Monday, June 28, 2010

Reconciling Marketing and Economics

Okay let's be clear we are talking about competition, and to some extent recently I've been caught up in the fancy that perhaps even economics needs reconciling with itself.

Namely, economics says people are 'rational utility maximisers' which I don't believe, not entirely it all depends I guess on your definition of utility. I generally accept the 'our world has evolved much faster than our brains' thesis and lean towards 'people are irrational utility maximisers' or as Robert Schiller and other-guy said in 'Animal Spirits': If people want snake oil, the market is remarkably efficient at producing it.

But for todays sermon, I'm going to have to drop the irrational utility maximisers and instead look at utility.

The General-Story: We can't measure utility, so we assume it to be a function of consumption and consumption to be a function of wealth. This assumption is what makes GDP the be-all-and-end-all of economic management comparisons, and a large reason as to why so much in this world is so fucked up.

I'm going to 'cheat' as I have accused others and reconcile into this definition/assumption of utility marketing know-how, that is intangibles that people also consume. Namely 'Goodwill' and 'Brand Equity' things rational people shouldn't pay for but do.

Okay, I think I've got enough pieces now to start putting this puzzle together.

Let's start on the Economists' side of the fence (assuming Finance is a subset of economics) over here people are rational utility maximisers, thus consumers should LOVE competition. Competition of perfectly substitutable goods drives down marginal revenue (the prices paid) to the point the marginal revenue = marginal cost = price. That's the ideal Economists call perfect competition. It basically means there's no excess gain on the part of producers that redistributes wealth.

Economists as such encourage competition (well at least they say they do) because the cheaper goods are they more consumers can consume and thus thusly increase their utility, the broad aim of economics. You also achieve efficient allocation of resources.

This is all very slapdash, but there's an Economist and his accompanying school that deserves mentioning - Keynes and the Keynesians. They observed that prices were not perfectly flexible but rigid downwards, as were wages. The implications of which I don't wish to go into, but this was based on the observation that most industry is not characterised by perfect competition or even competition but monopolies.

This means most firms don't look at supply and demand factors to set their prices, but take a 'cost + markup' approach. They can only do this if there is a lack of competition to force their prices to market equilibrium.

Here finally we have a hole in the fence to the marketers side.

Al Ries and Jack Trout in their seminal work 'positioning: the battle for your mind' make numerous allusions to the 'first, second or exit' theory of industries. This thoery/maxim/folk-wisdom isn't marketing per se, but it is an observed reality.

Generally the market leader for a given market category get's about 60% of the revenue. The number two get's 30% of the revenue. The number three 3% and so on in ever diminishing slices of the revenue pie.

This bears out across all industries where generally the race for number 1 is a two-brand race, and not a particularly fair one at that. Nike and Adidas, Coke and Pepsi, Fuji and Kodak, Hertz and Avis, Qantas and Virgin, Lakers and Celtics, Ford and Holden (Australia only) etc.

Which tells us people like some competition, but not heaps. And sure take an example like footware you can ad in Puma, Reebok, Aasics, New Balance blah blah blah.

The fact is the marketers, who perplexingly study markets, believe that people increase their utility by consuming more brand equity or good will.

That is, whilst we can characterise the market as monopolistic and thus prices don't really behave in lockstep with supply and demand equilibriums, we can't really explain it. Sure we like to imagine that Mr Coke walks into Pheonix Cola's bottling factory one day and has some goomba's rough up the management and send them packing out of town, but generally market leaders aren't elected through anti-competitive behaviour per se, but acclamation.

Is this your experience: You go to a restaurant in town, and you order something, and you like it. After a suitable interval you decide to eat out in town again, you go to the same restaurant and order the same dish. You do so without really shopping around for alternatives. Been there, done that?

Fuck, do you usually get Hawaiin pizza? Meat lovers? BBQ chicken? Chances are there are products and brands you just buy, you don't constantly test empirically whether they are the best option or not.

Generally people enjoy choice up until they have picked a winner. After that choice becomes annoying.

That is the marketers experience and if I take license, philosophy. Build brand equity, build goodwill. If it's a product or service you want people consuming it as often as possible with little deviation.

This seems to contradict the Economists, and Finance peeps over the fence. How to reconcile?

Well, Economists believe peeps to be risk-averse. Risk generally involves fluctuation, deviation etc. this is how we measure risk. Thus it is understandable to hypothesise that people don't like the idea of their wages being renegotiated every day. Why? Well because rent is typically fixed, and other expenses. Uncertainty creates stress, will we be able to pay rent? etc. It should be mother fucking obvious! Why am I explaining this to you!

Okay, now here I get controversial, would you eat at a restaurant that changed its prices every day? Probably not, you'd never know whether your plate of spaghetti al ragu was going to clean out your wallet or be a steal. You'd rather eat somewhere where you know you are going to pay 9 clams.

So prices are typically stable in the short run, and consumers love it. Why because consumers are peeps and they are risk averse. Producers, firms also comprise of peeps and are risk averse. So in some ways having prices change everyday for the people that produce those goods is like having your wages renegotiated every day.

Now let's go to Thailand, this was my experience in Thailand. I hated the barter system, I would much prefer having a clear and unambiguous price that I may simply pay it than to waste 15 minutes trying to negotiate 30 baht off the price of a pair of thongs (flip flops). I fucken hated bartering, particularly when I had to do it for almost everything all day. Now the thing is that the advertised price would be $25 for a shitty t-shirt. You knew you could barter them down, and you ostensibly 'wanted' to, because you wouldn't pay $25 for the same shitty shirt in Australia. But how far down could you go and get them for $11, $10, $8... what is a reasonable price? When do you give up on the investment time wise of bartering to go start the whole process again with somebody else down the road?

It's fucking annoying, competition is annoying and the costs of finding the best deal are routinely underplayed by economists.

Here then I change the narrative, the market generally weeds out competition itself. This would be supported by the research Psychologists like Dan Gilbert go into, which show that people who are given opportunities to change their mind, switch products etc experience less satisfaction/less utility than those who don't.

People actually dislike competition, because as economists have pointed out - they are risk averse.

The cost of competition is opportunity cost, and you only experience opportunity cost when you have an opportunity. Now this sounds terribly like a 'Chinese people aren't ready for democracy' a falsifiable claim that ironically could be tested with a vote.

But marketers know that people don't just consume a computer, they consume the Mac brand as well. They don't just use footwear, they use the streetcred of nike. They don't just read the time off a clockface, they let everybody else know they have a Rolex. People get currency out of the lack of competition, and they enjoy it surprisingly much.

It may be a departure from the traditional concept of utility - people buy watches to read the time. But if we are capable of learning from experience, we realise that people don't just want to buy things to make their lives easier, they want to be recognised for it too.

This isn't a blanket statement either. Generally people want choice to begin with, and thus competition for any solution that is new to them. So in the 80's 90's they may have wanted multiple OS software packages. But eventually people settled on Microsoft not because it was the best, or whatever, but because it was the lingua franca, and then rightly they rejected competition because it would have been a pain in the arse to try and conduct business via the internet with people who were constantly switching their OS.

Likewise a runner doesn't want to train in different brands and fits of running shoes every day. Fans of athletes don't want their favorite NBA player switching shoe company sponsorship 3 times a season. All because people are risk averse, and whilst on the surface competition should make things cheaper for risk averse consumers, it introduces opportunity costs, and they don't like it. It increases the costs of the goods they consume.

And of course you have people like my mother Janice, who's risk aversion takes another form, in some regards competition is her worst enemy, she won't buy anything until she is certain she has it at the best price. This makes shopping with her stressful, and I try to avoid being roped into it but will concede once per decade.

So even for her, her life would be less stressful and more time abundant if she wasn't kept awake at night by the prospect of MYER having a sale on a particular item in 2 weeks time. Thank god she doesn't really understand inflation or the time value of money.

What's the point of all this?

Well there's a school of economists that tout lassez-faire economics, that is Governments and regulatory bodies do as little as possible to intervene in the market. They believe the market is powerfully efficient.

To me this school of thought is directly comparable to politicians who think civilians should have no individual rights in a democracy though. It sort of suggests that people's natural and popular inclinations are infallable.

As Schiller said, the market is powerfully effecient, and if people want snake oil, it will produce snake oil. But it is the rare individual who is risk-aggressive and thus can actually appreciate and exploit the benefits of competition. These people should be the regulators on account of their rarity that can make up for the short comings of the risk averse masses.

If left to its own devices the market would probably eradicate competition all together, as risk averse consumers seek to increase their utility by eliminating all sources of uncertainty.

I hold that the role of economics is not to assume people are 'rational utility maximisers' and build a system on that assumption. I believe it should assume people to be 'irrational risk-averse utility maximisers' BUT build an economic system where 'rational risk-taking utility maximisers win'.

We have to accept that the human mind is messy (but surprisingly consistent) and that it is our job to overcome it, by encouraging the behaviours that will profit society in every possible way.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Apocalypse in Retrospect

So I ran the 800 against John on Saturday evening. I won the race, but I'm not sure if I imparted to anyone just how unique the 800m is through the whole ordeal. I remain convinced it is a very special distance worthy of study by psychologists, physiotherapists and moral philosophers.

Furthermore, now that it is all over I can appreciate how truly strange this whole process has been. I thought I'd elaborate a final time.

Uncertainty Squared

In hindsight I can't help but compare our race to Musashi vs. Ganryu, because I'm a massive loser. John is tall like Ganryu and he had to wait for me to turn up like Ganryu, and he had all the spectators like Ganryu and it was in hindsight all over before it began, just like Musashi vs. Ganryu.

