Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Business Ethics

I expect you've all been a victim of corporate greed at some time or other. Because Martin used to be in the motor industry and I got an inside scoop on prices, I know about 10,000% markups, like the case of the $27.00 screw. This may be an extreme example, but it's far from unique, and a 1000% markup is quite normal these days, a good example is the popcorn at movie theatres.

Generally, when the greed is happening among my competitors, I follow a live and let live attitude. If they want to overcharge, and people want to pay it, let them.

Here's an example for you at "Lucy's Basement Bargains":


6 owls for $9.99

This is not a bargain. I sell them at 10 for $2.95, and in fact I buy them at 5 cents each. Of course, to get that wholesale price you do need to buy hundreds at a time, and most people would not want to, which is why there is a market for retail quantities and prices, but I'm just demonstrating a typical example of why "caveat emptor" is so important.

One reason "Lucy" may well sell them at such a grossly over-inflated price is that she includes the word "Steampunk" in her title. The Steampunk bandwagon is massive, if you hadn't already noticed. So this is a sort of magic word. Quite what is steampunk about an owl, I don't know, but there it is.

You notice she also has "Antique Silver" in the title. In the description she says it is antique silver plated zinc alloy, but "Lucy" is not daft. She knows that:

a) Buyers don't read that far, and
b) Even when they do these terms are meaningless.

It isn't actually plated anything, it's Tibetan Silver, an alloy that contains little or no silver at all. It's a metal I love and won't hear a word against, still, passing it off as something it's not, ain't quite cricket.

Her buyer (so far only one) saw the words antique silver and Steampunk, and the price faded into the sunset.

She also sells these:


These cost 5 cents each, wholesale, too.

Well, power to you Lucy. Well done.

No, I mean it. She's not doing anything illegal. This is standard modern business practice, it is capitalism working the way it's supposed to. She's putting food on her table, the customer is happy, and there's nothing wrong with it.

But personally, I couldn't do it. I shall never be wealthy because I couldn't sleep at night if I was overcharging people.

Ethics in business are a bit of a stumbling block really. Out there, in internet shopping land, are lots of people waving money at the screen, desperate to part with it, to get stuff. More stuff. Lotsa stuff. And I take full advantage of that, which is hard enough to reconcile with my personal ethics. So I keep my prices down, put free gifts in, offer a top-notch service etc, and have an easy conscience.

I have competitors but I try not to be compeitive. Oh, I could be. I don't play much in the way of games or sports, but when I do, I am very competitive indeed.

Maybe it's because I started out at craft shows, which had a community feel to it, but I enjoy talking to and actively helping out fellow sellers. I like to encourage those who are new. I'll offer advice and ideas. I'll warn them of pitfalls. I'll share some (not all!) of my wholesalers. And generally speaking this is how "we" are, those of us who sell crafts and craft supplies. We are a warm, supportive community.

There are exceptions, however.

Shortly after my daughter started selling her chainmail on Etsy, I stumbled upon another chainmail seller who I'll refer to as Grumpypants, because it sums her up nicely. One of the more negative folk I've run into at Etsy. I had seen her whiny posts complaining about lack of sales, but hadn't had anything to say to her. I had opinions, obviously (boring work, overpriced) but one keeps that sort of thing to oneself. The reason I eventually "met" Grumpypants was that she offered me some advice. Not that I asked for any.

No, she took it upon herself to "advise" me that my photos weren't very good.

I know this. I'm not stupid. It's like being told you are tall, or short, or fat, or whatever. WOW! GOSH! Really? No. I need a better camera, and/or more powerful lighting for indoor shots, but most of all I need a better attitude towards photography, which I simply find to be a chore. It's time consuming, frustrating, and I hate it. But I wasn't going to tell her that.

So I simply said "Yes, it's true, unfortunately I am far too busy shipping orders to take new photos!" which shut her up.

But what made it worse, was that her photos aren't any better. If anything, they're worse than mine. Soon, I saw her seeking advice on how to improve them, as she was sure this was the reason for her lack of success, and then she vanished.

There are two things to note from this anecdote, two patterns that she showed.

1. Whiny, negative people don't last long in business.
2. People criticize things they are actively doing themselves.

Yes, that pot calling the kettle black. It is HUGE on Etsy.

Recently a lady decided she'd have a big rant about people selling turquoise that is really only howlite or magnesite. She said sellers doing this were liars, which is a pretty strong accusation.

Quite apart from the fact, however, that it's standard practice to market it as turquoise because that is what buyers enter in the search engine when they are looking for that stone, there is a whole definition confusion with regard to gemstones, which I discussed at my Old Bazaar blog: http://oldbazaar.blogspot.ca/2013/01/whats-in-name.html

But that's neither here nor there, when I went to look at her shop, there were a few...well, let's say hard to identify gemstones on her designs. This was not helped by blurred photos (maybe I should have "advised" her) but I'll offer quite a large sum of money to wager that several of them were not what she claimed them to be. Pot/Kettle.

Then there were her "sterling silver" findings. Now, you can buy very similar charms and beads in several different materials, but not identical. Manufacturers of sterling silver findings do not use the same moulds as the alloy findings. There may be a good technical reason for that, but the fact is, they don't. And I sell Tibetan silver findings, and I am so familiar with the more popular ones that I recognize them as easily as my own children. From a distance. Even blurred. To put it another way, I know damn well that at least some of her "sterling silver" findings are Tibetan silver.

Tibetan silver is a better choice for what she makes, as it doesn't tarnish. Cleaning all the itty bitty bits of her designs if it were sterling would be tedious, and the customer really wouldn't enjoy it, but then they wouldn't be very happy to discover they've paid $35.00 for earrings contructed of parts that cost pennies. If selling howlite as turquoise is lying, then selling an alloy as sterling is blatant fraud.

I'm just assuming her Swarovski crystals are not, either. Of course I could be wrong, but......if these earrings were really made from sterling, genuine Swarovski, and gems as named, then she couldn't make them for $35.00, simple as that.

But I said nothing. Can't actually prove it. None of my business anyway. Caveat Emptor.

Yesterday in a private forum a question arose about copyright infraction. Having been copied blatantly on eBay (my competitor even saw fit to use the same names for the designs that I used) I do understand what it feels like. And there isn't much you can do about it, unless the design has been registered. This is part of life when you create designs. Heat/kitchen.

Anyway, it cropped up because one of our number asked an honest question about making a gift based on a design she had once seen, but couldn't remember where. Another person (who we'll call Duckface, based on her avatar) pretty much accused her of stealing her design. She then went on to call all those who use the ideas of others "lame" and said they were of poor character.

There ensued a discussion about just how original a design can be. It's impossible to say that any idea you ever have is original. But that wasn't the issue here.

The issue was that Duckface has an Etsy store. It's very nice, but original? Um, no.

It includes gemstone tree of life pendants made with wire, a design that has been around for decades. It's extremely popular, very pretty, and there are thousands of people making and selling them. Oh, and if you like them? I can pick them up at $4 wholesale. But let's not go there.

Several of her "original designs" are earrings I sell myself. I've been selling them successfully for years. I suppose I could call them my designs, but that would be silly, as they consist of Tibetan silver charms, and a couple of beads, hung on earwires. It's a very fast, cheap way of making earrings, I can make 100 pairs a day (and make a good profit selling them for $2, too). Nothing wrong with them, they're very popular, but most people don't try to claim they are "unique" or "original".

