Ideology: It’s all lies.

Ideology includes these little stories that eat away at us. These falsehoods that we have picked up from the dominant culture, that are reflected, though not created, by the media. They are the words that we use to chastise ourselves.

“You are not productive enough”
“You are a bad person for not living up to your potential”
“You do not work hard enough”
“You are a worthless blight on society if you do not have a job”
“You should have achieved a certain career status by your age”
“You can make a difference if only you tried hard enough”
“You could be as rich as them if only you were a better person, if you had the intellect and the motovation”

LIES!!!!

Most of us do not need rulers to tell us what to do, to make us behave in a manner that is advantageous to their class. We just do it. There are no real Kings and Queens anymore anyway, there is a global system, and we all keep it going, not that we have a choice, not that any individual action on out part can change the system. But, we all, to some extent, buy into the ideology that keeps it going, and we suffer under it’s weight.

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What even is this blog??

This blog started out as a rant, a rant from a sick person in pain about all the stupid shit around her in the media and our culture. Then it went on a bit of a Marxist tangent, and then took a turn towards a bit of a queer politics.

It has been a while since I have written because I have been ill. Diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency (from now on known on this blog as AI) and trying to get my medication levels sorted has been a bit of nightmare. Part of said nightmare has been extreme anxiety (a symptom of AI), leaving me unable to even think about writing without having a panic attack. 3 weeks after upping my SSRI’s and I am feeling a bit better. However, I am having to force myself to write this post. I want to write, I need to keep writing, I don’t want to lose it as a skill, I want to improve, and the only way to do so, is to KEEP WRITING!!!

However, at this point I don’t really have much to say other than #worldisfukt. It is fucked up in so many many ways and it just seems as though it will never be unfucked.  We like to kid ourselves though, we ignore the stats, we ignore what is right in front of us, we ignore the suffering we see because it is just too fucking much to deal with and we have no easy solutions. We pick the easy fights. By we, I mean the privileged middle class feminists who spend their time fighting for diversity on the catwalk, women on boards, same-sex marriage or one of the many number of pet projects that don’t really make a difference. Okay, so they aren’t me, not anymore, but they are my peers. We are distracted by the representation of equality, rather than addressing the fact that the system is fundamentally fucked. We are ignoring the fact that even the very notion of equality under a capitalist system is a fucking joke, and that we need to try to think beyond the ideology, beyond this all pervasive idea that capitalism is the natural order. It isn’t, it is a creation, and we must think beyond it if we are to have any hope at all of living in a world in which people are not enslaved, are not dying of curable diseases, are not literally starving to death.

Okay, that got a bit serious, it isn’t what this blog post was supposed to be about. It is supposed to be about me!!! so rant over. For now, I don’t want to be thinking about how fucked up the world is, I need to relax. So, I will try to focus on something else, probably myself and my own life challenges. Which are rather insignificant the scheme of things, but they are mine, so they are important to me.

I think this blog will turn into a bit of a journal, I’ll try to keep in mind that people may be reading it and try not to too boring and self-involved. But it’s a blog, what are they for if not indulging one’s own inner dialogues and getting all the thoughts out of one’s head. I am going  to try to write something most days. We shall see…

In the meantime, here is picture of the view from the balcony of our apartment in Gosford, NSW, Australia. It is here that, weather permitting, I do most of my reading and writing and thinking, and drinking of coffee, and sipping of wine, and eating of cheese and crackers… you get the idea.

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Contentment?

The longer I have to learn how to be content, the easier it becomes. Youth is tricky. Don’t get me wrong, I am not content with the state of the world, with politics and the appalling injustices we all view on the news each day.  Which is, itself, an extraordinary mindfuck.  We all view the most terrible things everyday, repeatedly, but have no power to stop what we are seeing,  no power to “make a difference”. The psychological affect is real, and, for some, can be paralysing.  We try to find ways to placate our emotions,  we sign the petition, we share the meme,  we wear the ribbon for awareness,  as if we aren’t all already bombarded with over-awareness,  as if millions of people knowing something is a problem can actually lead to a solution.

We do other things too, we stop eating certain foods because we see the animal cruelty that goes into its production, forgetting that in almost everything we consume there is an element of human suffering that has gone into it. We only buy “Australian made” products because it is good for Aussie jobs. Forgetting that the foreign produce that we consume also involves workers whose livelihood would be threatened if we stopped buying the imported can of tomatoes or beans. The world is fucked and we all have to find a way to come to terms with the fact that, as individuals, we are powerless to change the system.

So, where does that leave us when it comes to our mental health? Well, for a start, it isn’t helpful to take personal responsibility for things that are out of its control. It isn’t helpful to feel guilty for the system that we didn’t create and have no choice but to participate in.