But I didn't feel any of the certainty Musashi was said to have had when he declared himself the victor before the duel began. So I am Dan Quayle to Musashi's John F Kennedy. I was late because I stupidly bashed my knee and the toilet roll covers in QV bathrooms changing and didn't want to cycle up and risk aggrevating the injury. So it wasn't exactly planned (nor was I going to let on I'd bashed my knee putting pants on to John before the race).

Saturday was one of the least pleasant experiences I had all year, I spent the day anticipating the race, trying to make a concerted effort not to anticipate the race. it's been a long time since I cared about winning anything, It's been a long time since I've actively cared about myself. So it was a strange place for me to be in.

When you care about something, and that something is uncertain then you get anticipatory stress. Win or lose, you can move on with your life, but until then you hang in limbo.

As it turned out, John's brave stance that he was fit enough to beat me in the 800 without training was stupid. Brave, but stupid. But let me say this, if John and I had both put in say 3 months of dedicated training and he was running 2.18 and I was running 2.20 regularly the uncertainty of the outcome would not decay.

Because this is what makes the 800m unique. On top of the uncertainty that accompanies any win-lose situation you DO NOT KNOW HOW THE FUCKING 800M will go DOWN. If John was running 2.18 regularly, and I was running 2.20 you couldn't say who would win when we raced eachother.

If I run 2.20 by going out hard and running a fairly consistent but slower second lap, this could totally fuck up John's cruisy 1.15 first lap and 1.03 second lap. Similarly if I were to relax my hard pace and just tail John, who's to say I couldn't stick with him the entire second lap? Or burn out and only run 2.40, or John burns out on the first and DNF's?

That is, you can train but as Napolean or Eisenhower or somebody said 'Plans are nothing but planning is everything.' You can have a gameplan, but then you need a gameplan for when that gameplan falls apart. John and my race was somewhat luxurious because it was a field of 2. Even so, the sheer uniqueness of the distance doubles the stress (for me at least).

I thus spent the day combating two things, the first of which was the temptation to formulate a strategy or game plan. I had to exert the mental discipline to go in and 'see' what happened. Make my decisions from there. The key thing was to listen to my body. Any effort I exerted as to whether I should run fast first or fast last was wasted effort, because to me John was a complete unknown. The 800m is a complete unknown. It is unknowable.

Why did I talk about Samurai's? Well in retrospect I can kind of see how addictive the 'life or death' uncertainty of conflict is. It is an all together different mental space... which brings me to the second thing I had to exert mental discipline over.

Loser Talk

In the past month and a bit I have shrugged off 7kgs, I'm the fittest I've been since highschool (excluding when I cycled Europe where I was fit, and malnourished) and the preparation of the mental and physical game has taught me self-discipline and humility.

Win or lose the 800m training has been a good experience for me.

Sound familiar - it's loser-talk. 'I'll just go out and do my best, if I do that I can hold my head high!' etc. The great temptation of loser-talk is to downplay the risk of losing, and furthermore all loser-talk is usually true and valid. There is more to be learned from istakes than successes, there are benefits to just showing up and competing etc.

I believe everything in the first paragraph of this section and would stand by it. The 800m is a naturally humiliating event, with or without spectators. One can easily feel ashamed of yourself in a field alone. Even I discovered in the non-judgemental presence of a Golden Labrador. Such humble pie is invaluable to me.

But we are talking about winning and losing here. I was surprised at how mentally taxing it is to accept the possibility of defeat, and show a respectful fear for it, without succumbing to internal (or external) loser-talk. When you diminish the risks you diminish your sheer survivalist drive for losing not to occur.

but projecting is hard, and it's a razor fine line in the 800m because there are so many opportunities to lose. Run like a mother-fucker and your legs simply give out. Run to slow and find you can't reel the leader back in. Mistime your break and get overtaken in the last 20m. Anybody, nomatter how the fitness cards are stacked in their favor can fuck up an 800m.

Thus it makes sense to do a little-pre consoling, to be forgiving to yourself and look for the silver lining.

I had to crush and strangle these thoughts and just focus, focus on getting to the starting line and then having the presence of mind to see what happens.

Don't Jump off a tall building

When I was I don't know, 14 a recieved some sage advice from one of my 14 year old peers that you don't commit suicide by jumping off the empire state building. The reason: the decision has been made and it's final, but you have time to contemplate your fate.

In the post match dinner, with John and his housemates we briefly talked about other athletic distances, 100m, 200m, 400m etc. In all those races there are no decisions to be made. There's no time, you just run as hard as you fucking can. Thus the uncertainty is uncertainty squared.

When I actually ran this 800m, I was struck by having the time to think. It was creepy to say the least. For the first bend I was unconscious, coming out onto the first straight I only thought 'I'm in front' (not typically an advantageous place to be), on the 3rd straight (the second last) it occured to me I was in a race and I had to make a bunch of decisions.

My only info on John was sound, I could hear his footfalls and his breathing. I remember judging him to be about 4 meters behind me by the footfalls and then listening to his breathing for hints that he was uncomfortable.

At that time (500m mark) I knew if John stuck with me till the 600m I was in trouble, I listened to my own breathing and decided it was regular and decided to break. John simply dissappeared from my auditory register but that strange space was something akin I feel (resembling, not copying) the sensation of plummeting to your death. It is very rare for me to have a window of consciousness in a footrace. A subjective experience of it.

In shorter events as I have stated, you simply run as fast as your body will carry you and you don't think at all. In longer races I find I generally get distracted with either a song in my head or thoughts of sexual frustration. (did I just write that?).

But in the 800m, you get to contemplate your own race like you contemplate your life (I imagine) plunging to your death*. You can reflect briefly whether you've had a good race or a poor race. You can be tortured by self doubt, or you can just accept the run for what it is and carry on through to the inevitable conclusion. But short of your calf muscle tearing in half or hamstring tearing off your thighbone, when you start an 800m you are going to finish it. Unlike a 3km run where if you realise you have lost you may just quit the field.

*I have one friend who is in the fairly fortuitous and unique position of having jumped off the West-gate bridge and lived spinal-damage-free to tell the tale. The way he tells it I got the impression he just watched the whole way down and didn't contemplate his fate at all.

There is no soundtrack to the 800m

It remains a strange mental space, running the 800m, and I don't think my obsession with this evetn will diminish based on my recent experience. I posted a facebook status in the week leading up to the race to the effect of 'I cannot find music that is explosive enough to go with my new found explosiveness. NIN Broken... no good. Sepultura Chaos AD... no dice. Somebody help me please.'

What many fail to realise is that this was serious. I attribute it to the 800m and the strange space-time distortion of the event.

I have come to the conclusion that the 800m cannot be explained, it must be experienced, which would invalidate this post and all labelled 800m on the blog.

There are explosive songs, like 'Refuse-resist' by Sepultura, 'Wish' by Nine Inch Nails, 'Around the Fur' by Deftones. Some of the bands recommended by friends in response to my post like Testament, American Nightmare, Parkway Drive and McClusky were indeed explosive. But they are not explosive enough.

I ended up thinking that if you combined Deftones and Sepultura you might get to the explosiveness required by the 800m and then remembered Headup on Around the Fur featured Max Cavalera then of Soulfly formally of Sepultura. This song was explosive enough to work as a stop-gap, but honestly in any other period of my life these songs are too much for me to listen to for prolonged periods.

I often think of them as overdone to the point of being quite dull. I prefer the subtle nuances of Prince Paul producing or Faith No More for sheer style. They certainly have their place, but such explosive music is OTT. But whilst I was in prep mode for the 800m, they were way, way under.

I offer this as a wayward explanation of how special/unnatural the 800m is. Even in Thrash Metal or Hardcore punk, you can have a pretty hard hitting song running 2.40 which is fairly short song wise, but within the song you will have on and off moments. The thrash riff is 'on' for up to 12 seconds at a time. Chino only screams for max 40% of the song length. The 800m demands a track that screams for 100% of 2 minutes 40. Such songs do not exist, yet I craved them and contemplated trying to mix my own out of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, White Zombie and Sepultura.

It also felt like a genuine affliction/addiction. Today thankfully I am calm enough to listen to Stevie Wonders greatest hits and enjoy them because it's a Stevie Wonder kind of day, but last week I couldn't scratch my itch and it was driving me insane. 'Headup' was a woefully inadequate drop of methodone when I needed the hardcore junk. Like an entirely sprinted 800m though, I don't think a soundtrack to the 800m is even physically possible.

Weight Off My Mind/We Define the Context of Our Own Existence

Had I been certain I could simply outlast John by controlling the pace on the first lap, I probably wouldn't have had my breakdown in the last fortnight. But such certainty is not the province of a race. Just like there would be no vindication if I beat a morbidly obese 40 year old in the 800m when they previously could not walk 300m without going into cardiac arrest. I don't wish to compare John unfavorably to an obese 40 year old, (even though he compared me unfavorably to Morley), but rather a race is not a race without uncertainty.

John remarked how 'basketball fitness' for lack of a better word, even 'soccer fitness' or 'ultimate frisbee' fitness doesn't translate to an 800m run. In soccer for example (John's example) a 60m run would be considered huge and out of the ordinary. Basketballers and Soccer Players, AFL players and Ultimate Frisbee Players may cover 10km or more in a typical game, but it's stop start.

What's this got to do with anything? Not much but I thought I'd share it anyway, anyway, basketball players. You watch them on tv and they make it look so easy. So easy you don't appreciate how easy it is.