Her hypocrisy drove my daughter to calling her out on it, noting also that she'd criticized me just a few days ago for jumping on bandwagons. Well, she decided to move on from the group. I wish her well. She's not a bad person, just a silly one.

There's a lot of it about. I see it regularly, these are just two examples. Those who complain loudest about what they consider to be "wrong" are so often found to be guilty of it that it boggles my brain why they draw attention to themselves.

Of course, this is not restricted to craft sellers, or to sellers in general, it's something humans do. How many loud public critics of morality have we seen over the years hoisted by their own petard, the any-gay preachers caught with their gay lover, or the anti-drug campaigners found with a pocket full of cocaine. To err is human, I guess. None of us are perfect. We all do naughty things sometimes. I know I do. But I don't make a big public song and dance about how evil it is while I'm doing it.

People are weird.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Why Bad Grammar is the Same as Religious Fundamentalism

Step by Step.

1. Freedom of speech is a contract between the government and the citizen. It is otherwise irrelevant.

2. What you say, and, most especially, what you write, is public domain.

3. You won't go to jail for what you write because of free speech laws (see 1)

4. However, once "out there" there's no reeling it back in.

5. It's not illegal.

6. But it's still wrong.

7. People will notice.

8. They may point it out to you.

9. You can't expect otherwise.

10. Cause and effect.

11. Suck it up cupcake. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

I'll Get To The Point Eventually; This Is A Test

This blog is for my wise, wise son. He's currently very excited that his newborn son is very advanced for his age. Well boy, imagine how proud I am that you are so old for your years.

You've heard me tell you about James as a child. He was demon spawn. He was such hard work that if he'd been my first child, he'd have been my last. But luckily I had experience and support and somehow we managed to raise him into a human being. Along the way something even more magical than that happened.

He is now coming out with concepts that I didn't discover until I was in my forties. All my kids thrill me like this, but because it's James doing it, i.e. the "difficult" one, it is just that bit more special. It means his executive skills have matured.

So, this blog is inspired by him and dedicated to him.

You hear me talk about balance a lot on these pages, in many and various ways. Some of you agree with me, some don't understand, and some think it's a nice idea but impossible. For me it is everything. It is the concept that runs my life. Therefore it is awfully hard for me to understand why it's not important to others - and frequently it isn't.

A lot of people I meet, including plenty of intelligent people I admire and respect, are not big on balance. Not in any obvious way, anyway, and certainly not in a way that they talk about it. Perhaps they find it in their own way, maybe only subconsciously, but they appear to be more of the "all or nothing" persuasion.

By this I mean, people whose opinions are heavily affected by the concepts of "always" and "never". These are concepts I tend to avoid, because I don't think they work.

I'm not talking about scientific data here. If you mix red with blue you will always get purple. Not that sort of thing.

The sort of thing I have in mind are pronouncements. "I would never do that." "That is always the best way."

I much prefer usually, sometimes, and seldom, because they are more realistic.

I've also been told that I'm a moral relativist and that this puts me in league with the scum of the Earth.

Well, so be it.

Now, we could do the religious aspect thing here, as we often do, where I reject the teachings of the Bible unless I like them, and I get two sets of reactions, those who share that rejection, and nod vigorously, and those who gasp in horror at the very idea, and we could use this as an example of just how good or bad absolutism is based on that.

But I think that's a cop-out. That's ethics by proxy. If you base what's right and wrong on very old books then you end up with Shariah, and......no.

The world changes, and so do we, and right and wrong are moving targets.

Oh sure, there are taboos. There are things that are fairly steady in the right and wrong area, no question, but there aren't many.


I know individuals and societies have others, but these are the only taboos deserving of being taboo, in my humble opinion. That's all it is too. My opinion. It's not worth much.

Now, there are other things that are wrong, but not always. There are grey areas. For a taboo to be worth its salt, it has to be always wrong. And always is a very difficult word.

Obviously opinions vary and there are a long list of activities considered taboo in some places and not others.

When we get silly taboos what do we do?

Read this. You don't have to approve, just take in the information:


Surprised at all?

Your opinion is not what matters, what matters is WHY you hold that opinion.

And, exactly the same applies with every single taboo, be it religious, sexual, food, or otherwise. There are things you shudder at, because you always have.

It's not wrong to shudder, but it's wrong to never ask yourself why you shudder, you see? Question everything. It was a lot of questioning that pared that list down to 4 for me, and if I was dying of starvation after a small plane crash in the mountains, and the pilot was already unconscious from loss of blood, I could probably reduce it 3. Don't say you wouldn't, because you don't know.

The other 3 are not necessary for survival, so there's no excuse.

Now the thing is, beyond the taboos there are many things considered good and bad. Depending on where you live these value judgements will vary dramatically in importance and therefore they all end up being opinions.

What is an opinion worth? That depends entirely on what you base it on. On the face of it, no opinion ranks higher than another one. There are times when a minority opinion turns out to be the wiser one, but at the time, that isn't always easy to judge.

You can't have missed the flap caused in the media by the removal of a popular TV personality due to his homophobic (we'll come back to that) statements.

I don't even watch TV and I've heard of this show - "Duck Dynasty." I don't know much about it and will refrain from an opinion because it would be rather unfair to base an opinion on ignorance (note that remark.) Do I HAVE an opinion, despite never having watched it? You bet I have. It's worth nothing.

Now, apparently one of the gentlemen on this show chose to share HIS opinion, and the world heard it. As a result the company who own the show have "let him go." I don't know if this is permanent or not, as there's a clamour by fans to get him back, but the damage is done. The argument has started.

A friend of mine posted the following yesterday, and it's very pertinent.

I’m going against my own better judgement by even MENTIONING the following, but I’m less intrigued by WHAT is said than the utter stupidity BEHIND the remarks.
Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, defending Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who was suspended for anti-gay remarks:

“I grant you, he did not say this in the kindest way – but why can’t there be a debate about it? Why can’t there be a back-and-forth, a discussion — you know, that’s how he feels, and you say how you feel...”

Here’s the thing Megyn, we’ve had that conversation. We’ve had that debate for decades. What more do you think we need to say here? And what new info did this clown supposedly bring to the table here? He’s not the first guy who’s ever said, “Them homersexuals is bein’ immoral ‘cause th’ Bible.” He’s not exactly breaking new ground here. How long are we supposed to sit back and listen to the same tired, unconvincing, insulting arguments and over and over?

Kelly isn’t calling for a debate — and neither are the rest of Roberston’s defenders. She’s asking for the right to hurl insults at people in the LGBT community, while members of that community shut up and take it. Sorry folks, that part of the “debate” is over.

Dumb ass bitch. Yeah, I said,”bitch.” 
Her, and Palin, and Coulter.
The last thing I need to hear is a lecture on the First Amendment by people like her.

In my world, the argument started before this. It's been going on ever since I first came on to the internet in 1997. No doubt it will go on forever. And it crops up in relation to similar pronouncements by people in the public eye, as well as by ordinary mortals expressing an opinion. One they would do better keeping to themselves.

There are many opinions like that. Right or wrong are not set in stone (see above), and therefore while your opinion could be either, it's often a good idea to


Somewhere in our liberated relativist society a lot of people have got the idea that being entitled to their opinion also means they have the right to share it.


