Sentimentality and inanimate friends.

•July 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Today is a melancholy day, for today I farewell a pair of long standing and loyal companions.
We were introduced through a friend of mine about a decade or so ago now and we have been travelling companions ever since.

They’ve protected me against burning sidewalks and sand in Australia and from countless beer, spit and god-knows-what-else covered stage floors in the same. They were all that kept my feet from being drenched and frozen on a snow covered Great Wall of China, though their grip was less stalwart on the steep ice-encrusted steps. They’ve accompanied me on flights to and fro as I’ve lived the life of an expat for most of the last decade; we’ve walked the streets of London together on happy days, and less than happy ones. We gazed in awe at the great masters in the Louvre and marked time waiting in an endless queue under the Eiffel tower. They helped keep me dry wandering the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ostia and amongst the ruins in the eternal city itself.

To say we’re close is an understatement, but, as with many things in life; age has caught up with them and I’m just doing both of us a disservice by keeping them on. It’s time I let them get a rest and let another pair do the legwork, or foot work.

It’s been real guys.

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England (perhaps London) isms.

•July 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I know that  many, especially many of the Australians who might read this have been to, worked in or even lived in the UK. There are probably few cultural surprises lurking around corners, when compared to say: China. And as an expat Australian who made the choice to move here I do have to sometimes remind myself that I am in fact in a country other than the one I was born and raised in.
That said, there are some funny little differences that I’ve noticed, so, for your amusement and my own, here are a few.

1: People rarely knock on doors.

I have been told this might just be a ‘London’ thing, but delivery people, the post, surveys, Mormons… They don’t knock per se –  they do this weird thing where they rattle the metal letter slot in the door, sort of poke at it, give it a shake and hope that whoever is in the house hears it. A lot of houses in London, at least houses in my rental price range are smallish and so if the house is quiet, you do hear the slot-rattle most of the time. But if perchance you have music on, or headphones on, or just the TV volume up loud, you can easily miss it.  This odd quirk has started to irritate me, for as I am a lover of loud music, loud TV, loud video games and in summer, sitting in my small British garden with headphones on, the ritual of turning off said sound and straining to hear ‘Was that someone at the door or not’ has now got me muttering as I stomp to the door to check: “Just knock on the fucking door”….

2: The Phone manner of Service people, govt and private sector  is really bad.

Very often in England when i’ve had to engage with people on the phone the conversation begins like this:
Service person: “Hello, you’re through to XYZ, how can I help you today?”
Me:” Hi, this is  XYZ calling, How are you?”
*tumbleweeds*… awkward silence….
Me: “Um, ok, well, I was wondering if……”
As much as everyone likes to hate on people who work on helplines, even on some of the worst help lines in Australia (For Australians, think Centerlink…) When you ask someone ‘how they are’, they will usually tell you, and ask in return. The conversation starts in a cheery way and a small amount of rapport is established. I’ve actually had a laugh with debt collectors on the phone in Australia, (I’m sure this is out of the ordinary.) But in England? Very rarely…  The notable exception seems to be when you get a Scot on the line. I’ve had the joy of having to deal a lot with British Revenue and Customs (The UK’s Tax office) over the last few months and whenever I’ve had a Scot on the phone they have been without fail easy to talk to, helpful and happy to have a laugh.

3: In work situations people tend to be in their ‘professional’ shell.


 It could just be a peculiarity of the place I’ve been working for the last few months –  but adults calling each other ‘sir’ and ‘miss’  – despite the fact that sure, we all work in a school – just seems really weird and impersonal to me. It was a personal pet project of mine over the last few month to get people to start using each other’s first names, and I made it a point to do so the majority of the time.
My humour too seemed somehow out of place in the staff room situation. Perhaps it’s the hint of the supposed antipodean  irreverence I apparently must have, or the fact that  I feel that ‘down time’ at work is really ‘down time’ and a time where colleagues can lower their suit-and-tie armour a little and have a laugh. Yet people seemed genuinely unwilling to actually engage for quite a long time and it took several months for the walls to come down.