You have people sprinting down the lane and doing a two-handed overhead dunk and you are like 'woah' that guy must be fit. Which is a stupid thing to say, we are so used to people running up and down court though that it isn't until you try a full court game of basketball yourself that you get truly impressed.

Fact is, it takes an abnormal level of fitness to be even able to raise your arms after 20 minutes of running up and down a basketball court. A basketball is pretty light, it has to be for people to lob in three pointers. But after enough time it becomes incredibly heavy. It is superhuman to be able to keep lifting that lightweight ball and send it gracefully arcing towards the rim.

Similarly the mental burden of uncertainty-squared that is the knowledge you have to run an 800m is seemingly light weight but infact mentally taxing. The day after the race I was struck by how empty and lightweight my head was, sure I'm a fucking clown and what not, but I am capable of injecting meaning into almost anything and taking it seriously. Otherwise I wouldn't have lost the 7kgs that has been hanging around for most of the last preceding years.

But this small inconsequential thing became quite heavy to me. I suspect my experience again is akin (if not actually the same) as to what brought tears to Michael Jordans eyes when he embraced the cold lump of metal that is a championship NBA trophy for the first time.

Perhaps (in fact definitely) I will never be a world class 800m runner, and this isn't my calling. But I cared because I chose to care and I can do that for anything I wish to apply myself to. I draw hope from this, so I'm raising myself up a notch, because I've run through some barrier and taken myself to a higher plane. I don't think it can be taken away either. This weight I've shed recently wasn't a dead weight, but some mental resistence training weight. I carried it around and now I'm stronger for it.

Friday, June 25, 2010


In 'Stumbling on Happiness' by Dan Gilbert, he alludes to a bit of psychiatrist humour where two psychiatrists pass eachother one morning and one says 'You're fine, how am I?'

Arguably there should be no humour in this joke because if the profession is valid a person should be able to accurately deduce the state of mind of another human being. Except we know it's not the case, at least partially, somebody can't know about anothers state of wellbeing without information to inform our conclusion. Thus we normally ask 'How are you?' and respond 'I'm fine, how are you?'.

Infact if you go see a counsellor they will usually ask you how you are, if they are particularly deductive/assertive they may ask 'what's wrong'

The artform of being a human being is knowing what information actually is. That is every day after school in my highschool days my dad and I had the following conversation:

Dad: 'How was school?'
Me: 'Good.'

Now obviously, I had good days and bad days not a consistent stream of good days. In turn, it's entirely possible that somebody who tells you they are fine are in fact not. There are also a whole heap of valid reasons to lie about your state of mind.

In fact* erecting a facade is the norm, in a constantly changing environment this facade allows some consistency that makes life functional. Similar to the efficiency wage theorem that explains why wages are not perfectly negotiable, employers AND employees like to fix wages into contracts so they have some degree of certainty and can thus plan for all the other uncertanties rather than expending time and energy renegotiating the market equilibrium wage rate every day...

Lost? I have lost my ability to percieve what is common economic literacy so I might drop the analogy. I like most people have ups and downs. Generally the worst thing is when there's a high degree of variation. I'd prefer long alternating low periods with long high periods than a week where I feel up and down 7 times a day.

The variation is typically disruptive of my facade that is forming the identity of the moment. I feel most people can see through whatever facade I have, eg. if I'm acting particularly obnoxious or arrogant they can tell I'm pretty insecure etc. I don't mind that so much as I'm happiest when I forget there IS a facade and thus have a strong sense of identity.

I can get away with the facade because it's very rare for anybody to ask anyone as direct a question as 'what do you think of you?' and seldom do we have to confront the illusion.

Some days though I kind of crave being asked this question, not just as an opportunity to narcissistically talk about me, but just so I can admit to somebody that I have no idea who I am or what I am supposed to do.

I think on that front though, I've managed to pass the critical point of no return on my lonesome. The revelation that I don't have any intrinsic meaning or purpose and that I have to define myself. That part was really difficult, going to the effort and doing the work is much much harder than that. But I know I have to do it.

But I kind of hope that people can look at me and say 'you're not fine.' or at the least 'you're not there yet. How am I?' because I certaintly don't believe my own facade.

Surprisingly the 800m training has been good for this. I tried to invent an alter ego to run it for me. One that wasn't scared, just obsessed with winning. This perplexingly lead to frequent mood swings and an eventual breakdown. Where I was confronted by the fact that nobody was going to run this foot race except me, only me. I don't really know who that is or what he's capable of, but it's what I have to work with. I can't just make me up.

*I have not actually checked my facts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I'm a fan of masculiniy, but I suspect that masculinity is one of those words that means different things to different people. One of those topics that if debated will be constantly prone to definitional retreats: 'Yes but you must understand when I say masculinity I don't mean misogeny and homophobia, I mean chivalry and loyalty...' etc.

It's an undefined term. So when my facebook buddy friend Ben (the 2nd most ethical guy I know) posted a link to this article. I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing.

Why? Because its complicated, and I probably can't give you a better reason than that.

For example, the author of that post doesn't formally define the phenomena of masculinity, thus the implicit definition is a pretty misogenistic and negative one, which doesn't make the definition invalid. And accepting that definition I'd agree with just about everything he wrote.

The thing is, that like Michelangelo I see a lot of beauty and merit in the performance that is masculinity, as well as a lot of problems. Generally my attitude to the problems is ascribed to the artlessness of the performance of this masculine role.

I'd be curious to know what the standard taught theory on gender-roles is in most university's gender-studies courses. That is how much of gender is ascribed to nature and how much to nurture?

I'm inclined to think its both, and would probably lean towards some arbitrary split like 40:60 nature:nurture. Like for example, the brain's developmental exposure to testosterone results in 'thought patterns' (whatever they are) that are more literal than abstract. Hence you find disproportionate representation of men in engineering courses etc. I probably haven't explained that well, I'm just trying to say that quite aside from the right for women to become engineers, there are genetically/hormone coded preferences for certain things that has nothing to do with how we are raised that contribute to gender roles.

So forget it, lets talk about the 'nurture' component of masculinity, those masculine ideals - toughness, resilience blah blah blah as well as those negative aspects like 'not being a sissy' or 'not acting like a girl'.

My position is, you can be born male but that doesn't necessarily make you a 'man'. A purely psychological ideal, that like our shifting moral zeitgeist should be put through a total-quality-management aspect.

Allow me to demonstrate what that means. Say we come out with a prototype man, man 1.0.

Man 1.0 is brave, doesn't show fear, doubt, or any visable signs of weakness. Hides his emotions and this is what allows him to step up, take responsibility for a group and assume the risks.

Useful? Anthorpologically speaking yes. Perfect? far from it. So over time this ideal of manhood is upgraded to Man 2.0.

Man 2.0 understands his emotions, acknowledges them and takes risks when necessary in spite of them. This mindset allows him to step up, take responsibility for a group and assume the risks.

Man 2.0 we can see is streamlined. We have reduced the internal conflict by acknowledging that a man will probably have all these weaknesses, and acts 'manly' inspite of them. But he doesn't spend significant psychological, emotional energy trying to combat useful emotional responses. Man 2.0 feels the fear and does it anyway, instead of maintaining a facade.

Can it get better? yes. Am I going to push through the iterations here? no.

I as a 'man' aspirant do feel threatened by the suggestion that men should be 'more feminine' insofar as these suggestions tend to come from people using definitions of gender roles that lump all the positives and negatives together, and ascribe a 'male oppressor' role to masculinity and I feel raise femininity as an ideal.

I've never once believed a suggestion that men are 'less emotional than women' for example. And the convenient definition of masculinity I like doesn't include that premis either. This masculine role is about using reason to override your intuitive emotional response when there is a pay-off for the reasoned behaviour.

Furthermore, as this masculine role is a performance - a philosophy of behaviour if you will - I see no reason to ascribe it particularly to women or men.

That's right, I think if you are going to say 'men should be more feminine' then in turn 'women should be more masculine' which is to say: 'people should be effective.'

What I see though is a condemnation of toughness as being bad in all situations. I would agree in an ideal world, but the world is not ideal. Toughness is one of those great buffers that can promote greater equality when used right. For example toughness is great for confronting bullies.

To say that 'bullies shouldn't act tough in the first place, then good people wouldn't need to be tough' is true, but it is disempowering (is that a word). If faced with a bully the only thing you can control is yourself. So if toughness pays dividends, be tough.

If you find being tough draining, and the demands of putting on a brave face and puffing yourself up in front of a potential threat, by all means go home, throw up and have a cry. Nothing wrong with that either.

I like to call myself a feminist, I enjoy Black Sheep a lot though, so I'm not sure if I can. Anyway, part of calling myself a feminist is acknowledging that women have been thrust unjustly into an inferior and wretched place in society.

That in turn supports the argument in the original article of the misogenistic nature of terms like 'being a pussy' 'sissy' or 'faggot'. It's really indefensible, but my marketing training suggests to me that over the course of time, rather than these terms losing their negative connotations, they will be more likely defeated by losing all resemblance to their original context.

Like Southpark episode 'The F Word' where the southpark kids have no idea that 'faggot' has any association with being gay. To me 'a cunt' is a particularly unsavory guy, I don't naturally associate it with vaginas because I almost never use it in that context. If it is offensive to women, then I acknowledge it shouldn't be used.

My point is though that if the 'feminine' gender role is this wretched and degraded position, then why is that the solution for men escaping the cage of masculinity? To me it strikes me as akin to saying 'slave owners should be slaves' it is no solution to the gender divide. You get free by raising up.