There are lots of people who don't seem to have a filter between their opinions and their mouth. These are not stupid people. It's tempting to see them that way, but on many other occasions they display great wisdom, and indeed, excellent values. They may in other ways be kind, useful, and entertaining too. In fact they may be 99% wise.

We could therefore say they have a slip of wisdom, rather than a slip of the tongue, because for it to be said, it has to be in there. Better that it stays in there.

What possesses them to come out with it? They do know better. They do know what the result will be. They do know it won't be good.

But like a small child behaving badly when he KNOWS he's going to get into trouble, they say it anyway.

Before I go any further I want to remind you of an important thing here. We are talking about balance. This applies to the person as much as it does to the value of the opinion.

There are no saints and no sinners. (I wrote a whole blog on my thoughts behind that statement if you want to read it http://chovblog.blogspot.ca/2013/07/saints-and-sinners.html )

Humans do things we call good, and things we call bad. The same human can do both within a matter of minutes. It is crazy to write off a human with a statement, and just as crazy to write off the human making the statement.

Which brings me to the example.

I play this game with myself on social media where I get a point for everytime somebody makes a stupid statement, and I say nothing. (I get 2 points for ignoring it if it's a factual error, rather than an opinion.)

So I bring it here. And surprisingly this one came up two days before the gentleman with the beard opened his mouth.

I actually gave myself 3 points for ignoring the following:

"Hating those who hate homosexuals is just as bad as hating homosexuals."

No. It isn't. If you cannot see why it's different, we may have to go right back to step one, but this blog has already gone past the length where most people are willing to tackle it.

So, briefly, it's different because while both of these are opinions, which you are indeed entitled to, they are based on very different things.

Hating homosexuals is based on prejudice and bigotry. It doesn't matter if you "read it in the Bible", because it's a prejudiced and bigoted interpretation of said book. There are plenty of Christians who see it differently. So it's your choice to interpret it that way. There is no get out clause here. There is no passing the buck and blaming God. You have chosen to excuse your personal hatred by quoting scripture. That's pretty low. That's no different to beating your wife or child and quoting scripture. In fact virtually everything a human can do, can be justified by quoting scripture. And has been. Slavery, genocide, you name it.

But let's not forget, there are homophobes who are not religious. They don't even have a convenient excuse for it. I use the term homophobe deliberately. Some people object to it, saying they are not afraid of homosexuals. REALLY? So what's the problem then? How do they affect you if it's not causing an irrational fear? Phobia is a special type of fear, it's baseless. It's not like fear of tigers. Oh you find what they do disgusting, do you? Don't even get me started on that one. People who throw stones etc. But you know, I find prejudice disgusting, so......checkmate.

We won't dwell on this, if need be I can write another whole blog on the topic, done it before, bound to do it again. Suffice to say that one way or another an opinion like this, based on negatives such as hate, fear, elitism (oh yes it is, "I'm better than him") are a certain type of opinion, the lowest type of opinion. In a world where opinions have little value, these have the least of all.

Hating bigots is different. BTW, I don't like the word hate, but everyone else is using it, so I'm leaving it there. Hating bigots is based on righting a wrong. When I've said this before I've been told "two wrongs don't make a right." It's a very silly statement. Let me introduce you to the Paradox of Tolerance:


That's far more concise than I could ever be, but having been accused of "being intolerant of the intolerant" I understand it only too well.

Ultimately I think this is a form of logic that requires emotional intelligence to be fully understood, which is not something you hear from me very often, as I try to keep that aspect of things out of arguments.

But if we are to be fully wise, we must balance logic with kindness. I'd even be willing to let kindness take over, and throw logic right out of the window. I'd appeal to your better nature, assuming you have one.

James, my son, your balance of logic and kindness is second to none. Your recognition of the value of keeping mouths SHUT when judgements and opinions are not appropriate makes you wise beyond your years. I hope - I like to think - I have taught you well. Raise that little man to be that kind of man too. The world needs more of them.

Thursday, 19 December 2013


This blog will be a bit more "all about me" than usual. It's not something I write about a lot because other things are more interesting, but I'm not exactly shy either so I'm quite capable of it. And in any case it's in response to a question that asked about individual ways of dealing with something, so here's mine.

The question was in reference to positive thinking and all that goes with it, including people who are fake. I gave a short answer, and I'll copy it here:

There is a balance. It is possible to resist the urge to "vent" all the time, without being fake. But it's possible that, 1) upbringing/culture makes a difference, 2) basic personality makes a difference, 3) life experience makes a difference. 

often it is possible to analyse an experience (quickly) by choosing to look at the positives, and brush off the negatives. Simple example, if I were snowed in, I could complain about it, or I could enjoy it, because it means I don't have to run errands. Most things in life have a good side and a bad side, both need to be acknowledged, but it is a choice as to which one we dwell on.

But this isn't really the whole of it. So I'll expand.

I do, absolutely, believe that life is what you make it. That is why a positive attitude makes life better. If you are constantly pessimistic, quite apart from any effect that has on events, it means you are not as cheerful as you might otherwise be. I like being cheerful. I prefer it. Therefore, I will behave in a way that improves my cheerfulness.

I don't believe in "fake it 'til you make it." I understand that it works for some people, and all power to them, but I am no good at self-delusion. If I am not happy, if I am not positive, there's a reason for it, and I neither wish to pretend, nor can I.

Yes, these two positions can work together, in fact they work together just fine. It's called balance. It's called reality.

I further believe that while attitude is a conscious choice, it is influenced heavily by what we are taught, what we have experienced, and so on. I was raised believing that being cheerful and positive was beneficial, not just to myself, but to everyone around me, and I've never found this to be incorrect. Therefore I stick with it.

There is a benefit involved in every choice we make. Some people find benefits in being negative, even in being extremely negative, or even self-destructive. Maybe it gets them attention, which they enjoy, maybe it gives them excuses for their "bad luck," whatever it is, they see it as a benefit so they continue with it. Their choice, not mine.

On the other hand some people get benefits from being fake, or from being frivolous, so that there is zero negativity. They never take anything seriously, and they never worry about anything at all. This can include staying solvent and keeping promises, however. Presumably this works for them. Again, that's their choice, but it's not mine.

The choice to lean towards the negative, or to be fake or frivolous sometimes impacts me, however, and this is when I can no longer shrug it off. If somebody is grumpy and as a result they are rude to me, or simply create a bad atmosphere, I may not be very tolerant about it. If an ultra carefree person is also ultra unreliable I soon lose interest in their presence in my life. Simple cause and effect.

And this is because I believe that it is all largely choice. Opinions differ on that of course. We will always hear "I can't help it." when a person is called out for their attitude, and it's very much a matter of opinion as to whether this is true.

Often it gets turned around, and around...we have frivolous people demanding that we lighten up if we object to their cavalier attitude to an injustice, for example, and ....issues be damned, we end up with attitude vs. attitude.

Bottom line is that I take a pragmatic approach. If I can affect events, I shall. If there is something I can do to change things for the better, then let me at it. If I can't, if there is nothing that can be done about it, then I may as well get on with it, because railing against it is a waste of energy.

Two examples.


The weather. It's no secret that I hate winter. Not going to pretend I enjoy it. Certainly not going to go to a lot of trouble to "make the best of it." Cold sucks. I find nothing good in it at all. Snow can be fun in certain circumstances but I'd be quite willing to miss out on that. So, that's my position on the weather.