We can laugh about the job, even mock the job, while doing and being excellent at the job.

4: Putting Tomato sauce on Sausage Rolls is apparently unusual.

Speaks for itself:  the shocked looks and comments uttered from my roommates when they first encountered this display of colonial barbarity were my introduction to this odd bit of Britishness. Further research is needed as I have encountered some Brits who has admitted to doing this, though the semi-hushed tones in which they made this admission lends me to believe that they may have also butted heads with this apparent food faux-pas. I have also been told that this might be a ‘northern’ thing, the differences between north and south are an essay in themselves.

 

5: There are loads of ‘panel discussion/variety’ shows on prime time TV.

For sport, entertainment, cooking, more sport, comedy,more entertainment, and more of the same. Not only that, people watch them, a lot and everyone knows the names of the hosts. These shows exist in other places of course, and some of them become quite popular, but the sheer number and regularity of them in Britain is impressive.

6: It’s no where near as expensive as people think it is.

I encounter this a lot; British people assuming Australia is wonderfully cheap, and Australians thinking Britain and London are horrendously expensive.  In fact the complete opposite is true in both cases. There are regional variations of course, certain things in one country are more expensive or cheaper than the other, You won’t be finding any £1 bottles of wine in London for example (If someone does, could they let me know? Thanks). But as a general rule Britain is a lot cheaper than Australia, both for services and general stuff. Neither side believes me of course until someone who – like me – has had recent experience of living in both countries joins the conversation and verifies the idea.

7: British pubs are fantastic.

Pretty much self explanatory, they are a good place to hang out, they look – for the most part – exactly what you would think a ‘British’ pub should look like. They have open fireplaces in winter, they sell local and international beers and drinks – The British are quite proud and supportive of their local brewers (and with good reason, their local brews that I have sampled are fantastic) and pubs in neighbouring suburbs may often have quite different selections on offer depending on which brewer they are supporting.  Many pubs, in London particularly are hundreds of years old, which somehow adds to their awesomeness, and wandering around I am constantly struck by the urge to ‘try out’ each new cool looking pub that I find.

8: British people can be insufferably conformist.

I have never felt more ‘unusual’ ‘eccentric’ or ‘weird’ than I do when living in London. The music I like is weird, the attitudes I have are weird, the things I find funny, interesting, stupid and the things I say are all very often ‘weird’.  The fact I might not wear shoes out, weird, humour, weird, I’m just weird weird weird.
Of course, Its rubbish, I’ve spent a good deal of my time whilst country-hopping around British people who are just as ‘weird’ as me, (sometimes weirder) –  So I wonder if it’s just a thing that happens when they are all in one place  –  a conformity to what is ‘normal’ here. Kind of like being a guy in Australia and not giving a shit about Rugby League (can’t call it ‘football’ here). Still, anecdotally at least I’ve found Australians at home to be more open to certain diversities than London British, and indeed, it could just be a ‘London’ British thing as Britain is also extremely regional. This is an observation in progress of course, and I look forward to being pleasantly proven wrong.

Poltical (aka business) and neo-liberal codewords. A translation.

•April 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Political (business) and Neo-liberal code words:

Note – many of these words cross over and can be used interchangeably, in the land of political and business double-speak this is standard practice.

Productivity: When said by a politician or businessperson productivity usually means: ‘Business making more money while you make the same (or ideally, less). ‘ This is usually addressed by  in-house cleaning, shedding staff, tweaking work hours, changing benefits or at the extreme, a pay cut , for you by the way, not for them. Business is more productive when its’ workers do more, for less. Productivity also ties into regulation.

Efficiency: This is a similar to the above, only this addresses certain legal areas. How can your contracts be amended to allow for maximum profit whilst limiting how much of that profit you might see?  We’re also addressing potential industrial relations issues:  Do businesses have the right to hire and fire as they see fit? Are there ways we can give business greater powers to screw you over without you having recourse to deal with it?  If there are laws in place that protect your right to stay at work, protest, claim compensation or ‘unfair dismissal’?  These things must be dealt with, they impede efficiency.