It can help to occasionally take a break and turn off the tv. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care.

It also helps to stop having useless arguments on the internet. Some people just aren’t worth your time. By all means have constructive conversations, think, learn, but don’t argue for the sake of it, it’s a waste of energy.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t become involved in our local community, that we shouldn’t help those around us, especially if it provides material assistance to those who need it. Just don’t expect to change the system.

Can we be discontent with the system, but content with ourselves? Perhaps, but only if we stop believing the ideological bullshit that we all have the power to change the world through our individual actions. You don’t have to be a hero. In fact, you do not have the power to be a hero. Our hero culture comes from the ancient Greeks, and they knew that only those with immortal blood had the power to change the world.

“when I grow up, I want to be…”

The question every child is asked by friends, teachers, and relatives.
We are all trained by this very question to believe that we are our career, that our role as a worker is our role in life and that each of us must choose a single career path and that is what we are. When we grow up, rather than being a person, a human being, we will become a job.
This is a problematic and harmful for all concerned, but particularly for those who, for whatever reason, grow up to be a person who sits on the couch in their pyjamas all day eating cheese toasties.  (Okay, so I do other things as well, but I don’t have a job)
The reason is neither here nor there. I am sick of explaining myself in an apologetic manner as to why I have dropped out of the labour market.
My point is that it has made me into a kind of illegitimate person. A person without that crucial identifier, when I meet new people and I am asked what I do, I freeze, I have no acceptable answer and I need to provide an explanation for my life that seems so absurd.
I know fully well that it is bullshit and I have learned, at least rationally, to not to let it bother me.
In a world that is obsessed with  personal identity, that demands that the individual categorise themselves and thereby legitimise their every desire or action from their gender and sexual preference, to their eating habits, I am certainly not lacking in terms to describe myself.
BUT, I am not my labour, I am not my job. If I was, I wouldn’t exist.

A Licence To Be Queer?

It is very difficult, from a queer perspective, to argue against Same-Sex marriage. I am met with reactions ranging from bewilderment to outright hostility, from gay and straight alike. So this is an attempt to outline, hopefully in simple terms, why exactly I, and many others in the queer community (perhaps more than you think), would take such a seemingly contradictory stance on what has become the hottest “gay rights” issues of my generation.

Firstly, I am writing about this as an Australian. We have equal rights under the law (with the notable exception of adoption in NT, VIC, SA and QLD). We have, for now, universal health care and a comparatively sufficient welfare system. We are very lucky. The basic, material human rights that are denied to American citizens based solely upon their marital or employment status, and the way in which this impacts upon the queer community, is not being discussed here. If you would like to read more about this topic, I highly recommend you read Gay Marriage Hurts My Breasts by Yasmin Nair.

When I say to my queer friends that we already have equal rights, they exclaim “but we do not have the right to marry!!!”. Is marriage really a “right” and if so, should it be? Well, have you heard the term “marriage licence”? Tell me this, if you could drive a car without obtaining a licence, would you fight for the “right” to pay for your driver licence? Let’s take the analogy a bit further…  Say you argue that driver licences are a good thing for the safety of the driver and the community. I wouldn’t disagree.  However, what is the benefit of a “marriage licence”? …. think about it….  what does it mean to licence a relationship? It implies that there are good relationships that meet the standards of the state, and that there are bad relationships that do not. We are saying that it is the role of the state to decide who gets the tick of approval to be in a relationship and who does not. Marriage is not about love, it is about the state defining and sanctioning something as personal and arguably indefinable as human relationships.

My point is, that the state should stay out of our bedrooms/lounge rooms/kitchens or wherever it is that you do whatever it is that you do with your partner/partners/friend/friends/companions/undefinedhumanrelationofsomedescription etc. I am being completely serious. I am not saying that there is no place for legal arrangements, but I am saying that these arrangements do not have to take the form of a life-long commitment between two monogamous lovers. Life is far too complicated for that. It works for some, but is it really the way in which we should be basing the organisation of our society?  Surely it is the nuclear family ideal that we, as queers, should be rallying against, not campaigning for, and thereby solidifying.

To Be Continued when I can figure out exactly the what it is I want to say and how to say it.