BUT....there's no point whining about it, because it's not going to go away. The solution is to move to a hot climate, and one day I SHALL. Meantime, I mostly shut up, because no amount of negativity will improve the weather. It's a waste of time, energy, and the tolerance of others for me to drone on about how cold I am. I keep it to an absolute minimum, or if asked.

AND....I'm not very tolerant towards those who whine about it a lot, especially if:
1) They aren't actually obliged to be out in it much. Ask my husband about working outdoors for most of the winter, and then try whining at me, OR
2) These are the same people who whine all summer about being too hot.

So. Yeah. I'm cold too. Suck it up.


Global climate change. While others fight over how much impact humans are having, or what the implications will be, I see two groups whose attitudes I don't share.

Group 1 are agonizing over what is going to happen. Probably not sleeping at night. Some may be driven to suicide for all I know. They aren't scientists, nor leaders with any power to do anything it, so they feel pretty powerless, and their reaction to this powerlessness is angst.

Group 2 don't give a shit. They wouldn't lift a finger to prevent a worsening of the situation, and they certainly have no intention of trying to help, if anything they are busy contributing to it.

I care. I care deeply. But until I am given full instructions on what to do to help, I shall keep calm and carry on.

We don't have to deny negative stuff. In fact if we do, if we pretend there are no problems, we add to them, so it's actually a harmful attitude. If we care, we don't have to stress over things, we can do whatever we can to help, and hope that others will do the same. Generally speaking, if enough of us care, and do what little we can to help, that is probably good enough.

In our own lives if we act instead of worry or whine, it tends to bring better results.

If I sometimes seem impatient with those who worry or whine AND not act, it's because I genuinely believe they are shooting themselves in the foot. And I see it a lot. Sometimes it exhasperates me.


Of course, I don't dismiss the value of complaint.

"If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it." - Zora Neale Hurston

Again, there is a balance.

If it gets results, it is not complaint at all, it is activism.

Whether you choose to tolerate a situation or not largely depends on which is easiest. Both tolerance and intolerance can be pro-active, they can be used to reach an objective, to achieve a greater good.

"The strong give up and move on, while the weak give up and stay."

So, ultimately I would say, if complaining works for you, go for it. If it makes your life better, then it is the logical choice. If it gets the desired results, if it creates opportunities, if it allows for clear thought, if it enables you to express yourself, then by definition it isn't actually negative. It's strategic.

But if it is self-defeating, if it makes a bad situation worse, if it affects your relationships, if it causes problems with employment or advancement therein, if it brings you down.....it's probably worth considering a different attitude.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


There's some warped idea going around that anything "prideful" is bad. I have never subscribed to that and I won't, because I think the word itself is overused, and quite often as an accusation, either by those who are envious of ability, or who don't understand what's going on.

Of course, there is no doubt that sometimes pride does get in the way. How many times have you known a person to make a silly mistake and refuse to acknowledge it? That's pride, for sure.

But being proud of your own abilities? For pity's sake there is nothing more tedious than false modesty.

Recently I took part in the Nano writing event. I had never done it before because I could see a huge downside to it, but my pride caused me to get talked into it. This is a fact. I was pretty much dared. "Bet you can't write a book in a month." Well, I couldn't ignore that., Of course I can, I thought, I'll show them.

Of course I could. It's easy. You divide 50,000 by 30, which is just over 1600 words a day. I can do twice that before breakfast, so I did, and I finished it well ahead of schedule.

And it's complete rubbish. It's so bad that my pride would not let me put my name to it. Nobody will see it. It's crap. It cannot be saved because the premise was far too thin, I really didn't have anything interesting to say, and the only way to make it more interesting would be to add a LOT of very descriptive stuff about the scenery, making it half travelogue, and descriptive stuff is NOT my forté.

I know what I'm good at and what I'm not. This is a mixture of pride and realism.

However, there was one section I was really pleased with, a long monologue by one of the characters, which, with a very small amount of effort to change a word here and there, I can use in a different story that is working, and will get done in due course. Not rushed out like pulp fiction.

So it wasn't a complete waste of time. Plus, it proved what I had always thought, I'm only a good writer when the muse takes me. I really can't do it on demand.

But you know, I do have faith that I'm a good writer. And I do want to get something published. And because I have pride in my work I will wait patiently until I have something worth publishing.

As it is, there are plenty of actually very good books in the remainder bins. How sad is that. The world is saturated with good writing, just as it is with good musicianship, good artists, and so on. There is no use for a poor quality book, and I am not going to have a piece of junk "out there" with my name on it.

This is pride. So be it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Laughing, it's a serious matter.

My matriarchy ever increaseth. I am grateful.

I've told you lot before, and I'll say it again, despite what anyone expects of me, I don't hand out a lot of parenting advice, because I'm not you.

Oh for SURE, there are aspects I disapprove of. There are things I think are important. It's not that I don't have plenty of opinions, it's just that I know what it's like to be a young mother trying her hardest, and being criticized by those whose opinions I don't want to hear, thank you very much. We all just do our best.

But here is a bit of advice I feel comfortable sharing.

Teach your kids to be funny.

There are all sorts of negatives in this world, but a person without a sense of humour is a walking tragedy. They have nothing to fall back on when life is unfair, or ridiculous, or plain brutal.

However, there's a proviso with this. In order to be funny, first you have to know what is serious. It's like everything else. There is a yin yang in life. A dark and a light. You cannot have one without the other.

Because just as there are those who are always serious, and look as if their faces would crack if they laugh, there are also those so frivolous, so "light" that they are pretty much 2D. Cardboard cutout people.

One of the things kids often get "wrong" is knowing the boundary, beyond which silliness becomes a problem for others. You remember doing it yourself, having the giggles and getting into Big Trouble for it, because it went on too long, or in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

So, they have to know when to stop.

But they also have to know when to start, and they learn both best by example.

This will come as no surprise to you but my kids were raised on Monty Python. It was already vintage by the time they were born, but it didn't really suffer for it. One of the reasons it stands out as classic comedy is that it dared to cross barriers, rarely crossed before. In doing so it often highlighted aspects of life we took too seriously, and by freeing minds up allowed us to judge what mattered, what we needed to take seriously.

Comedy is often thought of as very serious stuff!

In recent years satire has become mainstream but I'm not sure it's always understood. The masses, with their 3 second attention span, still prefer the cheap laughs. I've noticed that I can tell a LOT about a person's intellect and character as to whether they appreciate the likes of Python, or today's finest comedian Eddie Izzard.

Humour can be silly and clever at the same time. But only if you understand both, you see.

Let me show you, using Eddie as an example, how there are two types of clever funny.

#1 The All-Out Silly

#2 The Making a Point Using Humour

Kids can tell the difference, with a bit of guidance, and then...use it. They can state their case, express themselves, and see through the foolishness of society if they are well versed in educated silly.

Now I'm not going to tell you that everyone will understand it, because they won't. Some people never see the value of the clever and silly. Or maybe they do and it shows them up.

There is an advanced level. Some of you will not get this man at all. If you do, welcome to my world.

Saturday, 14 December 2013


“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” 

I have been accused of all sorts of things over the years due to anti-intellectualism, you know the sort of thing. The idea being that if you value knowledge it makes you some sort of elitist.

Just this week a friend (and by extension, in context, it also applied to me) was accused of being "over-educated."

