The chess game of geo-politics and global self destruction

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act ~George Orwell

As Geo-politics are played out across the globe it becomes clearer  the acts of the powers that be are moving us closer to a global crisis of some description or another. Be it intentionally blocking progress in international relations to meet niche short term goals around nuclear issues or denying the need to address our dependence on fossil fuels.

Noam Chomsky’s Are we on the verge of self destruction? eloquently states the status quo – one that the world actively endeavors too close its eyes to. The consequences of this are potentially disastrous.

For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves.

What is the future likely to bring?  A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside.  So imagine that you’re an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what’s happening here or, for that matter, imagine you’re an historian 100 years from now — assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious — and you’re looking back at what’s happening today.  You’d see something quite remarkable.

For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves.  That’s been true since 1945.  It’s now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.

And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction.  So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence

 The question is: What are people doing about it?  None of this is a secret.  It’s all perfectly open.  In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.

There have been a range of reactions.  There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them.  If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed.  Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada.

The rest of the article can be read on Banoosh.

The price we pay for ignoring the reality we live in and continuing to allow corporatist and limited Geo-political interests run our world is our demise. We have a responsibility to not only educate ourselves about this, but to act. We must act before it is too late.


There are things I should not read

As a woman there are reports and articles I should just stop reading. The majority of main stream media with its casual gendered slant would be a good start.

Since the beginning of this year, New Matilda, an independent Australian online media outlet, has been researching various aspects of gender representation in Australia’s MSM with their Women in Media study.

The results have been  from the obvious to the  depressing.Coinciding with the “normal” dismissive arguments or the twisting of findings, if the outcomes do not fit the convenient operating models of the industry and wider society and culture around women. Essentially though women are more represented across the medium they are still under represented in bylines, as sources, as primary content and in the upper echelons of the industry. And as the media is the filter through which society views itself this has a knock on effect to how women are perceived and valued.

What is particularly depressing about the whole thing is the attacks work like this comes under. It is unfortunately normal when women or anyone dares to speak out to the on-going and systematic imbalance women face in daily life and how they are represented. Fairfax’s Clementine Ford aptly summed up the situation in her Daily Life piece ” It’s considered a weakness to be a woman in Australia”

The battle for liberation is apparently the last refuge for women unable to participate in an economy that places their sexual availability at a premium. Having someone want to fu*k you is evidently more of an aspiration than wanting them to see you as an equal human being in your own right, with opinions and thoughts worthy of consideration and an autonomy that is yours and yours alone.

But this merely symptomatic of a larger war against women in the developed world. Rights over women’s bodies and what happens within them are being systematically eroded.  Our bodies our health and how we want to live our lives is surely our own decision? But if  legislation such as what passed in Texas today becomes more normalised ,the legislation basically shuts down legal abortion clinics within the state and severely restricts access to abortion no matter what the circumstances, we women are in trouble.

We may have a perceived sexual freedom but it is not true freedom, we do not have equal representation, equal pay (Pay gaps between men in women are Australia are actually increasing and sits between 17 and 25 percent depending on where you live), equal support systems and we are always negotiating our lives through the male objectified gaze or how we are in relation to men’s wants, desires and power structures.

You are “equal” as a woman if you are slim, sexualised, live within the construct of what a woman should be rather than is, are  prepared to earn less , let others make the decisions about your body and what you are allowed to do with it, and learn to live with the subtle pervasive sexism inherent in daily life as a woman.

The Everyday Sexism Project  has powerfully documented what the female sex  live with through collecting the story of everyday incidents women experience around gender.

Obviously this is a very nuanced and complex issue and the above are general indicators of a growing trend of increasing issues for women legally and otherwise. Progress was made but now with terms like feminist becoming increasingly disparaged or distanced from,where are we heading?

Is there anyway to have a rational discussion about the inequities of this without being gaslighted or being told to get over it? How do we address and change our gendered interactions without further harm?

Or is it time to give up, put on the blinkers, shut the ears, climb into the imposed box, and stop reading the news and live life knowing these are the limitations. Living these imposed limitations not from a place of victim-hood but  of acceptance. This is how it is, it is getting worse in many subtle aspects…. or is it we are just starting to talk about how fed up we are with pseudo equality, an equality that does not exist in real life?

