. If something or someone changes or isn’t what you thought it was, remember it’s OK and it doesn’t hurt, that’s if it even has anything to do with you.”

All right, I’m already into that. And I’m sure that the frame of thinking I should go with after all this is one of hope and idealism, mostly. It’s not that important that I’m different to other people, and I don’t intentionally draw attention to my differences in order to feel special. It’s not my business to draw attention to what makes other people different (even though I find myself doing it sometimes… usually to people who discriminate against others, but it’s still not nice for me to do. Two wrongs don’t make a right, dammit) unless it’s in praise or admiration. Also, if someone wants to be vocal about what sets them apart from others, that’s fine too. It’s good to be proud of something you see in yourself, hell yeah. And you can only be afraid of the unfamiliar if it’s… well… not familiar. The more you know, the less scared, defensive, and closed-off you’ll be. Fear should only be real if your survival is at stake.

It’s so hard for me to draw a line somewhere. I guess I’ve just got to make sure that those lines can bend and that the big picture those lines make is something I can appreciate and be comfortable with. I’m a little bit annoyed because I feel like I’m back at square one, like I haven’t uncovered some indefatigable truth in what I’ve been up to. I think I took it just a little too seriously and expected too much. So-called epiphanies aren’t always that easy to come by, whether I like it or not.

Maybe I can just take it as confirmation that I’ve got the right idea, at least for now.

Oh, well. I think a certain know-it-all deserves a milkshake, yo.