This cropped up because she had objected to the poor English in some of these "memes" that go around with otherwise worthy messages. Like me she feels unable to share the semi-literate ones.

Somebody said "not everyone has the benefit of an education."

If you don't know by now, I dropped out of school at 17, I am officially UNeducated. What education I did get was poor, really poor. I had very little benefit there. What I had was the desire to learn more. I saw no value in ignorance. Virtually everything I know of any worth, I taught myself.

Have I done that more than necessary? Definitely. And I shall continue to do so.

But what does over-educated mean anyway? Is it simply a sort of envy - "you know more than I do and it's not fair!" or what? I don't think it is possible to be over-educated. How can you learn too much? Without a doubt, what you do with that education may not be all to the good but that's a separate issue.

It's all nonsense anyway. If you needed specialist surgery, you would not object to the doctor being over-educated. You'd want him to know as much as he possibly could.

I have no time whatsoever for reverse snobbery in regard to education. In Africa there are young children who walk miles every day for the opportunity to get an education. And you really don't need me to tell you the story of Malala Yousafzai.

So, no.

If, for whatever reason you are unable to learn, or you never got the chance to learn, or you don't want to learn, please don't turn it around and object to those who do. To put it another way, there's nothing clever about ignorance.

This morning I went to my local post office and was served by a very pleasant clerk. She is polite, friendly, and efficient. None of these, especially the latter, being guaranteed in post offices as I'm sure you know.

It would have been a very unremarkable visit if not for one off the cuff remark she made.

"I have never heard of Serbia."

I said nothing. I smiled. Not much you can say, is there?

I suppose I could have asked her if she'd been aware of any world events in the last 25 years, but one doesn't. She'd have felt silly, and I'd have looked like an arse.

I'm not sure which bothers me the most, that she works in a post office and has never been taught, or bothered to learn, at least the NAMES of all possible international destinations. Or that anyone, regardless of their job, can be oblivious like that.

I suppose she just doesn't care. I don't care that I've never heard of certain TV presenters, rap artists, or NASCAR drivers. I am not ashamed of my lack of knowledge in these areas. I suppose it's just a difference in areas of interest, or what one considers important.

I'll leave it Mr Fry to sum it up for me.

“There are young men and women up and down the land who happily (or unhappily) tell anyone who will listen that they don’t have an academic turn of mind, or that they aren’t lucky enough to have been blessed with a good memory, and yet can recite hundreds of pop lyrics and reel off any amount of information about footballers. Why? Because they are interested in those things. They are curious. If you are hungry for food, you are prepared to hunt high and low for it. If you are hungry for information it is the same. Information is all around us, now more than ever before in human history. You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.” 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Freedom from Fear

I am not afraid of much. They are pretty logical things too, for example I'm afraid of becoming unable to speak or move in old age and being fed bad food and forced to watch TV all day. The thought of that makes my blood run cold.

Somebody once said to me that they were only scared of things that threatened their life, like having a gun pointed at them, or being in an airplane with "problems."

I've done both of those. The gun didn't really bother me (and it was a German cop with a semi-automatic) because I figured if I just did as I was told it would be fine, and it was. And in the airplane having a hard time landing, I just resigned myself to the notion that I was going to die, which was very odd.

No, the scariest thing I've ever had to experience was when Sian's first child was born and took a long time to breathe. Ask me about fear then, or guess if you like.

When we talk about fear what springs to mind is phobias, or nightmares. We have all had moments of terror, and they are easy to recall, define, and attempt to avoid of course, but it's the lower levels of fear that cause more problems. Fear of failure (or, contrarily, of success,) for example, often causes inertia, and basically mucks up people's lives on an ongoing basis.

Fear of what others think is almost paralysing for some people. Instead of being who they are, wearing what they like, doing what they want to, they are stuck in some sort of loop of being fashionable, respectable, suitable, or "appropriate."

I keep running into people who tell me, with great relief, that as they get older they do more and more as they please, and worry less and less what others think. This is wonderful, but it tells me half their lives have been in a sort of self-imposed oppression. How much better could it have been if they had discovered this freedom earlier?

Lately I've been hearing a lot about shyness, or social anxiety, or any variation, definition, or severity of that sort of thing. Not just introversion, you understand. Not just preferring one's own company, but of suffering real discomfort when forced to interact with others. For a social species (and we are) how tragic is that?

Why isn't this recognized, addressed and FIXED for these people early in life?

Fear of being different, of standing out, of not being normal, is disabling. But if you look at society, for every time it says "Hey, let your freak flag fly!" it says the opposite ten times over. It says "CONFORM" in many and various ways. That's a very confusing mixed message, and no wonder young people, especially, hear the latter message.

For reasons of both nature and nurture, I am not afraid to be me. It's a fear I simply don't have. I recognize this as a massive advantage, a freedom, almost a privilege.

However, as I am learning from others who were not born that way, or whose early life suffocated their identity, it would appear it's also a choice. Like all choices, nobody said it would be easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. But if you can face that grumbling fear you can enjoy life far more.

Ask yourself, what exactly is it that I'm afraid of? If people look at me a bit funny, will the sky fall?

Instead of being horrified by the reactions of those who diapprove of you, you can, if you so choose, relish the effect you are having on them. Because by being your authentic self you are effectively teaching authenticity. You might be helping them too.

EDIT: Found this by chance after posting. Try this for size:

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Fear of Freedom

Some years ago in a debate about fundamentalism it occurred to several of us that one of its appeals was the avoidance of freedom. It is often suggested that there is a type of ease within authoritarian systems - you don't have to make many decisions, just play by the rules.

I am unable to relate to this. My basic character is one of rebellion against anything that makes no sense to me, and because for the most part I have been free to question everything, after half a century it is not just nature but ingrained.

It seems to me that the desire to just follow rules is a lazy way of thinking, but I don't like where it leads to, which is why I speak out against it rather than just shrug it off as somebody else's way of doing things. The key problem, obviously, is that these people want to the rest of us to follow their rules. That's not on.

You can't have missed the fact that a right-wing extremism has invaded the American Republican party. This used to be a very decent, respectable political party, but now it is a freak show of extremists with weird agendas. Unfortunately it is supported by a large number of Americans, which means that quite often it gets power at local and state level, and of course it would like to have power at a national level. It has failed in the last two Presidential elections but it'll keep trying.

Obviously there have been many times in history when authoritarian regimes have won power, one way or another. But it's when they are elected in that it's the most bizarre. When the people choose to be ruled in this way. The strangest of all has to be what happened in Germany in 1932. And you don't need me to tell you why it happened either.

Since then, we have been semi-alert to the risks of giving power to those who may may take a bit (or a lot) more as a result, lesson learned, sort of thing. It has even been over-used, such as in Godwin's law (q.v.).

Never mind all that, the fact remains that there are a lot of people who are so poor at coming to rational decisions that they wish to hand their power over to a leadership that will do it for them. They will happily elect a leader who lays down draconian rules, even totally inhumane rules, to avoid having to help work towards real solutions. Final solutions are so much easier.

If you've ever listened to these folk "discuss" major social issues, they're all about quick, simple, and inhumane. "Send 'em all back where they came from." "Just blow it all up." "Hang the lot of 'em."

Any objection to these suggestions will lead to you being insulted. An ad hominem attack. This is the usual, first (often last) tactic of those with no real argument. Here's that list again.