Again the old joke is 'Why do women wear make-up, why do they wear perfume?' answer 'because they are ugly and they stink' is the old sexist joke that I feel encapsulates the role of 'femininity' as it is used to oppress. Being feminine I feel means feeling ugly, insecure and vulnerable all the time. This femininity is what progress is being made on in encouraging men to drop their masculine facade.

Put simply it is designed to sell make-up and perfume to men who in past lives would have been too self assured to buy them.

Acknowledging emotions - yes! Feeling ugly and old and fat - No! that's where women have to act more like men, not vice versa.

It is my hope that in 50 years when one girlfriend tells her girlfriend to 'man up' they will not find it funny or ironic in any way. They will be completely ignorant that men used to be male only.

Not my best argument to be sure. But as I said, its complicated.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Little Less Symbolism, A Little More Action

So Julia Gillard is PM, and I'm surprised but I guess shouldn't be at the strength of reactions from people on facebook.

I'm going to struggle to articulate this... ugh... to me Julia Gillard running the country is like having my Alfredton Primary school principal running the country. It's like any fucken moron can be Prime Minister. This would be the same if Joe Hockey had won the Liberal Leadership and gone on to win the Federal Election. I'm not convinced that Joe Hockey is even smart enough to be leader of a Lawn Bowls team.

Democracy it seems suffers from Prole-drift, just like Louis Vitton and Burberry. I guess what I'm getting at is while I'm not blown away by K-Rudd, and I've always felt that he was the PM we had to vote in, in order to vote out Howard - I felt he was at least politically competent. Like when the insulation workers drove down to Canberra in protest, Krudd went out to talk to them directly infront of the media, address their concerns and then school the rest of his party in 'how to be a politician'. Again Rudd doesn't look brilliant, everybody else looks like a fucken moron.

If you hadn't noticed, I'm still trying to articulate... Julia's status as 'First Female PM' to me is not particularly exciting, because there is little more to be said than that she is Female. If improbably Joe Hockey had deposed Rudd and become PM in much the same manner, there would be no basis for historical excitement, it would simply be 'man replaces other man'.

So there's symbolic value I guess in Gillard's coup. It disproves the hypothesis that 'A woman cannot be Prime Minister of Australia'. What surprises me is how much anybody cares that this hypothesis has now been disproved.

I mean it's 2010 people. England has had a female Prime Minister - Margeret Thatcher - one of the worst leaders in history, because she employed monetarist economic policy same as Reagan and anti-human brand capitalism. It had nothing to do with her gender, just as, I'm sure Julia Gillard's performance won't.

I had assumed that everybody simply assumed that a woman could become Prime Minister. It surely was always a matter of time. I had been excited by the prospect that the waiting game would be one where a female of sufficient quality would take charge. One where the hypothesis really being tested was 'Can a woman be a great prime minister?' that is more exciting. The most exciting hypothesis of all though is:

'Can Australian's elect a great prime minister?'

In stead of revelling in the mediocrity that is Australia's political leadership vacuum. Let's face it, K-Rudd was merely competent, Julia Gillard the same. Wayne Swan is a no goer and from there for leadership it is all downhill. Both parties lack anybody that can arouse the meerest inkling of excitement. None, not Greens, Democrats or Family First have any tangible evidence their party contains somebody who is a 'born leader'

So a symbolic victory for women, competent politician gets promotion - weakens party. I can't empathise with women on what this day means, and that might be my human failing, but lets face it - the notion of A man assuming a traditionally female role that would be exciting/inspiring to any man, anywhere is incredibly hard to imagine.

How to illustrate that, and the more general problem/hype-backlash of symbolic victories. Imagine if the US Presidency had traditionally always been held by a woman. The most 'powerful' person in the world was always a woman. Then one day in 2001 George W Bush does the unthinkable and becomes the 43rd, and 1st male President of the United States. Could I as a man be excited? Possibly. Should I be? Unequivocally NO.

Which is perhaps neither a flattering or fair comparison to the Gillard situation, we are talking about one of the worst, most incompetent and damaging presidents in history afterall.

To maintain perspective, Gillard now has an opportunity, this coup may have been unprecedentedly politically savy - the incumbent will always suffer when there is economic downturn which (particularly in Australia) has very little to do with the ruling parties economic management but the state of the Global Economy, over which an incumbent party has little control. THUS what normally happens is the electorate demands somebody be punished and inevitably turns upon the only leader there to blame, and like Donald Trump to his apprentices punishes those who take responsibility. This causes a change in government whose fortunes then ride on the fate of the economy. By preempting the voter backlash, the electorate get their change in government and punish the messenger without having to vote in another party.

Considering the other party is lead by a cunt like Tony Abbott, lets hope this savvy strategy works.

Gillard has won the symbolic victory and that's greeeeeaaaaaaat it's really greeeeeeeeeeaaaaat* but now it's time for action. She's been on the interchange bench and Kobe has been switched to Shannon Brown**. She can just hold the line and hope the team survives until Kobe can bet back on the floorboards, or she can step up and try and build the lead. She can try and leap over Garnett and do a tomahawk dunk in his face get the bench on their feet and Audience on their knees.

But basketball is not particularly illustrative of what a brilliant political... nay a brilliant leadership performance is. It reminds me of way back in the Obama vs. McCain presidential run of possibly the best piece of political analysis I have ever read. It was talking about how a Broken US needed its next Abraham Lincoln to stitch it back together again. The writers conclusion was - neither candidate were that man. I think history will prove that prophecy correct.

The author highlighted a bunch of qualities in good political (or any context of) leadership that are lacking in the modern day. The first I recall is intelligence, and I can relate. Obama is not intelligent in the way that say Thomas Jefferson was intelligent, which is a hard standard for anybody alive to live up to, but he's also not intelligent in the way that Abraham Lincoln was intelligent, that Theodore Roosevelt was intelligent, that Franklin D Roosevelt or even Truman was intelligent.

This is probably the result of prole drift, whilst people like people much better than them at basketball running the floor of their basketball team, when it comes to who they want running the country they seem to not want somebody who is smarter than them.

This is a relatively recent phenomena, in the same way that Sunrise won the ratings war against Today (with Steve Leiberman) and thus Today switched up its formula to be similarly a news show for morons. It was not so long ago that you had politicians like Kim Beasley, Paul Keating, John Howard, Peter Costello, Natasha Stot Despoja that I could believe actually knew what the fuck they were talking about. Now all I see is trained monkeys working as mouth pieces for their corporate financers.

Which brings me to the articles next quality: Astringency. which if you look it up on you may wonder what the fuck politics has to do with wine. But what it means is the sharp incisive ability to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

What frustrates me the most about politics in Australia, and anywhere in the free world is that I'm tired. I'm FUCKING EXHAUSTED from being spoken to like a child who needs constant reassurance that everything is going to be alright. The only fucken thing wrong with 'Baby-Boomers' is the word 'Boomer' and I guess the age bracket as the moniker 'Babies' applies equally to all Australians.

The leader I crave is the one that says 'Okay the deal was you got super-annuation and then you got to choose how to invest it, and this was to provide for your retirement and lifestyle aspirations. You chose to sink all your money into property, and didn't understand it and took on risks you blinded YOURSELF to and lost everything. So you had your chance and you blew it, and you blew it because you didn't care enough to get it right, so don't come crying for a pension increase now!' and say things like 'Look BHP don't create the minerals in the ground, and they don't create the demand for mineral exports. If they don't want to pay the tax to the Australian community, they can just fuck off and die and somebody else will. We are not obliged to roll over on a fair and equitable tax just because you chose to include BHP in your share portfolio. You can sell those shares right now.'

That would be leadership. I'd prefer a monkey as a PM that would act that way for 20 days, than a symbollically female mouthpiece that is going to go on treating me and everybody else like a child while taking orders from business.

The human race is going to perish or face a degree of suffering unexperienced since the ice-age if climate change isn't tackled. That challange requires intelligence and integrity and courage in our leaders. I don't see any of those qualities anywhere.

*this is my first attempt at putting apathy into words.

**No offence intended to Kobe Bryant or Shannon Brown who are actually brilliant at their jobs and thus not a fair comparison to any politician in Australia.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"I Want To Thank My Psychiatrist"

In perhaps the greatest post-match interview ever, Ron Artest said the above words. This isn't exactly hot off the press but it occured to me its worth paying attention to.

I hope one day the world will advance to a point in social consciousness where we drop the pretence and admit that everybody has problems and nobody has answers. Not universal answers anyway. Our emotions and even reasoning are complex. Our motivations often opaque.

Consider Basketball, objectively meaningless. 10 guys running around on a court obsessed with putting a rubber ball through a hoop with a net attached. Why can Ron Artest get stressed out about games of no consequence? Kim Jong Il is not going to live or die based on whether Ron Artest can sink a 3 late in Game 7. Chinese Democracy is not going to be achieved when Yao Ming makes it past the first playoff round.

It's just a game, that becomes a career, that is picked apart with fine toothed combs by legions of journalists who have a career based on said game and feel obligated to offer opinions about other peoples mental resilience, talent dedication etc.

And its so easy to lose sight of the fact that its just a game.

So to me Ron Artest is a hero, not for treating the NBA Finals like any other game, but for being man enough to admit the media was getting to him, that he was losing his mental resolve and seeking help. He's doubly a hero for being so publicly open about it, joyous even. And he should be, he did some good shit.

