Long time no blog! I've been busy working part-time at the New Zealand AIDS Foundation; getting ready to wrap up the fourth year of Be. Leadership and recruit for the fifth programme in 2015; and developing a new way to work with organisations to help them improve what they do.
A couple of months ago the GM of an organisation I helped set up in the 90s contacted me about doing a two-hour session on customer service at an annual staff hui. I told her there would be little of value I could achieve in two hours, but that I had an idea of how to gather data beforehand to use at the session.
To ascertain how the team could work together more effectively with the people who access its services.
I've had a theory for some time now that the early decades of each century are primarily conservative and the later decades are liberal. I'm no historian and I've got no research to back it up because I couldn't be bothered researching.
But I was born in 1967 in the hippy flower power era, followed by the 80s with its androgyny and outlandish fashion; the birth of the internet; and civil right movements left, right and centre. All at the end of the century that saw two world wars, the industrialisation of society and alcohol prohibition.
Now, just 14 years into the 21st century, NZ elects a National government for third term with the highest majority since god knows when and the second lowest vote Labour's ever had. Sure we've had gay marriage, but that has just increasd the numbers trapped by a conservative institution. And I won't be surprised if we prohibit alcohol again once we've made tobacco illegal.
UPDATE 09 September 2014: I'm pleased to say I have been contacted by the Electoral Commission and the Grey Lynn Returning Officer since writing this email/post.
Email to the Electoral Commission
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
If you watched Benefits Street last night, you may have been offended by the blatant depiction of crimes like shoplifting and drug selling. You may have felt disgusted or pity for the residents' dependence on welfare and substances, or simply for the squalor they lived in.
Or you may have just worried about the future of the kids growing up in James Turner Street.
According to Wikipedia, "the show was controversial, with the police, Channel 4 and the media regulator Ofcom receiving hundreds of complaints. There were Twitter death threats made against the residents of the street."
George Takei, Star Trek's inimitable Mr Sulu, has been chastised by disability rights activists for posting a Facebook meme.
Said meme depicts, from behind, a woman standing from her wheelchair to reach a bottle of (presumably) wine, with the words, "There has been a miracle in the alcohol isle [sic]."
I get a lot of people trying to help me. The less they know me the less helpful their help is. So it's useful and interesting to make the distinction between 'helping' and 'being helpful'. They are definitely not synonymous and are, so often, completely antithetical.
The most unhelpful help I am offered is getting my wheelchair in and out of my car. It's quite a complex operation — getting it in involves neutralising the wheels, clipping the winch to the footplate, winching it up the 45° ramp and securing it on its platform in the car. And getting it out involves the reverse.
The phrase "digital native" has evolved pretty effortlessly into the common lexicon in the last five years. But is it accurate or a misnomer?
The most relevant definition of "native" in this context is "belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature; inherent" (Dictionary.com). So do iPads, Facebook, X-box or anything else in the digital/online/connected world, to which we may refer to young people as being native, belong to them by birth, by nature or inherently?
I'm splitting hairs here, I know. The thought only came to me half an hour ago in a discussion with someone who may well be described is "digitally native," so it's not like I've thought deeply about it. But it's interesting to consider an alternative frame: that kids and young people aren't native to technology — they're being colonised by it.
Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is the latest in a long line of sports "stars" to come out as gay in an interview with celebrity interviewer Sir Michael Parkinson. It seems to be a sport in itself these days: to play professional sport and reveal that you're gay.
Or perhaps a better sport might be to place bets on who will be next. David Beckham? Too good to be true.
But the real question — or the bigger conversation we're not having — is about the "casual homophobia", as Kath and Kim actor and out lesbian comedian Magda Szubanski puts it, in sport that stops people like Thorpe coming out — or never having to "go in" in the first place.
There's been a lot of talk, both for and against, David Cunliffe's recent public confession that he is sorry to be a man. While I admire his intent, I think his choice of words let him down and weakened his message, for several reasons.
Firstly, personalising the message made it all about him and took the focus off women, for whom he was trying to advocate. He would have come across more genuinely had he apologised, on behalf of men, for the violence and abuse women endure from men.
Secondly, Cunliffe's apology for who he is — a man — indicates shame. Researcher Brené Brown is very clear, in her discourse on shame, that shame inhibits change. You simply cannot change your behaviour if you feel bad about who you are. The antidote for shame is the admission of vulnerability. Men, in particular, are nurtured to be invulnerable — which of course they aren't — and so many if not most men feel shame about their vulnerability.