It simply proves their lazy thinking, their preference for authoritarian methods, and their fear of freedom. Right there. They cannot be bothered to consider any alternative.

So, I have asked for a book for Christmas. Erich Fromm wrote "Fear of Freedom" in 1941 (you may know it as "Escape From Freedom") As a German Jew who had made an early decision to get out and settle in the US before WWII, he was well aware of authoritarianism, but the book is not about his own experience. It's about a much earlier period in history where the lack of freedom brought mostly ease and comfort, despite hardships. I am looking forward to reading this, and you can be sure I'll report back.

What I think happens, at any time in history, is a false memory of a bygone age where everything was easier, safer, more comfortable, and it is this that people wish to return to. Even the desire (often voiced!) to return to childhood, with all of its rules. Children are in so many ways oppressed, and don't object very much.

It might also explain why some women seem to appear quite contented to be dominated by a man. And indeed why some men seem so happy to be dominated by women.

So, one could argue that it's personal choice, except it isn't. Because it almost always involves domination over others who do not wish it. And even those who are really very happy not to be leaders do not necessarily wish to have leaders who are cruel.

Obviously if your personal choice is to live under a strict set of rules, that's an option you should be free to make (hmmm....) The military might be a good fit, or clergy. What I rail against is when you decide that I need your rules too. Thankfully, I'm not alone.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Toxic People

One of my first blogs here was about Emotional Vampires.


And here's a good article on the topic:


Assuming you know what I'm talking about then, I'll continue.

Just lately I have had to help several people I care about who are having to deal with these types, and there have been a number of discussions in my circles on the topic.

Let's be clear. You cannot reason with these people. You can find yourself spending a lot of time trying, you may have all sorts of ideas on how you will "get through" but you won't. There is something wrong in their thought processes.

It causes them endless problems. Their lives are not happy. But it will do you no good to feel sorry for them, because there is nothing you can do.

A very kind friend of mine, in one of these discussions said:

"Everyone needs love, these people are no different."

Fine, but you don't have to be the one to give that love. Because it won't be appreciated. That's the whole point. As a loving, giving person of course you feel the need to give love to everyone, but let me give you an analogy to see the problem here.

Let's say you have a garden. You grow a variety of plants. Some of them are pretty flowers, some are things you can eat, and some are thistles that do nothing for you at all. They are still plants, they still have a right to exist, but they don't have to do it in YOUR garden. You can pull them out.

When you tend your garden, you do so by ensuring it has everything it needs. Sunshine, water, nutrients, and so on. Maybe even a barrier to keep bugs away. You treat all the plants the same. You effectively give them love. But no matter how much love you give a thistle, it's still a thistle. You could spoil it rotten, give it the finest fertilizer, never let one single aphid settle on it, it will always be a thistle.

Not only that, if you don't remove it from your garden, it will take all the nutrients that the other plants need, and in time will take over the garden. It will effectively crowd out the other plants. If you don't get rid of it early on, it will take all your time pulling out thistles. Therefore, for your benefit, and for the benefit of the rest of the garden too, weeding is the only sensible solution.

In other words, you have to have a limit.

There are a couple of named, diagnosed disorders out there, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Like all disorders, these vary in severity and there are always those who don't quite meet the criteria, but come close.

These toxic people are sometimes on one of those scales, or something similar.

And they can't help it. It's part of who they are. There's no cure. But being compassionate simply enables them, so it's the last thing you should do.

People who love you do not do things to hurt you. If somebody in your life is deliberately causing you harm, however subtle that is, this is not love. It doesn't matter how many times they say they love you if their actions prove otherwise.

So, in an interesting twist, a friend of a friend complained of being shunned, and that this was unkind. I know nothing about this girl, and I have no idea what sparked the shunning. So I didn't have much to say, but as I was privy to it I asked:

"This shunning, is it the only thing they are doing?"

The answer was yes. Nobody had been unkind to her in any other way. It hadn't happened all at once, it was gradual.

My guess is that the girl is toxic, and everyone has reached their limit with her.

But it would do me no good to tell her that, even if I was sure it was accurate. The simple fact that she doesn't understand why she's being shunned proves that she simply doesn't get it. I bet she's had plenty of warnings, and ignored them. The fact that "everyone" is doing it is the biggest clue that the problem is her. But she can't even see that most obvious, basic clue.

I've said before that while listening to criticism is usually discouraged, if there is consensus among one's critics it might be time to give it some thought.

Understanding all of this requires a type of analysis that these folk are not capable of. They can't see what they did wrong. THEY CAN'T.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Freedom to be an Arsehole

Some years ago, I think maybe in the 80s, I became aware of the word assertive. It was new to me at the time. It described me very well, and therefore I liked it, but it wasn't being used as a compliment for me.

I came across it because people were taking "assertiveness courses" sometimes but not always offered through places of work. It was a trend, I think. Wasn't something I needed so I didn't pay much attention.

What I discovered was that people were confusing "assertive" with "arsehole." Maybe they were already arseholes but now they were confident arseholes, outspoken arseholes, in your face arseholes.

What this assertiveness training did, in effect, was encourage the ME, ME, ME attitude these folk had never shaken off from childhood.

This is the "Me First" attitude that causes drivers to think they own the road, that causes people to push to the front in any crowd, or even line, that causes neighbours to park in front of your driveway, that causes parents to insist their kid gets more play time on the team.

And it's the mindset that says "My needs come first, so you don't matter."

What we have here in fact is the Altruism scale.

Just as with saying too much or too little, there is a balance on this scale. There is Selfish at one end and Sucker at the other. It's also an area where we tend to be very quick to offer advice.

"You are letting people push you around, you're too soft, you should stand up for yourself."


"You are so selfish, you should think of other people."

Can you see either of these statements working? No, neither can I.

People don't take criticisms and "shoulds" well, and you can't really expect them to.

You could try "Ever thought of considering the other guy?" and variations on that, but it may not work any better.

Oh yes, I have told people "you are an arsehole." Certainly. But unless they are ready to hear it, they won't.

And I have told people along the lines of:

"It is your absolute right to be an arsehole."

Because it is. One of the last remaining freedoms, after all of the others are taboo or illegal, is the freedom to be selfish, spiteful, cruel, nasty, or just thoughtless.

Like anything else, it's a choice. Like many choices it's often not made from careful analysis, but from expediency, ease, habit, example, and general negativity. I don't think anyone consciously decides to be an arsehole, I hope not anyway.

What about the other extreme, who chooses to be a pushover? Some people definitely decide that on balance they'd rather be too soft than too hard, and it's a conscious choice, but there are also those who just allow themselves to be manipulated.

I have noticed a peculiar thing. People who are manipulative can often be easily manipulated too. I've noticed this in Vampira, the pseudonym for an inlaw one of my kids has to deal with. Vampira is a pushover, but also assumes everyone else is. Hmm, yes. you don't need to be assertive to be an arsehole.

Sheer, Utter Hypocrisy

Take a look at this:


You've seen similar before, I'm sure. The comments offer a few possible explanations, poverty, mental illness, a desire to shock, and so on. There are others. So if you laugh, you should feel totally ashamed of yourself.

No, I fully agree, these are not wise clothing choices, but it doesn't hurt you, so why would you make fun of these people? That's called being a bully and it's unkind.