I don't know how many people I've met on the basketball court that are in need of some serious head doctoring, but it may be as high as one in twenty have completely lost sight of the love of the game. I'm talking about shitty Iverson wannabe point guards that get inordinately angry that myself or pretty much any fat jerk can block their way to the rim every time and patently refuse to pass first to one of their teammates. These guys need their head checked, and we are talking the lowest incarnation of Basketball.

Peeps everywhere need their headchecked, not just in extreme cases, but because there is a long list of things that effect our moods and wellbeing we have been subconsciously trained not to talk about.

So I want to thank Ron Artests psychiatrist too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Positive Resonance

Yesterday I lost this post completely, so this is a rewrite and I can't remember how it went. It did I'm 90% sure begin with loneliness:

That should get you in the mood. Now why is loneliness so unbarable? Why is it some days (and hopefully not most days) that we just can't face ourselves in the mirror? Why do we need the door open when as a child we first move into our own bedroom?

I remember when Claire left me, I was confronted more by my own presence and it's sudden apparantness than I was by her absence. I couldn't stand my own company. I remember amidst all the grief I just wanted a new partner (or the old one) in my life as soon as possible to try and alleviate the life sentence of being with myself.

And now I remember! I wrote about a bridge! Yeah, so for me that whole episode was my opportunity that some of us (that I would call the fortunate ones) are presented with this opportunity to cross a rickety bridge extending over a huge chasm.

On the other side it's like awesome, but it's also empty of any people. That bridge you can choose to cross is the gap between being emotionally dependant on others and being emotionally independant. Being your own wellspring or whatever.

And it's hard and its scary and its terrifying. And you just know that bridge is going to collapse behind you and there will be no turning back. But that's a good thing.

For me 90% of crossing that bridge I owe to my counsellor at the time, Joe. He stopped me from obsessing over how to get Claire back or find some new girlfriend and he gave me shit to do.

Training to be a tutor at FLN and meeting Zaman too went a long way, in making me my own source of reassurance and a wellspring of loving love stuff.

But a lesser acknowledged pivotal moment was this profound and profoundly simple exercise. It was at RYLA camp (don't ask) and me and like 200 other people or whatever were all sitting ina circle and we had to throw this tennis ball or something from one to another. The rule was whoever threw it had to say something nice about the person they threw it to and everybody got a turn.

Mine was 'X is a genuinely loving person.' which was easy.

You know its so easy to let other people know you appreciate them, sincerely and shit that you wonder why the opportunities seem so rare.

The thing was, the facilitator (once everybody had said something nice and had something nice said about them) went back around the circle, and we had to remember what we said and change X's name to 'I'm' or whatever the grammar demanded.

So I had to say 'I'm a genuinely loving person' and the facilitator, I don't remember who the guy was - looked at me and said 'Yeah.' and it was something I would otherwise have not acknowledged in myself.

See that's the truly baffling part, surely it is even easier to think well of ourselves and tell ourselves nice things than it is other people? Yet (I at least) do it less. I have little positive to say about myself, even these days.

But I remember walking through the backroads of brunswick near the upfield line and in the absence of anybody else to tell me so, I said 'well, I'm proud of you tohm.' and that was a turning point in my emotional development.

But I get ahead of myself. The reason the simple exercise works so well is that it's based on circular logic. We look for positives in others that we call our friends, to find them we have to recognise them, to recognise them we have to possess them to some extent ourselves. That's why just about anything good you have to say of other people, is most likely true of yourself. It's just so hard to acknowledge it, we percieve a lack because we experience the whole of ourselves whereas we just see one side of our peers.

In this regard attraction IS reciprocal, as far as we can percieve. And whilst saying we are attracted to ourselves in others sounds arrogant and not a little crippy, on a fundamental level it is true. Opposites don't attract, they just seem more pronounced.

So imagine your physical experience is a hotel for the soul. And every day a new soul is wandering into your life and looking out through your eyes, thinking your thoughts, listening at your earholes and taking meals through your mouthhole.

What does today's guest think about their room? Do they want to prolong their stay? Do they find you interesting, do they want to hang about and see how it all turns out?

In short: who would you really rather be? Even if you feel alone, aren't you curious as to how its going to turn out?

And this is cliche, but seriously if you can't love yourself, how can you really sustain loving somebody else. If love is a machine, it isn't going to last if one or both of the components are faulty. You gotta cross that bridge, I'm torturing metaphores...

Anyway, you have to wait for the last question, but to me it is all summed up by Chris Farley's interview with Paul McCartney. Stop being down on yourself, and make some love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Let me tell you something son, you get that hatred out your heart, or you'll end up just another n*, like your father."

I should understand haters, but I don't. See I'm supposed to be a Lebron hater, except I have nothing against Lebron, I even most times feel sorry for him. I don't want him to win games, championships, MVP awards etc. But that's because I don't believe he will... yet.

Does that make any sense at all? Let me articulate if I can, I 'hate' on Lebron because he's a product of a system I don't like, the man himself can play. No doubt. No question, it's the hype surrounding him I don't like. The cheques cashed too soon. The reward first, accomplishment second mentality that has everyone proximate to Lebron preoccuppied.

It's bullshit, nobody gives it to you, you got to take it. Work first, reward later all of that. So my 'hater' status is more like 'Hype-backlash' of which I sampled this particular enlightening excerpt:

Over-enthusiastic fans can also provoke this reaction; of course, a fan of something is always going to be particularly committed and convinced of it's quality, but they can let their enthusiasm get out of hand. Often, this trope results when a person initially only had a mild dislike, or even just a passive disinterest, in a particular work - until over-enthusiastic fans of the work start harping on and/or berating the person for not enjoying the work as much as they do. This can often have the affect of making the person suddenly hate the work that he or she previously had no strong antipathy towards.

I'm still bubbling with endorphins from the Lakers Game 7 clinching of back to back NBA championships vs. Boston yesterday. That the series went to 7 makes the victory all the sweeter, that the Lakers chased it down right up to the last 4 minutes of game time or so compounds the sweetness two-fold. That I've had to endure for the past week and a half thanks to pay-tv broadcast rights loud mouthed Kobe/Lakers and perplexingly Phil Jackson haters (some of which smelt suspiciously of urine) made for an incredibly stressful build-up then huge release when they snagged the title.

For me there were only three legitimate reasons to be a hater for the series:

1. You live in LA.
2. You live in Boston.
3. Kobe Bryant had had past sexual misconduct with you personally.

Otherwise I really couldn't see what was there to hate, I was perplexed by the annoying level of hatred. On the Celtics you have veteran stalwart champions like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace. All have game, all are loveable. You have the emerging talent of street style hussle, best rebounding point guard in the league Rajon Rondo. You have the bench characters of 'Big Baby' Davis, and the always entertaining Nate Robinson. You have one of the best coaches and most likeable in Doc Rivers.

Sure I can understand why somebody would like the Celtics, but on the Lakers you have vets Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. You got up-coming stars like Andrew Bynum, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar you have inbetweeners like Pau Gasol. You got the loveable bench players like Luke Walton, and Vujekic. You have pretty much the greatest coach in any sport ever in Phil 'Action' Jackson the Zen Master.

I picked LA, I wanted LA to win pretty much for the same reasons I don't like the Lebron Hype. Phil Jacksons formula for success has been hugely influential on me, his book 'Spiritual Hoops' is a must read. I like to see his philosophy of coaching validated with an ever increasing collection of championship rings.

But that's all, aside from that, I want, have always wanted a contest. No matter what sport, or even outside the context of sport, blowouts are not enjoyable even if my team wins. It's pointless, meaningless and brutal. When the Geelong Cats won that AFL premiership against Port Adelaide by 100 points or something, it was easily the worst Grand Final I have ever witnessed. I actually wish there'd been a forfeit rule or something just to end Port's misery.

So I don't understand haters. Why would you hate people just for accomplishing something? What a pointless source of hate to introduce to your life. Particularly when it comes to being a sports spectator, where unless you are bringing the noise in a stadium somewhere you literally have no influence on the outcome of the game.

Sure, no sport is as entertaining when you aren't emotionally involved, when you don't want a particular side to win and a particular side to lose. But focus on the positive, want somebody to win. Fuck if I was in a footrace against Satan I don't want a bunch of Satan hating christians to turn up to support me in 'tohm' branded merchandise with the tags still hanging off them. I want tohm supporters not satan haters.

So you're life is insignificant? Hating Kobe won't fix anything.

Lastly, I feel I missed an opportunity to get up in some fuckazoids face and scream 'in your FUCKING FACE hater!' yesterday, I was sorely tempted. He was an annoying douchebag that was I suspect trying the patience of even the most stalwart Boston supporters present, but ultimately I restrained myself, kept it dignified because well, I don't see the need to hate the haters. I simply don't understand them.

*the quote is from 'He Got Game' spoken by Denzal's character, I dropped the n-word because these haters would probably see it as something to aspire to.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The More things change... well fucekn nothin's changed really

Try as I might, I just can't bring myself to fucken study. I remember Q pointing out that even mustering up the motivation to get your schoolbooks out on the table was reason enough for a break.

I've always been a chronic procrastinator and it seems yet again my reason cannot override my compulsions to save myself. It's amazing that when faced with the prospect of studying for a Macroeconomics exam ANYTHING else in the world becomes interesting.

I've cut myself off from facebook, and thus have to be creative as well, not that facebook is that interesting. Although it gives me the bizarre impression that somewhere out there I have friends.

Todays diversion - watching Josh Freese clips on youtube, this is a follow on from yesterdays diversions (well technically today) which was watching Letterman bitch to Katie Couric about people's apathy to the environment and a performance by Devo whose drummer is Josh Freese.