Dancing with gender anger II – the audacity of women who dare to speak up to gender inequity

A few months ago I wrote a piece here about my growing frustration at rape terminology  being used as part of the American election campaign. The piece also touched on the general slippage occurring around gender issues. Or perhaps in a more nuanced explanation, how there seems to be a reluctance to engage with the gender issues that still remain in our society and culture.

This reluctance ranges from dismissal or that old classic in gender debates; a twisting of everything to make those speaking out about discrimination etc dance to prove the negative. And when you do, this is dismissed or an excuse is found not to engage with the evidence presented.  When these people are challenged to prove gender equality, equal representation, the twisting becomes more profound and in many occasions the debate then becomes personal.

A few days ago I posted Clementine Ford’s  International Women’s Day article Are Women’s Voices being Gagged to a New Zealand journalism Facebook forum Kiwi Journalist’s Association (KJA).

Essentially Ford argues the following;

 “If the media is a portal through which we see the world, how does the conspicuous  absence of women and their voices skew how people experience the world around them? Across the board, the facts show that women are significantly absent from that mirror the media reflects back onto society. Women operating in the public space are constantly reminded that their presence is a privilege, not a right – and that privilege can be taken away any time they break the rules.”

My reason for posting an Australian Fairfax created article in an NZ journalism forum was two-fold. One, the NZ media does not work in blessed isolation despite some of the protestations of those who objected to the article ( Fairfax owns a large percentage of the NZ media market), it’s posting and my defense of it. Secondly, the content of Ford’s piece is indicative of some of my experiences working in NZ media until I left the country in 2010 and I strongly believe illustrates the boy’s club type structure the media generally speaking operates from.

To clarify, my posting of the article wasn’t denying progress around gender issues but it was a statement that there are still considerable issues around gender  that the media industry in NZ has an obligation to address.

In some ways a majority of the reaction to my posting of the story is indicative of what I feel is the boy’s club mentality in action. That I should be grateful for what I have and to raise my head above the parapet and question the status quo isn’t the done thing. I am aware of the ramifications of speaking out and continuing to do so. There is an implicit risk to  speaking on gender issues; I will be labelled as difficult and I feel there are possible career implications.

In the discussion I was constantly asked to prove the inequality, which I along with a few other brave women journalists did. These studies were predominantly international and therefore were declared invalid by those protesting against Ford and our support of her argument. When NZ studies were produced these were also largely dismissed and then the statistics of the Massey University study were used as a justification for why there would not be parity and gender equally in NZ media for about 30 years ” because of the statistics.” When I asked, repeatedly for evidence of the gender equity and pay parity in NZ media none was offered and, in what I feel was a rather patronising tone, I was told I didn’t understand the argument.

I would like to post the thread in its entirety here but the KJA Facebook group is closed and by invitation only. Out of respect for my colleagues and the group  I will not post screeshots nor I will identify those who were particularly unhappy with my call for proof of equity in the NZ media industry. That said the administrators ironically proved Ford’s argument by closing the thread and “gagged” the female voices speaking out with evidence and experiential knowledge of how the NZ media can work for women.

I admit I hold KJA in far lesser regard due to the exchanges that took place in the forum and their lack of framework around gender issues that daily effect a large number of their membership. It also, from my perspective, speaks to the state of the industry that very few women spoke out about their concerns in an open forum and some male journalists felt free to behave in an unprofessional and sometimes bullying manner.

A number of women did contact me privately  and thanked me for speaking up and for confirming that they weren’t “going insane”. To those women, thank you for your support, it was an unpleasant run in which ultimately proved Ford right – I am appreciative of that. The article is not as one person stated “facts obscured by emotive, partisan twaddle.”

Here are some further links speaking to the  issues and general position of women in media. Please note all of these links were used  in the KJA discussion thread.

Living on the moon – Melbourne vs Kathmandu.

Arriving in Australia to live ( abet temporarily) in one of the country’s most affluent suburbs after four months in Nepal is like moving to the moon.