However, I won't think any less of you if you do react negatively to the photos. It's a rather normal thing to do. We are often surprised by really unusual things. We stare. We judge. We're human. Deep inside all of us is a 5-year-old child, after all, and they WILL shout "THAT MAN LOOKS FUNNY!" Because he does.

No, I'm not really as cross with you as I just made out to be, but I have a reason for approaching it this way.

The reason I'm sharing this at all is because of who just brought it to my attention. Somebody who is lightning fast at accusing others of judging. Somebody who will frequently be the stirrer in a broad discussion by coming in with an extreme and strict left-wing view, that's not even fully on-topic. Somebody who thinks that the political statements he makes are always, without exception, more important than the feelings of others. Somebody who, while being very fast to offer his own unsolicited opinion, is ready to pull apart the opinions of others without a second thought, based on (he claims) fairness. Self-proclaimed righteousness.

Apparently it's OK if he has a poke at these people. When challenged he justified it with the "fact" that these folk have "no self respect."

Because, you know, having no self respect is far worse than being a fucking hypocrite.


I mentioned in a recent blog about the pervasive effect of advertising. Not having TV here, I have become used to a world without it. For the last two days I've been bombarded with it, and it was offensive. It was stupid (i.e. tried to be funny but wasn't), it was misleading, it was everything I dislike. I am so glad to be away from it again.

What effect is it having on people? Obviously it depends on the individual, but it must have some effect, even if you are fully aware of what it is trying to do (brainwash you.) The effect it is having on those who are unaware must be considerable.

But the worst of it was on the children's channels. A relentless loud, garish display of plastic toys of the worst kind. Even the channels intended for the youngest viewers bother me. The programming itself varies. Some of it it quite good, some is rubbish. But they all have the same awful commercials. Right now of course it's aimed at Christmas gifts. How many hundreds of dollars of rubbish can you buy your kids.

The latest Barbie house is an ugly pink mess, if you see it for what it is. I am fairly sure that's how it'll be seen after a few days by the recipent too. There's only so many times a table centre that flips over to be a different meal can be fun. I could easily make a comedy sketch of the squeeing girls on the commercials, but I know that people like me who see the ridiculousness of it are in the minority. I actually see danger in it.

There was some electronic toy, I didn't catch the name, but it seems to capture the child's face in the screen, and allow her to apply make up to it. The child in the commercial was maybe 9. At the most. The buyers will be younger. This was being shown between "toddler" shows.

I'm not opposed to technology in toys. I think some of it is wonderful. Lucian has a Doodle something or other, similar to an Etch-a-Sketch. That amused him for hours with me drawing cats and pirates, and letters and numbers. He definitely prefers it to a colouring book and crayons. Sian prefers it too - no crayon on the walls.

Everything modern has its pros and cons. I think we as those responsible for children MUST be discerning about what they watch, what they play with. It's all about MESSAGES. Does anyone pay attention to the messages kids are being given, or am I on my own here.

What I'm seeing so much is that powerful message to BUY MORE STUFF aimed as hard, if not harder at children than at adults (and it's aimed hard enough there.)

You can't buy a happy childhood in Toys R Us. Stuff will not make their lives better any more than it does ours. And the sheer fakeness of TV commercials won't teach them anything good.

My grandchildren will mostly be getting books for Christmas.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Letting Loose the Tacenda

".......a time to keep silence, and a time to speak"  Ecclesiastes 3:1

I learned a new word today. I love learning new words. It came just at the right time, as these things do. A friend was saying how, as she ages, she is turning off her filters. Of course, I don't believe her. What she is doing is speaking her mind more, yes, but I know she wouldn't say anything hurtful without reason, because she's too kind. As always there is discretion, if one is wise.

This is something I have struggled with my entire life, and I've written about it many times. I think it's right to struggle with this. I think it's wrong to absolutely not care what comes out of one's mouth, because words cannot be retracted once out, and some of them do great damage. 

At the same time, certain things need to be said. There is no easy formula to any of this, a decision always has to be made. Some things should be said at specific times only. Oh, no, this is not easy. Why should it be easy? 

Some people can accept the truth, and some really can't. But it's a reality that as we get older, not only do we "get away with it" more, but we actually get listened to. People really do believe that we are wiser. I sure hope we are. 

I confess I am frustrated by people who don't listen to very carefully thought out advice. Even when they know it's good advice. They ask for advice, they appear to be listening, and then...they don't follow it. See..hearing and listening are two different skills.

What my kids and grandchildren get into most trouble for is not listening. I can tolerate all sorts of things, but I get so frustrated with the not listening that I want to throw my hands in the air, but you can't give up. You have to keep trying, keep at it. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So, I turned it around. Why don't I take advice given to me? 

Because it's wrong. Because it's crap advice. Because it doesn't work for me. 

In fact, being given bad advice is not a frequent experience for me. Most of the advice I've been given in my my life has been good, I've taken it, and I've been grateful. Where I have been let down is lack of advice, not too much of it. It is obvious therefore, with that in my mind, that I have a natural bias towards too much advice rather than too little. 

Still, unsolicited advice tends not to be welcome, I know that, I do hold back, and I do wait to be asked.

So how do we choose who to listen to?


Past behaviour is the best prediction for future behaviour. It is not a guarantee, but when it's all you've got, the wisest thing to do is go with that. Logic, not emotions.

So. If George has given you advice in the past, and at least the majority of it is good advice, trust George again. If Fred has a better ratio of good advice, go to him instead. If Harold has given mostly bad advice DON'T ASK HIM. 

Sometimes what we do is ask for advice from several people, including those with a poor track record of success in the advice area, and choose from that pool what we wanted to hear. This is a mistake.

If the person speaking their mind has a good track record, it's probably a good idea to listen to them even if we don't like what they are saying. Because otherwise there's no point seeking advice at all. 

Ah, but..................How do we know we are offering good advice? Same way. Test the results. 


I think we can agree he was a pretty sharp cookie.

He believed that advice (solicited or otherwise) should be Honest, Kind, and Useful.

Seriously, you can't go far wrong with that. 

Therefore, the other way of looking at it is the reverse. What not to say.

Obviously if it's not honest, it should be avoided. Yes, this even includes flattery. You don't have to always tell the whole truth. 

Kindness is a good rule of thumb, even if sometimes you have to be quite blunt to be kind in the long run. But if it is actually cruel to say something, it's probably best avoided. 

Finally, if there really is no benefit to saying it, then it really is almost always better to keep your trap shut. 

I think what happens is that we speak from emotion too much. That doesn't mean emotion is a bad thing. It guides wisdom every bit as much as cold analysis does. But emotion can compromise wisdom too. If it gets out of balance and takes over, bad decisions can be made. All it needs is a little time. A little chill out. And if you practice, you can take a deep breath and react without emotion running the show. 

If you might regret it later, shut up. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Freedom to Think

One of the things we hold most dear is that we know our own minds. I've read a number of books over the last year that suggest that may not be the case.

A concept raised in one of the online courses I've been doing, is the question of travel, and it's this example I offer you now.

You have been raised in a culture where foreign travel is considered fun and/or educational. It is normal to take holidays abroad, and to learn about other places, other cultures, and so on. As an individual your taste for this may vary. You may not enjoy flying, for example, so you don't travel great distances, or you may be a real homebody. Or you may have great wanderlust and travel at every opportunity. Your personal preference here is not the issue. The opportunity is there, and society agrees it is a valuable thing to do.