Even then I was able to kill 20 minutes of what would otherwise* been spent studying finding out how to spell 'Katie Couric' via reading Amy Poehler's wikipedia sight. The world is full of information, information that is not relevnt to my exam.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hanging Back

When my brother was diagnosed with aspergers well nothing much changed, it was just an explanation for why he could seem like such a compulsively selfish cunt, but also why he seemed helpless to avoid being bullied and all that shit.
I don't know what it was like for him, but when he got the prognosis he spent a while insisting Dad and I had it as well. I think he may have something on dad, though dad's case is clearly not as severe as Sam's. I even entertained the notion that if I walked into that specialists office I'd come out a certified asperger's syndrome haverer-of...

My mother AKA Janice said she thought not though, she said even as a young child I always showed empathy, when the family went cycling apparantly even at 4-5 I was always concerned about Janice and Anna falling behind whilst Dad just charged on ahead. Presumably Janice was falling behind because my parents were trying to keep their little ducklings between them in single file.

This trait has stayed with me to some extent. If I have any aspergers-esque habits they are probably the result of my brother being my role model growing up (or just plain laziness). But Claire expressed (minor) disbelief that I'd always rather be dumped than dump somebody. I'd always rather be the one staying back to hold the fort than the one going on the amazing adventure.

Not that I don't enjoy the sense of control in a relationship, or amazing adventures. I just can't stop myself from thinking about those left behind. Zaman seemed to understand this when I went travelling and gave me a cloth for my glasses made by his wife so that I would think of him every time I cleaned my glasses. Which I did (but probably not as often as a regular joe would).

Leaving Zaman was hard, it was really upsetting. He didn't have his family with him at that time and I was leaving him all alone. There is nothing more painful than me.

If I was a kitchenhand in the navy, I'd go down with the ship just to keep the captain company. If I was a fundamentalist Christian, I'd sin just so I wouldn't be leaving behind anybody in the rapture. If I was being invaded by persians, I'd volunteer to help out at the hot gates with King Leonidas. If I was in the Bolivian Army I would have taken coffee to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, then run out with them.

I can't stand the thought of leaving anyone behind, except for myself. I'm a tough biscuit, a survivor and I'll always volunteer to be that guy. But I know I just can't walk away, without being plagued by the loneliness of others.

Life, cruel that it is, forces this on me time and time again. I wish there was some way I could be with everyone, which is probably why I like the underrated 'Pristina' so much. It speaks to my soul:

Manic Depression

I forgot how wonderful it is to run. Every time I get back into running (always far too late into the season) I have the same experience. The past 5-6 years though this has involved getting into some semblance of shape for the City 2 Surf in Sydney, or Melbourne Marathon.

I'm excited to be doing my first fun run with my sister ever next month. I hope we can run together a fair distance, alas it is 10km and should be crowded. I'm looking forward to the City 2 Surf this year. It is probably the funnest run going, and Gzergorz and Shona always make it funnerer.

I'm even looking forward to the 21km half marathon for Melbourne Marathon in October. I hope I have the same massive sensory de-stimulation as last year, that felt surprisingly cleansing, plus the race itself is great, long. Very long. But very great.

But the 800m is really fucking with my mind. I've been making light of it on facebook for the past month or so, but honestly it plagues me. I feel alone in a way I have never felt before and have never felt so alone.

Nobody understands me, and I probably have myself to blame.

But as it draws inevitably nearer, it has taken a manic deppressive place in my mind.

One moment I am confident I'm fast enough, I'll run it through steadily accelerating over the last 100-50m and cross that line with seconds to spare. I bask in the imagined glory of the moment, contemplating briefly that my biggest problem at that point will be inhaling enough oxygen to stay conscious.

This thought in turn makes me feel nauseous, then inevitably I imagine the feeling of my legs going limp too soon, before the 200m to go mark, a sudden need to exhale pushing spittle out my mouth and my chest collapsing. No matter how fast I am I can never be fast enough. I'm just being left behind and my muscles, my lungs everything is failing.

I find this prospect so unpleasant, so physically, emotionally and mentally unpleasant I want to go sit down. But when I sit down my thoughts inevitably build on one another. My best option is to listen to some music and do some exercise to get me pumped up and feeling fit and confident again. Street Sweeper Social Club, RATM, One Day as a Lion, Cypress Hill, FNM all work temporarily.

I will be reinvigorated with confidence, I will soar and cut through the air. I still have plenty of time, I'm doing so well...

It doesn't last, my self-talk pulls me back down. The only relief I really get is from training.

While I run it is all about the run, that run, that moment. The only problem is, that running an 800m feels terrible. But my mind switches to that wonderful coach inside my head 'run up this hill you fucking pussy!' and 'There's a rope pulling you, you weak cunt!' and when I run through the particularly moist goal square 'TRACTION TRACTION TRACTION!!!'

In conclusion, even if I have created this lonely nightmare for myself, it is something I feel is worth triumphing over, I feel it is even worth being trampled underfoot over, just to experience the constant waves of self-doubt and self-belief and experience such a high-stress situation. To have something important and uncertain in your life and to try and fight for it.

If I can conquer the 800m it will be behind me forever. If I fail I will survive, somewhat. I guess I can't leave it behind if I fail, but I simply need to acknowledge that for all the trashtalking hyperbole, I was serious when I started writing and training about the 800m and I need to recapture that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Wedge

Breath easy I'm not going to talk about Channel 7/10's(?) short lived cultural cringe fest. I'm referring to the 'wedge' issues that were designed I believe by Reagans campaign managers to split the democratic base apart.

This wedge though is about relationships, the wedge that in my limited experience breaks up most long term relationships and was probably covered in my surprisingly well recieved 'girls guide to break-ups'

But nevertheless I was reminded recently of it with another dying flower of love and even when I'm removed from the experience it still kind of ticks me off.

Thus the number one breaker-upperer of relationships is:

Making a decision that effects the two of you, by yourself.

I word it to you directly because well, if its your dance partner you have no control, which my counsellor told me oh so long ago (control) is the reason I was so devestated by the breakup, moreso than the facts of that breakup itself.

Usually it's career related. But it can be other things as well. I was reminded of how I managed to wrangle myself out of a relationship in high-school where I was scared to dump my girlfriend based on the threats of physical violence. (You call me a pussy, but this girl had genuinely pushed somebody down a staircase). I made the decision that I wouldn't be able to see her for the two months my host sister Madoka stayed with us.

After 3 weeks of no contact she rang up and dumped me. I was so relieved I had the presence of mind to make witty quips before she hung up the phone.

That story has a happy ending I guess. She felt in control, I didn't get my arse beat.

Generally speaking though, the wedge takes the form of one partner accepting a job offer in Timbuktu, or quitting their job to go travelling etc. Or deciding to become a pastry chef.

It has the following recognisable symptoms.

1. You are informed that the decision has been made, rather than being involved in the decision.

2. It creates physical distance, either by displacing you time wise (can no longer eat together, sleep in on a sunday etc.) or geographically 'I know we'll make this long distance thing work, I just know it.'

3. The informee (of the decision) is left with their own decision to either suck it up/or dump their arse. The decision to suck it up seems easiest, just ride out the storm, but usually results in passive aggressive behaviours leading up to outright hostility.

4. The informant resents the passive aggressive treatment.

Then bing-bang-boom it's all over and its bitter.

What pisses me off about the wedge is that it's so easy to avoid with just some basic consideration. If faced with a decision that is going to drastically alter your routine in some way, share as much information up front with your partner before you make your decision.

If you are worried they will be bias your decision, don't worry, you will look for such bias as a result.

The important thing is that you are treating them with courtesy and respect.

I think any partner that is worthwhile, if they do love you would honestly rather be cut loose than drag you down.

But don't delude yourself, just because you think you can have it all, it's always going to take two to tango.

Fuck, it's just basic change management, you don't spring changes on people, in business or love. People are risk-averse and conservative unless they are sold on the change early they are just going to drag you down.

True love I think isn't glamorous and doesn't involve sparkles, I think it's just the open and honest invitation for your partner to come with you.

But telling them that you're going and they have 10 minutes to jump on board is not the kind of invite I'm talking about.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

T minus-two weeks

My 800m race is becoming a reality. The reality is, I have to run it and it has slowly but surely begun to encroach upon my dreams.

It is both surprising and unsurprising how much I dread running it. I sometimes convince myself that I have created my own monster through my flair for hyperbole and exaggeration. but let me tell you this:

I hate running the 800m even by myself. It is motherfucken hard. Waking up on these chill June mornings and heading down to the oval where I run sans traction sets of two laps.

I have learned new noises I can make while breathing and have fallen short of that elusive threshold of pushing oneself till you throw up. I've never been able to, I don't particularly want to, but in this particular race it would be nice to know that I can.

I find myself going quiet and pondering whence my race shall be fast first or fast last. Knowing ultimately that I will not know until I race, and fast first or fast last is irrelevant, I simply have to be fastest.

I have no idea how the actual race will go down, but equally I appear to have no idea how a particular training session will go down. I'm remarkably inconsistent. Today for example, my first 800 was terrible and I sat darkly for a long time staring at my dog before getting up and doing another quick 400 where I found my legs felt surprisingly light but still capable of propulsion.

The dog is probably my single most important piece of training equipment. If it wasn't for the pleasure of walking my dog that I have craftily combined with my training regime, I doubt I would even get out of bed when faced with the prospect of running 800m.