A Larger Cage with Invisible Bars

I love studying different socio/economic/political systems, it reminds me that our liberal democratic capitalist system isn’t the way it has always been, isn’t the way it is in all parts of the world (though it does have a global affect), and isn’t a natural state. It gives perspective. While our western style democracy in Australia is arguably a descendant of ancient Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic, the fact is that the ancient Mediterranean world and its culture, which we hold in such high esteem and look back on with a sense of awe and nostalgia, was built on the backs of slaves. The power structures were obvious, they were written into the law, and the ideology of the time didn’t conceal these structures or even really attempt to justify them.  A slave was an owned human being who was either: born into slavery,  a formerly free person who had been captured  and either kept, given away or sold, or a person sold into slavery due their family’s material circumstance. A slave was the  property of their owner. There was no hidden power structure. You were either a slave, or you weren’t (though a slave could be manumitted). That doesn’t mean that many slaves didn’t have a better material existence than non-slaves. On the contrary, a slave was part of the ancient household, they had a role, and many had respected positions and some authority. However, they were still the property of the head of the household.

A slave could no more consent than they could refuse to do something, whether it be labour or sex or, in many circumstances, both. The idea of active consent that we have today cannot be applied to a person who is owned, unless the slave was able to consent to ownership. I am not aware of this type of circumstance being mentioned in any ancient sources.

So, my point?? – Well, for a slave to have either an adequate or even, in some circumstances, a luxurious material existence, the slave had to be fortunate enough to have a wealthy and benevolent owner. Sure there was room for an individual to advance their status through whatever means was most germane to the circumstance – by being intelligent, literate, cunning, good at the arts of pleasure etc. However, Fortuna and the power structures of the time were the most influential factors. The family which an individual was born into, and the place in which they were born, did, for the most part, define their status as either free or slave, and the quality of one’s life as a slave similarly depended upon chance.  If an individual were born free, they perhaps had a little bit more wiggle room, especially if they owned property. However, they were still subject to military subscription and, if they had no property or means of making a living, their life could be worse than that of the lowest slave in the poorest household. Needless to say, it was never hard to find a mercenary in these times.

In a tutorial on ancient slavery, my lecturer once asked us to draw a parallel with our lives today. Are we all living, to some extent, like slaves? We can draw such a comparison, though we must be careful to recognise that we are talking about two very different systems and ideologies.

It may be helpful to suggest a comparison in these terms. Under global capitalism, the lucky poor live in a larger cage with invisible bars. Those who are unlucky, have material and labour conditions that are comparable to the poorest and most brutally treated Athenian slave. As for the rich? The so-called “1 percent”? –  They have material luxuries beyond the wildest dreams of the ancient elite. So much for progress.

Invisible bars you ask?? Do I really think we live in a cage??  – That depends on how you define “freedom”, and until you start to question the ideology of the system that rules over you, you will never even see the bars, let alone break free – not that that is even an option. The sooner we realise that, the better. However, some individuals being more aware of the workings of the system won’t change it, and the communist- style utopia of my fantasies will not come into being, at least not yet. Me, writing this post, will make fuck all difference. However, it is something to do. Thinking is certainly more productive than pinning awareness ribbons and arguing with neoliberals on twitter. Gosh this is getting depressing. Soz.  Coffee time.

To Be Continued.

“Know Thyself”

According to Pausanias, there is an inscription in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi that reads, “Know thyself”.

At first, I thought that this was very inward, self-centered thinking, and that it implied that the most important thing was to focus on “the self” and, by extension, “self improvement”. I think that my initial impressions were wrong. I now think that it is actually incredibly important advice.

The way I interpret it, is that to “know thyself”, is to understand our own personality, our strengths, our own body, our own limitations, and, importantly, to accept them. Through knowing ourselves, we can come to understand other people, to understand their actions and anticipate their reactions. Knowledge is power, but only up to a point.

To “know thyself” is also to understand our own place in relation to the world, to recognize the way in which luck and our political and economic systems impact upon our lives. We need to recognize the limits of our power. However, what we can control is the way in which we think about ourselves in relation to the rest of the world.

In an infinite number of ways, both subtle and glaringly obvious, we are all taught that there is a “normal” way of being, and that it is to this end that we must aspire. Whether it is to be part of a functional nuclear family, to have x number of shoes, jackets, houses, cars, friends, sexual encounters etc. No one lives up to these illusory, and even contradictory, ideals. However, that doesn’t stop many of us from spending our lives trying. This drives us mad. We strive for a happiness that can never be obtained.

We are also told, and this is very insidious ideology, that it is human nature to want more, to constantly strive to be a better version of ourselves, and to want more shiny things. That aspiration is an essential and a positive trait. This is not true. It is not a natural state, it is ideology that has developed over time, and it is Capitalism’s wet dream.

The leaders of the ancient Greek world traveled many miles to seek ambiguous fortunes told by the Oracle of Apollo, and as they entered, they were greeted with words γνῶθι σαυτόν “know thyself”. The Ancient Greeks knew that it was a key to knowledge, and they were right.