Militancy:  This means “How likely workers (or their unions) are to stand up to protect their benefits and conditions”?  If you belong to a union that is likely to call industrial action when employers try to screw you, then militancy applies to you.  It is imperative that your right to exercise your ability to withhold your labour be portrayed as negatively as possible. Militancy impedes productivity.

Regulation (or De-regulation): This means: What legal impediments are there to businesses making as much money as possible?  Do businesses have to address environmental, social or moral obligations in ways that may cost them money? These things are bad, and must be removed.  Are there structures in place that ensure fair trading, the prevention of criminal behaviour and social standards? These impede profit and must be removed.

Competitiveness:  After pursuing policies that led to shedding of work to low-paid third world nations, politicians and business people now want you to become competitive by accepting those same conditions, or at least, as close to them as they can get.  In order to remain competitive, you must sacrifice certain things. You must sacrifice by the way, they won’t have to.

Free-trade: (or the free market):  Simply: We can make as much money as possible without restriction by laws, social standards, environmental or human rights concerns. Countries such as Venezuela, who focused a good chunk of the nation’s oil wealth into combating poverty, are restricting free trade. Free trade must benefit businesses and the wealthy or it is not free.

Unions (also ‘interest groups’). One of the great spin victories of the current global economic system is the way it has successfully spun the lower and middle classes into the narrative of siding against their own interests. Unions allow collective bargaining by workers in a system where power is heavily skewed against them.  However, such action (see militancy) can hinder profit and this is inherently bad. Politicians and much of the media almost always portray unions and unionism as negative: collective action by lower and middle classes is unreasonable (it decreases profit for the wealthy and businesses). Collective action on the part of the wealthy and business sector (especially aimed at governments) is just good business (it increases profit for the wealthy and businesses). You have greater freedom when you have the right to bargain individually – business can pay a few people more, while paying the majority less, and none of you now have the ability to do anything about it when they screw you over.  It’s all about ‘you’.

The market:  The highest principle in the land. Above all considerations, be they moral, ethical or legal. The market (and not the voter) is now the driving force of most political decisions and must be deferred to wherever possible. All things are subservient to the market, and all things must be considered upon their market value and structured to compete in ‘the marketplace’.  Your place in the market is based purely upon your purchasing power or your ability to function within the marketplace. If you exist outside the market, you do not exist.

Resistance is futile.

Growth:  It’s been said before; but infinite growth in a finite world isn’t possible.  This doesn’t mean it should not be aimed for. Growth is a measure of success. A $200,000,000 profit two years running is not a success; the second year should show an increase, and is thus a failure.  Growth in itself is not a bad thing, but the measures used to achieve it (see some above) and the mentality that it must always continue is flawed.

Austerity: Whilst the idea of tightening belts in times of trouble, or simply not spending more than you earn, and then spending this wisely, seems to be axiomatic, this is not what is meant by the current use of this word.  A modern translation would be : “The taxpayer (and this means lower and middle class taxpayers) must foot the bill to pay for the reckless and irresponsible policies pursued by businesses and their government enablers.”. At the same time, those same businesses must not be impeded in any way from continuing to profit as much as possible, nor can they be inconvenienced by regulation or being held accountable for their conduct.

Note: a preliminary list only, I suspect I’ll have to add more.

Numeracy Tests…. why?

•March 14, 2013 • 2 Comments

Recently a colleague of mine came into our staff-room seeming quite stressed. When I asked her about it she told me she was facing an upcoming numeracy test and was quite worried about it. In the UK system, to achieve your fully qualified teacher status all teachers have to complete a numeracy test containing mathematical problems of varying complexity, but which the teacher is expected to be able to pass.