In Toorak, one of the most wealthy suburbs of Melbourne ,Australian Tax Office figures (2010) indicate the average annual income hovers around $132252. In Nepal the average income, according to World Vision, sits around $200.  Rather astounding that on average one Toorak resident earns the same as 661 Nepali’s. This coincides with a huge disparity in population density. In Kathmandu 13,225 people live per square kilometer, urban Melbourne is light weight in comparison  with 2010 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures placing population density  at 530.

But this is nothing if you look at quality of life, various pollution indicators, working conditions, access to medical care and education. The comparisons are actually pointless. Toorak is alien to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and the political miasma that engulfs Nepal’s capital, that said Ted and his resignation shenanigans last night is a step in the right direction.

It can be challenging coming back into the developed world and seeing all the blatant abundance and people having far more than they actually need. Do you really need a car in Melbourne that can take on all terrains in siege conditions? If your children are at Geelong Grammar’s Toorak campus apparently you do. School pick up time is projectile money flung on asphalt.Is that much car necessary beyond the point you are shouting your wealth at everyone else on the road? Not only is that excessive in comparison to Nepal but also to the majority of Australian’s. Particularly in Victoria as the state officially entered recession this week.

But I am being judgmental.

There is something very nice staying in a  safe leafy suburb cushioned in comfort. I understand why people aspire to live like this. And I am very appreciative to the friend who has facilitated this time of luxury. It is a time out from the raw honesty of daily life in Nepal though vaguely surreal. A time to charge the batteries, no load shedding here.

But I say this knowing I will be back working and living in the Global South in two months. For me Toorak is the moon or Disneyland.This is not real life, is it?

Dancing with gender anger

I feel angry.

I feel angry that as a woman it appears that I have no choice but to be a feminist in order to protect and defend my right to be equal because by genetic chance I was born female. I feel angry that by having a womb, breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a cervix and a vagina that I have to interact with a subtle latent secondary set of cultural and societal rules in order to justify my innate right of equality.

I am human and from my perspective all humans are equal regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender. So why is it then this humanness of mine is constantly challenged by statements such as “No doesn’t always mean no,” by US federal agencies such as FEMA and by some political parties wanting to legislate what I can and cannot do with my body?

Why do I have to read about men discussing how my body can shut down the reproductive process if I have experienced a “legitimate rape”? Why do terms such as “emergency rape”, “honest rape”, “enjoyable rape”, “forcible rape” and  “gift from god rape” even exist as terminology?

Why does it matter what I wear and why can I not walk home alone late at night, why is that even questioned? Why is it I get told to “calm down” when expressing a valid cohesive perspective in the work environment? (When a male colleague two minutes later says the same thing and nothing about his emotional state is mentioned.) Why is a male colleague allowed to say to a female co-worker “you are being emotional” when he would never say such a thing to a male colleague? Why is it okay to comment on my age, appearance and weight? Why does my appearance even matter? Why is it I have to justify feeling angry about having to ask if a “women asked for it” when reporting on a rape story for a national newspaper? Why is it when a women defends herself after constant and ongoing subtle sexist and misogynistic comments she is called “attacking” by mainstream media? Why is it that though I have more consumer power then men, I  still generally get paid less and have less representation in business and in government? Why is my strength and intellect a weapon used against me and why am I sometimes feared and termed as “ball busting” when a male would be called a “go getter” or “analytical and progressive”? Why is it a friend got asked if she had a husband when applying for a job and then told  that as she might get pregnant there was no job for her? Why are essential products needed because I menstruate highly taxed in some countries? Why does it cost more financially to be a woman than a man?

I could go on but it seems redundant.

And let me be clear. Because I feel angry about this doesn’t mean I hate men, I love men, some of the best and dearest people in my life are men. I hate the fact I even need to state that.

Why is it that if I am angry about gender injustice some will argue it is because I hate men?

Why is it if I feel angry about gender injustice my sexually is  sometimes questioned?  Why is it okay to call me a “Fucking feminist”, “Fucking dyke”, “fucking cunt“, as if those things would be an insult if they applied , if I dare question the status quo?

Until recently I didn’t refer to myself as a feminist as I equated it with too much anger but now I do feel angry.I am fed up with the latent under currents I deal with, the justifications and hoops I sometimes have to jump through because of my gender.