Because it's seen as a positive thing, it is offered to schoolchildren, as part of their education, with fun activities included. Holidays are often given as prizes. Anything offered as a prize is something we value greatly. People who can't afford to travel as much as they want to, can watch travel shows on TV, for a taste of the experience. It is considered NORMAL to find this interesting and desirable.

But, if you were to go back in time the only people who travelled were dedicated explorers. They were in search of foreign markets and resources. They were looking for financial benefit. Not fun. Not education. They didn't take holidays. Most people didn't travel for pleasure.

Go back further, say 2000 years, and it was a tiny minority; very few people had any urge to travel. Those who did were unusual. The average person had absolutely no interest in other places, or what other people did. They were different to him, he knew that, and that was all the more reason to avoid them. Their culture and climate were different, he'd heard that and that was why he stayed put. Even invaders didn't go too far. It was NORMAL to not want to travel.

So, what was once a freaky thing to WANT is now a normal thing to WANT.

These days if your ability to travel is compromised it is seen as an obstacle to freedom. Borders that you can't cross for whatever reason, are seen as limiting your freedom. People fight, and risk their lives to be able to travel freely. Their ancestors didn't want to go anywhere.

The question then, is how much of your willingness to travel is encultured, and how much is your real heartfelt desire? I put it to you that you don't know.

I like to think that had I been born many years ago, I'd have been a freaky explorer type. But apart from the fact that as a woman I would probably not have had the opportunity to go anywhere, the chances are that if I had been raised thinking that my own village was the full extent of my world, I may not have wanted to leave it.

This has given me great pause. Just HOW much of what I enjoy and desire are really my own preferences, and how much have I been persuaded to "want" because that's what is seen to be desirable.

I consider myself a freethinker, but this and other examples that have been presented to me have made me ponder.

I currently live in a world virtually free of advertising, due to my patterns of behaviour. Since this began I have noticed a few interesting things.

1. When asked what I want for Christmas etc I have absolutely no idea.

2. When I need to buy something, I find myself researching it carefully and taking a long time to choose.

3. When I do, on rare occasions, see advertisements, I find them REALLY STUPID. And very annoying. Were they always like that? Yes, but I got used to it.

4. Possibly the most interesting one of all. When I am out shopping (which is not frequent) I often see things that are new to me (but presumably not to others) and therefore interesting. But my impulse purchases have REDUCED. You'd expect them to increase, but no. My entire "desire to acquire" has lessened.

This has been especially noticable when selling at craft shows. There was a time when I would buy from other stallholders. Now I don't even look. I don't enter the building needing anything, and the impulse to browse has gone.

Advertising is powerful. It makes you think you want things, that you had no idea you wanted. 

That is its purpose. That's the whole idea. It's very clever.

Of course, as a person who sells things for a living, I take full advantage of this. I see how it works. I know how to tempt people.

There are times of course that one is grateful to have discovered something. Just yesterday I discovered a site that will turn your artwork into fabric and wallpaper. I squeed all over this like a child in a toy shop. However, just a few weeks ago I was saying how fantastic it would be if such a thing existed, so my finding it supplied a need that already existed.

Would I have been as excited if I'd not been looking for something like that? I don't know. I honestly don't know.

This requires a LOT of honesty. It's extremely difficult to accept that we don't know our own minds, and generally, when I suggest the possibility, people fight the idea. Often they dismiss it without a second thought, and don't examine the possibility.

It seems ridiculous that we could possibly fall for such a thing, but it is reality. Much of what we consider to be normal, is simply familiar. The next step is deciding that we like it that way.

Are our thoughts free?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Courage or Stupidity

I'm not sure which it is, but it's one of them.

I'm going to cover a topic that is hardly ever uncontroversial. It cropped up during a broader debate about freedom of choice (funnily enough it began on the topic of shops being open in the US during their Thanksgiving holiday). As soon as you say "pro-choice" the A word crops up. So, as I said, I'm not afraid, but I may just be out of my mind to talk about it. Here goes anyway.

I'll begin by telling you that you're all wrong. This is, after all, my opinion, so that would seem to me appropriate, but specifically if you are opposed to abortion based on a long list of religious grounds (we've heard them all) I think you are wrong, simply because I don't share your religious beliefs, and if you are cavalier about abortion, I think you are wrong too, because I don't approve of it.

What's important here is that what I disapprove of is completely irrelevant. It's nothing to do with me. That's what pro-choice means. It doesn't mean pro-abortion. I hate abortion. I hate that it ever happens to a healthy child, that it ever needs to happen, or that it is a choice people make. But it's none of my damn business.

I find those who call themselves pro-life to be frequently liars and hypocrites. There are exceptions, obviously, but a large number (at least of those with lots to say about it) of those in the US, notably, who insist on every child conceived to be born, are the exact same people who don't believe he deserves health care, an education, or personal safety once he arrives. They would also have no problem later sending him off to war on political grounds. I do not respect them because they are not pro-life at all, as has been said many times, they are only pro-birth. They would not lift a finger to do anything to help that child. It might cost them money. These are the same people who talk about freedom and small government constantly, but do a complete U-turn on those ideas when it comes to women's reproductive choices. Many don't even want conraception to be available.

I find those who are cavalier about abortion to be ignorant or deliberately misleading. They talk about "just a cluster of cells" which in fact has a heartbeat, eyes, and limbs. It is not yet a viable child, but the idea that it's not alive in some sense of the word is extremely cold, and not very far removed from the mindset that it's OK to eat fish if you are a vegetarian. A fish is not a vegetable, and a fetus is not a cluster of cells.

To both of these I say, the decision to abort a child should never be taken lightly, and usually isn't. It's a heart-wrenching decision made by women who feel they have no alternative, for whatever reason. It's their body, and their child, and it is not for us to either refuse them that choice, or push for it.

If you want my honest opinion, I think a lot of people should not have children. They are horrible people, they make terrible parents, they create another generation of horrible people, and it's all just a massive burden on society. But even they have the right to choose. I don't have to like their choices - and I don't. I think they should be realistic about their inability to raise children, and get themselves sterilized. But they aren't realistic, or they wouldn't be the way they are, so that's not a choice they will make, and it's nobody else's right to ask them to.

Do you see the important difference here? I can have all sorts of opinions, and still understand that's all it is. My opinion. I can share it, but not insist on anyone liking it, agreeing with it, or even giving it the time of day.

And that, right there, is because of freedom of speech.

All these freedoms, all this choice. What a luxury.

If I had lived just 200 years ago, or if I lived in other parts of the world, I would not have all this freedom, and I could have been ignorant of my good fortune, but I'm always acutely aware of it, and very grateful for it. I've missed out on a few things because of ignorance, but never been prevented or forced to do anything. We are so lucky to have freedom of choice and we cannot corrupt that. We cannot go backwards.

We must be careful. We must never take freedom of choice for granted.

If we want pro-choice, and I believe we do, it must be a real choice. It must be possible to choose either way and not be persecuted for it. EITHER WAY.

That means that there must be support available for women who choose not to abort.

Yes, I'm well aware that there are women out there who have babies to avoid eviction, to get welfare, to get cheap housing, and all that. There will always be that "type" who take advantage of the system.

But we do not make a better world by punishing all women who are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Ever made a mistake? Of course you have.

So. Here's my advice. If you think abortion should never happen, then become social activists so that it's never necessary. Otherwise shut the fuck up.