My colleague is an English teacher –  and from what I have observed, a pretty good one too. Recently we had the opportunity to engage in some team teaching and I was genuinely impressed by how she handled herself. Excellent subject knowledge and  use of pedagogical approaches to teaching the content, good differentiation for the students who needed it and moreover she established a good rapport with them quickly, being both respectful but firm. She had the class on task and learning far more quickly than I feel I usually do. She has passed all her observed lessons thus far and is looking to be well and truly on track to qualifying with flying colours.

Yet if my colleague doesn’t pass her numeracy test, she will not be allowed to achieve her qualified status for another 24 months. During that 24 months she will still work as a teacher – she will be expected to still take a full time load –  but wont be paid as one. She will suffer 24 months of financial penalty.

An English teacher, because she was rubbish at maths.

An English teacher.

I completed my Australian HSC in 1993 and at that time, Maths was not a compulsory subject for the certificate. Throughout my high schooling I struggled mightily with mathematics. My results were so consistently low that my parents decided I really needed additional help and hired me a tutor. For almost a year I trudged off to my tutors’ house twice a week to undergo an agonizing hour of number crunching. The word ‘agonizing’ is only slightly hyperbole here; I have never been good at mathematics and I’m still not, I suffer anxiety when I do it and feel frustrated that it takes me so much longer than everyone else. If you imagine the brain as a mouse running on a wheel then when my brain encounters Mathematics the mouse quits the wheel in a huff and parks itself on the ground and eats cheese.

It’s never been officially diagnosed, but I suspect I have an issue with sequences of numbers. After education training, I even began to suspect that I might have some form of dyslexia (something that runs in my family). In my final year of high school, I decided enough was enough and ditched the subject all together. In my next set of exams, without fail: all my results had shot up by a dozen or more marks. My favourite subject –  now the subject of my free time and my vocation –  History, shot up from the 70’s and 80’s ,well up to the high 90’s.. Mathematics took up so much of my time, and required such a cognitive load for me to even achieve a low pass mark that removing it suddenly made me almost a top tier student.

Now, I have a degree in History and a Masters in teaching with distinction. All of my educational practicum reports during teacher training were excellent and I have received nothing but praise for my work thus far in my teaching career. And I feel something of a little bit of pride (feel free to call it hubris if you will) that you would be hard pressed to find someone who is more passionate about their chosen subject  – History – and who immerses themselves in it as much as I do. You would be hard pressed to find someone who finds the idea of teaching this subject to be an absolutely thrilling proposition.

Ask me to list off Roman Emperors and historical theories for the collapse of the empire, ask me to talk about British Empire trading policies, ask me to consider the crusades and their ramifications, ask me to sequence the ebb and flow of events in world war 2…ask me how to present this in a way that is engaging and challenging and I’m your guy.

Ask me how much time a train takes when it travels to A at XYZ kph which is B distance away and the mouse gets off the wheel, and i reach for a calculator.

There is a big push in certain western educational systems on literacy and numeracy, here in the UK it’s embedded in the system and is a favored talking point for politicians on both sides of the house when addressing perceived deficiencies in student outcomes. In my native Australia, a similar focus is being pushed. We hear a lot of talk about it being essential that teachers be skilled in the ‘basics’, one of these basics being numeracy, or  –  ‘basic mathematical ability’. On the surface, this seems to be a fairly obvious truism: How can we expect students to succeed if their teachers lack essential mathematical skills? Yet this is a surface argument and like many such arguments, often made for political or budgetary expediency, its seeming obviousness hides fundamentally flawed assumptions and relevant misunderstandings.

Lets address one thing first: You will be hard pressed to find many good reasons why a teacher should not have good literacy skills. In the K-12 system, every subject, even those with a technical focus require writing skills and these skills must stand up to accepted academic standards. “You cant be an English teacher and be rubbish at reading and writing” said my colleague, “It just doesn’t make sense to even consider that”.

And she is right. Moreover, this applies to every subject that requires engagement with or production of any  sort of text. Literacy makes sense.

But why Numeracy? Is it really essential that every teacher be mathematically grounded?