This is perhaps my keenest disadvantage against John, who conditional to his boasting has never run an 800m. He lives in the blissful ignorance of just how unpleasant an 800m can be. No matter how much trashtalking I do, he doesn't seem to take on board what a fucking nightmare the 800m is.

He will probably remain impervious right up to the day. This will probably buy him a few extra seconds at the start, where he takes off while I try to hold down my lunch/dinner/whatever.

I really need to find some way to kill my mind, so that my mind can destroy my body and win this race.

I need to puke.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Material Support

Today I am wearing my favorite shorts in the whole world - my basketball shorts with pockets. On top of that I'm wearing my favorite jacket, my terrence towel sportsjacket. This makes for a very very comfortable day.

I have to say I bought the towel based jacket because I liked the colour and the idea of terry towel-esque clothing making a comeback.I'm completely won over though by the intrinsic benefits of towels themselves. It is nice and warm like fleece, but breathes unlike fleece.

The other thing I like about it is that it was designed (at least in part) by one of my dear friends from high-school.

Supporting his fledgling label, terrence-towel found here at has been fiscally and logistically more troubling than I initially thought, getting me lost in White-town-Toorak and costing $70. But really, it's not much, it's super cheap. It's buying a dream.

I can't think of anything I'd rather spend money on. I think this is something that has changed in me since I started drawing comics and shit.

Generally speaking, people want you to succeed. This was a pearl of wisdom from one of my old managers Ray who was briefing a (retrospectively) new to public speaking employee on the art of public speaking. The audience does want you to succeed. They turn up to comedy gigs because they want you to be funny. They listen to presentations because they want to see somebody charismatic talk about something interesting. I bought a jacket because I wanted a good jacket.

Even when it doesn't cost pineapples and lobsters, I try to be supportive because I have newfound appreciation of what support means. Objectively supporting people is easy, turning up to a film screening, comedy gig or um... band(?) gig? (If I hadn't mentioned comedy gig, I would have just called it a 'gig') doesn't really cost the big bucks. It just requires you to turn up.

Yet, allow me to contradict myself and say - turning up is hard. It is made hard by how easy it is to get caught up in our own lives. And sure, the pretentious master chef contestents need our support Sunday-Friday too in the form of TV ratings.

As somebody who has been plagued by big-expectations since I was... 15 I am truly greatful for the moral/spiritual support I've recieved from those who expected great things from me and continue to do so. I am also truly sorry for the delay. But I can't help but look that gift horse in the mouth.

Let's say that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who log onto facebook look through their friends status updates and quietely chukle to themselves. Then there are people who log onto facebook look through their friends status updates and if they see one that makes them laugh, they click 'like' or write something, possibly even something as vacuous as 'lol'.

Both kinds of people are wonderful people at heart. They are the 'people' that in general want you to succeed, because they want everyone to succeed. But whilst one offers moral support and well wishes you are unaware of and thus take as silent condemnation, others actually step forward, expend that bit of energy and let you know in whatever way shape or form that you appreciate their effort are the same kind of wonderful - only more so.

So if you are reading this and know you've sat back and said 'wow Fernando is brave trying to do standup' and admired his determination and courage without actually bothering to go see his show, do something really simple - go see his show. Let him know in one shape or form, in some tangible, observable, experiential way that you admire his efforts.

If we all did that, maybe even once we could live in a much more diverse and exciting world.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Ambiguity of Confidence

Lately my bike has been riding so smoothely that I feel I am due for a massive stack or crash. Recently I've had unwavering luck in avoiding being doored or having my foot slip a peddle and get pinned between the road and the cranks for a 40m stack downhill (this has happened to me in the past).

Most impressive was when my foot slipped the peddle just around the corner from my home and I managed to reflexively jump off the other peddle and skid to a stop on both foot leaning back, bike betwixt my legs. It's a pity nobody was around to see it.

But you see, there is one thing I've learned about myself over the years, I am not at my best when I am confident. I am at my best when my confidence is undermined and I will actively second guess myself.
I guess this might describe what is called 'overconfidence' and it is my most consistent downfall.

The very moment I feel I can do no wrong, no matter what field or activity, that is precisely the moment I fuck up. Even in something as simple as conversation, or riding a bike. Every time I have stacked I am always surprised at the irony that my thoughts at the very moment of stacking were how smooth everything was going and perhaps I don't need my bike serviced at all.

Similarly when I was banned from speaking at school assemblies in year 11, it was the direct result of my feeling I made such great speeches they could be devoid of all content, I believe I ended up impersonating a dinosaur. It was only pointed out to me afterwards that whilst I had been entertaining myself, everyone else had had 15 minutes sitting on cold floorboards in a gym somewhere.

I've never taken an audience for granted since, nor made any speeches that were longer than 10 minutes.

You see, here's the brilliant thing. One of the most unsettling things that happens to me now is getting confident. Whenever I feel confident I grow suspicious and afraid and try to back peddle. This immunity to confidence over time is building, so I still overstep the line all the time. But not by margins as big as before.

It's handy, not many people would look forward to a future full of self doubt, but I do. Because well, let's face it - I'm a douchebag.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Does this Happen for other Generations?

When I was a shorty, a real shorty there was nothing better to do than head down to the arcade and stand around watching kids with backpacks and money to burn playing street fighter II.
Even on a beach holiday in Lorne, there was no sight better to take in than Blanka shocking the Shit out of Ryu. Somebody with the cash and skills playing a new character was a sight to behold you'd hang out hoping they'd down M Bison and see a new end sequence.
The 3&1/2 inch floppy version for pc was like gold and where I eventually learned to play. The kid who's dad scored a pirated copy for PC got invited to everyone's house as often as it took for them to bring the disk along.

Street Fighter II took over the world.

Then there was MJ, these days they say MJ was no Wayne Gretsky of basketball and thus his number shouldn't be universally retired. This is a very American centric view though. The global view is: 'Wayne Gretsky who?'

Jordan was massive, retailers stocked nothing but 23's. Kids didn't just get up to watch basketball on a saturday, they played basketball on a saturday, bought the sneakers, bought the jerseys and collected the cards.

If you had a spare minute a day, you spent it contemplating Jordan. I can recall my primary school teachers, dear little ladies having to field question after question about Michael Jordan.

If this was the case in Ballarat, and judging by my cousins in Gippsland too then it was the case just about everywhere.

Now I'm not sure if there were sensations that took over the world before, maybe Space Invaders and the Beatles are good candidates. And there have been sensations that conquered the world since like 'the Spice Girls' and 'Pokemon' or consumer goods like the Nokia 3-whatever and the iphone.

But these seem sad by comparison to the awesome cosmic power of Street Fighter II and Michael Jordan.

SO I'm I just being an old man not understanding the kids today or is it truly incomparable?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Life sans god

In I realised that I, and most athiests don't really describe the subjective experience of life without a personal god, a sentient entity that controls the universe and perhaps it's more accurate to say describing what it is like believing there is no personal god, no sentient entity that controls the universe.

You see there's an ambiguity to it afterall, as an athiest I believe everyone is living in a universe without this 'god' character we hear so much about, whether you believe in him or not. Conversely for the devout and faithful, you believe everyone is living under the watchful eye of this omnipotent 'being' whether we believe in him or not.

I'm going to try to avoid arguing one way or another, I just feel to the genuinely curious it may be worthwhile to describe my actual experience that you might compare it to the lifestyle you imagine. To be honest, I'll probably do a poor job because mostly I just don't notice 'gods absence' I've never really thought like he/she/it existed so there was nothing as such for me not to notice. Basically I've had to base it on the queries I've heard or read about from believers or make educated guesses on the differences in mindset from personal encounters with the faithful.

My intention is simply that you be better informed by my description of what it is actually like, whether it is harder/easier, scarier/happier etc than you imagined it would be, or even to compare your own experience as an athiest if you are that way inclined.

"If God does not exist, everything is permitted."

Which is a paraphrase of Fyodor Dostoevsky, not his actual words and was raised in the Dawkins v. Someguy debate as an argument for God's existence. Without going into the technical details of why it isn't, let me just say that it's consistent with my belief that 'everything' is permitted and I percieve that to many this is an unpleasant prospect.

So in the spirit of the paraphrase, the 'everything' we are talking about here is our behaviour in a moral context. Without religion, spirituality to give us moral instruction how can we sustain a society where no divine being rewards or punishes our behaviour in the life everafter?

I don't find it very scary at all, in fact I find the notion quite wonderful. By saying that everything is permitted what I mean is that people can do horrible things and the universe will not actively stop them from doing so. There is no physical law (such as gravity) that prevented the holocaust, the rawandan massacre or the attrocities of the Belgian Congo. Terrible things happen every day and no divine force intercedes. Nor do I believe that the perpetrators of such inhumanity are punished with eternal damnation.

That's not the wonderful part though, I think the force that intercedes is society. Human beings are social creatures and tend to interject and reject antisocial behaviour. There have been many solutions communities have devised to keep people in line, the justice system and rule of law being the current favored artificial constructs removing people that are deemed to be a 'menace to society'.

It is in my experience and beliefs people's goodwill to eachother that decides what is permitted and what isn't. But beyond that, I believe that it is wonderful if/that people decide these things for themselves.

As scary as the notion that no devine being is keeping people in line, it presents this wonderful opportunity for people to stand up on their own and say 'I'm not going to do that.'

If you think about all the opportunities we have to do harm to one another for instant gratification and how few people act on these opportunities you have an overwhelmingly positive experience of the human race. Even in the most dangerous places on earth, people survive and live as communities and they do so because most people are social.