I don’t want to feel angry – I want equity. I want that universally for all women and men – we deserve balance.

I don’t want to deal with comments. I don’t want to have to prove anything, to have evidence.

I don’t want to be denied justice because the hassle of reporting an incident to the police is adversarial and traumatic.

I want to be happy.

I want to be good at my job just because I am good at my job. I want to walk home at one in the morning because that is when I chose to go home. I want to wear a tight skirt because I like it and it makes me feel good. I want to have lovers and not risk being called a slut.

I want to live my life the way I want and it not be a big deal I’m not married and don’t have children. I want to live my daily life and not deal with harassment.

I just want to be happy doing what I am doing and for no one to comment. It’s not a big deal. I’m just a woman- get over it.

Strike and you’re out

Today there is a bandh ( a general strike ) in the Lalitpur district to the south of Greater Kathmandu.Appointments have had to be cancelled and rescheduled twice over the last 24 hours as the bandh has been extended by another day and the people I was meeting are unable to leave the area. Anyone breaking bandh  can be dealt with severely – repercussions coming in the form of violence or other actions as deemed fit by supporters of whatever faction has declared the strike.

In bandh conditions all stores close, taxi’s cease to operate in affected areas ( as do private vehicles), tourist sites shut down and even hospitals can be closed – though those needing emergency care can sometimes get assistance if they manage to get an ambulance willing to break bandh conditions and those enforcing the strike to let them through. Curfews can also apply.

The current  bandh also effects the area’s of Pulchowk the home of the United Nations and a large number of INGO’s  and tourist attractions in Patan. The general strike has been declared to protest the re-settlement of  landless squatters from along the Bhagmati River to Sundarighat. Recently squatter tent homes along the Bhagmati River have been bulldozed by the government.

According to Nepal News;

 Normal life has been partially affected in Lalitpur district Sunday due to a shutdown enforced by enraged locals protesting against   the government’s plan to settle landless squatters at Sundarighat, Balkhu.
Demonstrators have enforced shutdowns in Lalitpur and clashing with the police since the past one month against the government plans to resettle the squatters evicted from encroached land in the Thapathali area at Sundarighat.

Arguing that settlement of evicted squatters in Sundarighat will have negative impact on its environment and tarnish its natural beauty, they have been demanding that the government shelve the settlement plan.

All shops and businesses in the main market center including educational institutions in Lalitpur remain closed since early morning today while both public and private vehicles stayed off the road due to fear of attacks by bandh organisers.

The government has started constructing 48 bamboo huts at Sundarighat for squatters who were evicted from Thapathali area two months ago to make way for an urban development project. Rs 2.2 million has already been released by the government for the purpose.

Private Higher Secondary Schools in the district also remained closed Sunday due to the bandh (strike) enforced by All Nepal National Independent Students Union- Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) demanding that foreign name of all private Higher secondary schools across the country should be replaced by Nepali one.

Bandh’s are particularly harmful to the local economy especially when prolonged and in the high season for tourism and volunteering. As it is Monsoon it is known as Volunteer season which deals with consistent but lower number of voluntourists. They also profoundly effect the ability to carry out the necessary functions of daily life in the developing nation such as access to food, services, medical care and clean water depending on location, season and availability. Freedom of movement  is also affected.

In the past bandh’s have been used to great effect by the Maoist movement. In 2009 the day before a general strike was called by the Maoist faction I witnessed 17 buses coming into Kathmandu from rural Nepal over a one hour period. It has been used as a mechanism to shut down huge swathes of Nepal until  political demands have been met by whatever party calls the strike.

In May the Far Western Region of Nepal was crippled by a 27 day bandh protesting the proposed division of Nepal provinces along ethnic lines as part of the new constitution. The constitution failed to be finalised  and currently Nepal is under a caretaker government with no confirmed election date.

Personally ,apart from the rescheduling of appointments and insane traffic  – as parts of the city’s transport system are unavailable- central Kathmandu at this stage is largely unaffected though that could change if the bandh becomes on-going or is extended across a larger part of the city.

But what to do, its Kathmandu, and bandh’s are part of life here.