How do mathematically challenged people cope in the real world? Easy –  this is the 21st century, we are never far from a pen and paper, a calculator, or a mobile phone. Short of a mass catastrophe that wipes out all technology and power I cannot foresee a time when this wont be the case. There are disciplines where numeracy is essential and advantageous. But there are others where this is mostly superfluous and penalizing an English teacher, a History teacher, A foreign languages teacher,  or any other subject that has only a dubious usage for numeracy is the same as penalizing a Maths teacher because they haven’t mastered the basics of Art, History or French.

There are assumptions we can safely make about people who graduate as teachers in a lot of cases. Presumably (if their universities had academic integrity) they posses a decent knowledge of their chosen subject and the key disciplines that surround it. They can probably write, have a more or less above average level of literacy and probably at least basic numeracy as well. More importantly, they have learned diligence, how to study, research and adapt, all key skills essential for a person in the teaching profession.

However what is  critically important as I see it is specialization or expertise in a subject. Graduates and post graduates have this and those who go in to teaching mix their subject specialization with an added specialization in pedagogy. If I want a student taught about Shakespeare I want someone who can teach and who knows Shakespeare. If I want someone taught to speak German I want someone who knows how to teach and to speak German –  their ability to add is irrelevant to me and so it should be, that isn’t their specialty.

Consider also that a persons’ numeracy skills could be amazing, but that does not mean they will be a decent teacher – Teaching is a discipline in itself which many people simply cant do. We should be looking to get teachers who are passionate about teaching, and equally passionate and knowledgeable about their chosen subjects, not making them dance through barely relevant hoops so boxes can be ticked and political points scored. Numeracy testing and odious financial penalties for teachers  who fail them  is bureaucratic and unnecessary and could be costing our education systems extremely good people, the kind of people we need. Is it really that hard to assess individual teachers based on their strengths and the needs of their subjects? Our teachers, like our students are individuals,  are we so inflexible and red-tape bound that we insist all teachers have to tick all boxes before they are allowed to do the job that they may already be doing and doing well?

Understand –  In the UK, If you fail your numeracy test, you will still be teaching. You can still be in front of a classroom every day, just for two years you will have to suffer a pay cut before you can do it again. Obviously numeracy is crucial, just not in the way we’re told. We’re happy to have you teaching, but it does allow us to skimp on paying you for the work you do.

Numeracy indeed.

But as often happens, the people schools are really focused on –  students –  put this to me the other day far better than I could. A student asked me the other day to tell her what percentage her mark was from another class. I immediately whipped out my phone and began to work it out. Feeling self conscious I explained, ‘Sorry, I’m not great with numbers, it’ll be faster if I use my phone’. The student gave me a funny look and said ‘ whatever Sir, you’re a History teacher’.

That made my week.

Privacy – the most oft ignored and dismissed human right.

•September 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Recently an article revealed that Apple had patented a transmission blocking technology that would allow law enforcement groups to block transmissions from Iphones from certain areas. Conceivably this could be used to allow law enforcement groups to prevent the kinds of rapid organisation of unlawful mobs such as those seen in the London riots in 2011. However the obvious slippery slope here is that such an application could be easily misused by those same law enforcement groups. Had such technology existed in the past for example, its likely that Los Angelinos would not have seen the beating of Rodney King, or the world the events that took place in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, let alone the organised protests in Tahir Square in Cairo.

This comes on top of a general intrusions on personal privacy seen in online companies such as Facebook and Google and Twitter as well as government agencies in the US and Australia with far reaching surveillance and data retention laws (in Australia, these laws are in the process of being expanded). The general sentinment, or excuse, depending on which way you lean, is that in the post 9/11 world, such steps are necessary.
Yet, common responses encountered when bringing up these issues in conversation range along the lines of “If you have nothing to hide, whats the problem?” to “you’re assuming that this is a new thing and they haven’t been doing it anyway.” – Privacy it seems is an issue a lot of people don’t seem to care all that much about, until of course it intrudes into an area you would rather have kept private.
If you are doing nothing wrong, what do you have to worry about? The best rebuttal of this line of thinking i’ve encountered goes something like this: Next time you and your significant other, or indeed, you and whomever are getting down and dirty in the bedroom, would you mind putting some cameras up and showing the rest of us? With a tip of the hat to the exhibitionists out there its fair to assume that most people would say “no” to this. Yet, if you have nothing to hide, whats the problem? The issue here is that some things are private because we wish them to be so, we don’t need to justify why what we do in our bedrooms is private, if we choose it to be so, that’s enough. This is a personal choice, you are free to broadcast every facet of your life to the world if you want to – and some people seem to do so! But the choice is yours, no one has the right to impose that decision on you. So why not for emails? Personal correspondence, text messages, health records etc? These are also personal goings on that for whatever reason – assuming one isn’t doing something illegal – should be allowed to be kept private unless you choose to make them otherwise.
This also addresses the “they are doing it anyway” line of thinking – granted “they” might be, but should they be? I would suggest that they shouldn’t. The fact that something might be happening, doesn’t automatically make it right.
Access to your personal information and communications, renders you far more open to manipulation, exploitation and control. One of the reasons why the new technology patented by Apple is so potentially insidious is that it could allow dubious or corrupt regimes to exercise this very control over legitimate dissent, protest or popular movements. Who owns the Iphone you bought anyway? If the government and Apple can collude to control how you use it, then it seems that you don’t. Stay tuned for other companies to follow suit.

Below are some of the relevant texts of the UN Declaration and EU convention on Human rights. Note the mention of the “law” in both cases. The EU convention explains this in greater detail – yet bear in mind, the surveillance and data retention powers being sought by the Attorney General’s office in Australia are a vast slippery slope in terms of individual privacy, yet are being sought under the cloak of law, as were those in the USA. Apple’s highly dubious technology patent is again, entirely legal. The fact that people seem to not mind that their privacy is infringed upon means that such laws and technology use probably wont face the public scrutiny and outcry they deserve.

Article 12. UN declaration of Human rights.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life (European Convention on Human Rights).
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

UK application of the law explained in greater detail:

http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/privacy/article-8-the-right-to-respect-for-private-and-family-life-home-and-corresp.html

China-isms

•April 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This is my second stint at living and working in China. This time is only a short run of a few months but I have been reacquainted with a lot of the little “China” things; peculiarities and quirks that are part of life here, things I’ve lived with for years and things that still cause me to smile and say: “Well… it’s China.”
Here are a few for your consideration.

“Chinglish”
Sure this is overdone, there are dozens of websites all over the internet devoted to this phenomenon, but it never gets old. The label on my shower urges me to “Defend the electricity wall”, I like “welcome to take Beijing Taxi” and the high-rise windows that helpfully caution you to “beware of falling”.

“Hello”.
It’s been noted that “hello” in China often doesn’t actually mean hello in the traditional greeting sense of the word. In fact, “hello” in China usually means: “I’ve seen a Foreigner”. It doesn’t happen so much in Beijing anymore, given the locals are accustomed to Foreigners, but down here in Tengzhou it’s called out all the time when I walk down the street. If you say “hello” in return you would swear you were Billy Connelly at a sell out comedy gig, seriously, it is apparently the funniest thing you can do.

“OH&S”
In the house and work, on the street and everywhere else. Safety standards are interesting to say the least. My shower has an open power point on the wall at right about shin height, it gets liberally drenched when I wash. However the power point behind the bathroom door at head height is helpfully covered with a plastic safety guard. The passenger door in a local taxi didn’t close, but that’s ok, it’s easy enough to just hold the door closed as we go along.
Why would you need goggles when you’re welding?
Oh and you can fit a hell of a lot of stuff onto a scooter or bicycle if you really want to.

“Car Horns”
Actually mean “I’m here” when used, and they are used often, and I mean often.

“Your Chinese Is Really Good”
I seriously love this about Chinese people in China. You speak the smallest amount of Chinese and don’t completely screw up the pronunciation and praise will be heaped upon you. My Chinese isn’t really good, it’s functional at best and pretty bad considering how much time ive been here and studied the language. But it’s nice to have the effort recognized.

“Food”
Chinese people love food, seriously love it, (and why wouldn’t they? Their food is fantastic). But they will happily have a conversation about the subtle differences in dishes from city to city and engage you at length about the food you like, why you like it and happily give you recommendations. As I also love Chinese food, the relationship works well.

“The Upstairs Builder Guy.”
OK, maybe this is just me, but in every single place ive lived in China there has been some kind of upstairs builder guy, or guys plural. Hammering and drilling in a way that drives you insane at all odd hours of the day. And it’s weird hammering, hammering in a way that nothing is ever hammered: “Painting the walls with hammers” as a friend of mine described it. I’m beginning to think it’s the same guy who’s just been following me from apartment to apartment, some bizarre form of foreigner psy-ops. I wont crack, dammit, you won’t win.

“Are you married and how much do you earn per Year”?
These are conversational topics in China. The taboo about speaking about personal income prevalent in many Western counties is not observed here, though I still cringe when I’m asked. The sheer incredulity that im met with when I tell people my age and the fact that im not married however, is completely worth it.

“The Chinese Internet.”
What works one day, might not the next, and what you can read now, you might not be able to read later, or vice versa. There is no censorship however, just blissful harmony.
What’s a YouTube?

“Crossing the Road”
If you don’t just walk out into the traffic and play Frogger, you simply aren’t crossing the road, it’s that simple. There are lights at major intersections, where strict flag waving helpers will chastise you loudly if you try to cross before a green light. But usually you (and everyone else) just wander in and out of gaps in the traffic until you get to the other side.

Misplaced Outrage

•February 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Recently a clip has been doing the rounds of US soldiers urinating on the bodies of dead enemy soldiers. This has been greeted with outrage in Afghanistan, the US and elsewhere, this “outrageous” conduct may indeed lead some of the troops involved to be charged.What’s more,  It’s a complete propaganda disaster for the US and it’s allies in Afghanistan.

But the outrage strikes me as a little misplaced. Is urinating on a corpse bad? Sure, its bad, its disrespectful, its all kinds of disgusting but whats the context here? Its a war, bad things happen in wars, people do terrible things. Its a little ironic: its fine that soldiers of both sides kill, maim, burn each other, we’re fine with that, it’s equally fine that aircraft and robot drones kill non-combatants including women and children, we’re fine with lives left behind being destroyed.

But, urinating on a dead body? THAT’S crossing the line.

What a messed up sense of priorities society seems to have. What do people think happens in war? This kind of thing has been going on since mankind decided to find reasons to kill each other and this has been pointed out in a number of articles talking about this event. Read your history, even recent history and this is what happens  – to put it in blunt language: “Fucked up shit happens in war”.

If people can’t stomach the realities of war, perhaps they should be a little more cautious about backing the leaders who want to send soldiers to war. This is the reality of what war is and does, it is outrageous and it is disgusting, it is awful and it is horrible. All the adjectives used to describe this juvenile act of desecration can be leveled at warfare itself, and as long as people see warfare as a valid means of solving their problems then this is what will happen.

In 1902, Major J.F.Thomas, the lawyer charged with defending Harry “Breaker” Morant at his court martial, when commenting on these very issues said:

“The fact of the matter is that war changes men’s natures.  The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men.  The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations.”

Our sensibilities might be better served by not putting them in these situations in the first place.

A few articles read, considered and mused over:

http://www2.journalnow.com/news/2012/jan/14/wsobit02-desecration-of-enemys-dead-as-old-as-comb-ar-1813346/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2085872/Urination-video-4-US-Marines-charged-hours.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/were-all-guilty-of-dehumanizing-the-enemy/2012/01/13/gIQAtRduwP_story.html