The information fed to us are the rare exceptions, the guy that tackles a jogging woman into the bushes and rapes her by the side of the road. We don't get a report on every person that didn't rape a person on the news that day for sheer practical reasons. Society will employ its resources to try and reject the rapist from our midst, precisely because most people don't sympathise with them.

I believe this is just a wonderful non-accident, the logical and simple product of millions of years of evolution that have given us our 'moral compass' we are moral because that is what we need to survive. There's some throwbacks that in small numbers can recieve temporary gratification from breaking the 'rules' of a civilised society, and if there is a god he permits it. My belief is that it's permitted because of physics and the accidental non-sentient forces that created the universe and eventually moral beings.

SO the thought that there is no divine law giver is not one that bothers me ever. I feel better that my decisions to be kind, generous or just plain decent come from nothing more than my own understanding and desires, not on punishment of eternal damnation or some massive payoff of eternal paradise.


This segues into what I percieve to be another cloudy area for those who look through the other end of the telescope. Being an athiest I'm responsible for everything, and accountable to myself.

Similarly when something that is essentially meaningless and tragic happens like the Indonesian Tsunami or Kobe Earthquake goes down, I see it as a meaningless tragedy and read no design in it that could be seen as a response to my personal behaviour.

So it cuts both ways, but generally I find choice to be wonderful and can't really imagine or empathise with someone who doesn't think so.

My life is not governed by any taboos or superstitions. It doesn't mean I don't get superstitious or have personal self imposed taboos. My brain is wired that way, what I mean is that nobody else's will intrudes upon the decisions I make in how to behave. If I'm an arsehole to somebody it's my fault and I feel bad. If I do something kind and feel proud of myself, I'm genuinely proud of myself.

I think the freedom to be responsible for your own actions is a wonderful, happy and underappreciated freedom. As Miyamoto Masao wrote in Straightjacket Society:

"In any case if any of the parliamentarians express dismay at what I have written, please send them directly to me. Ii will accept full responsibility for dealing with them." I said.
"It's not up to you to accept that responsibility," he answered. "That responsibility lies at the top."
"But sir, you didn't write that article, so why should you take responsibility for it?"
"You belong to the technical advisors group for the Ministry of Health & Welfare. I'm in charge of that group, and if any problem arises out of it, I'm automatically held responsible."
"That's strange," I said "I could understand you taking responsibility if you interfered in something a subordinate did, but why on earth you should take responsibility for a case like this, which happened entirely out of your jurisdiction I can't fathom."

What's this got to do with religion? Well Masao was oppressed by the Japanese beauracratic 'automatic responsibility system.' which was designed to force him to censure his own behaviour because somebody else was responsible for the consequences of it. This is oppressive to me.

You can't have choices without responsibility. But in a universe without any 'grand design' or purpose that is discernable (the athiest view) I feel as if I have more responsibility than I would if I subscribed to a belief that some beings will was evident in every nuance of life. I'm accountable and responsible to myself, and it makes making choices more rewarding. I don't pray for guidance but try to learn from my experience.

In fact learning is one of the core benefits of taking responsibility. I once read that one of the key tactical mistakes the Commanche were prone to makin was to dismiss their military failure as the result of thier 'medicine' being against them. Rather than analitically learning from the defeat and adjusting they routinely dismissed it as bad luck and were happy to go out the next day with the exact same strategy.

Now while that may be historical conjecture, I find the notion that my place in society stops with me and the choices I make a rewarding and uplifting one. I take comfort knowing that my moral infractions are non-systemic. What do I mean by that? Well if you have a religious instruction saying 'beat and humiliate your child' and if you carry it out you feel bad when you do it.
Rather than taking responsibility for the fact that you feel bad and learning from the experience via your bodies natural feedback, responsibility lies with the instructor, you quash your reservations and learn to ignore your feelings in preference for the grand design.

Or as Abraham Lincoln put it: 'When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad, that's my religion.' conveniently I choose based on the evidence to believe that Abe was a believer of political convenience.


So no grand design? What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist? etc. It is my experience that many believers feel that religion provides them with answers to these questions. Personally I am not satisfied that any religion does.

But basically as an athiest, I don't believe there is any grand design or purpose to our lives or the collective lives of the human race etc. I don't think we are preparing to destroy evil for good at some celestial battle ground, nor do I think that out there in space is a giant crystal lock that we must find the key to unlock it and recieve 100,000,000 points in some grand game of existence.

There is a vacuum where the idea of 'purpose' arises, and admittedly I find this daunting. As I said though, the hole for me, personally is too big for religion to fill. Being a good christian (which given my circumstances in a western society was the only alternative presented to me in my developmental years) is not purpose enough to justify my specific existence.

But over the years I've come to accept that I don't have to. I'm here now and plan to be around for a while. My life is a brief glimmer of experience between two infinite stretches of nothingness.

I have the opportunity to define the context of my own life. To try and achieve something that means something to me and that's the same for everybody. Whether the purpose I assign myself is to run a high altitude ultramarathon or eradicate rabies from the world, it's mine for the choosing and it is a very comforting and inspiring thought.

Michael Jordan cried when he recieved his first NBA championship trophy, and perhaps a large number of people wept with him. But is their any greater purpose to winning an NBA chamionship? I think if you asked an economist they would say that people derive utility (pleasure) from entertainment. If you asked a philosopher they would probably say 'no'. But that does not mean that the emotions were not real, overwhelming and one of the sweetest moments of MJ's life. It is not to say his life was wasted, or that it isn't inspirational.

It meant so much because he, and we the spectators, gave it meaning. That ability is probably the greatest 'gift' of being alive.


When people die where do they go? On the surface the athiest experience is pretty bleak and unforgiving. 'They' is consciousness, and dependant on your curiosity or scientific understanding athiests differ. For me I think consciousness is an as yet not understood but essentially mechanical function of the human brain. It is the product of electrical activities that give rise to our subjective experience.

As such, if the brain is turned off, so in essence is 'we' and that's the end. The 'self' doesn't go anywhere, it is dependant on the body.

That is my personal belief, and it's based on the reading I've done. Few people actually bother to read up on the mysteries of consciousness, and frankly I don't blame them. What I've read have been some of the most inaccessable texts ever.

So when people die, I feel sad. In 'moments of weakness' I might escape into fantasy and try and imagine greener pastures where we will be reunited again one day. Particularly when my first dog Lil died. Except whilst denial is an important coping mechanism for overwhelming grief, my reason brutally will not let up, constantly reminding me that there is no heaven, no afterlife etc.

This is probably the 'worst' in terms of gratification of being an athiest. But it isn't that bad. For one we feel sad because the people and pets and animals and bands we lose were special to us, and there's no shame in that. To feel the loss is to love them.

Secondly it is a reminder that life is precious and not to be squandered. It motivates me to do more, try more, be more than I already am whilst I still have the chance to experience it.

Thirdly, I take comfort in memetic replication. That is, people I have known may cease to function as an individual, but everyone we met influences us for better or worse. Those that are worse influences lets face it, we probably won't care are dead. Those that are better are preserved in part, in the ideas they have shaped in our own minds. Our minds are temporary repositories of ideas, our identity and values are shaped by the lives of others. All we lose in death is our own frame of reference, it doesn't mean our influence stops there. It will live on as ideas and mutate and combine and have offspring of its own so long as there are people to recieve them.

What of my own death? Am I scared? Not particularly, which is very different from saying 'I want to die.' I don't want to die and if you see me cycling on a road you are driving down, please drive safe.
What I mean when I say I don't fear death is the experience of death itself. (I'm quite afraid of dying). Because for me, as an athiest death is the cessation of subjective experience itself. No concept of pain, suffering or elation. No concept of time. No nothing. It is incredibly hard to comprehend and I guess it resembles our experience of the time before we were born or concieved, or under general anesthesia (which for me always feels like being 'switched off' for awhile.)

This state is preferable only to a life of suffering with no hope of relief. A tumultuous life full of ups and downs is quite exciting in comparison. Thus I want to live for as long as possible whilst I still have the prospect (however remote) of enjoying myself. If I'm a vegetable, fuck it. Pull the plug and help the environment.

Life Amongst Believers

You learn to live with it, and it's not that bad. I don't believe in the belief vs. non belief debate. Part of the attraction for me of being an athiest is that I am not going to waste vast amounts of my life in devotional activities. The logic is circular I know, and Blaise Pascal would have a go at me.

But basically, I don't enjoy debates, because I think most believers are not having a crisis of faith where they will genuinely consider the perspective of life for a non-believer. So you just have two parties that disagree upsetting eachother.

Having said that, morality is a choice for me. I'm guided by my own compass and generally I am for anything that expands the opportunities of individuals anywhere and sometimes this comes into conflict with religious beliefs.

For example, in Australia there are people who from their religious convictions believe that Gays should not be permitted to marry. I personally am for people having the opportunity to openly and officially declare their love for eachother, gay or straight, no matter how overly optimistic or genuine these claims may be.

Other people find such notions offensive. Here I feel the need to speak up and defend my rights and others. Even if they don't officially exist yet.

I'm fortunate to live in a country where this is easy and safe to do. I understand for other athiests living in secular societies this behaviour is very courageous because it comes with very real (and barbaric) consequences attached. I'm inspired and shamed by the athiests and heretics in history that have stood up and spoken out against organised religions transgressions to their own immediate detriment.

Having said that, it's consistent with my beliefs that atheism in the long run is not under threat. This is because my conviction is that anybody truly curious about the nature of our universe will come to reject the god hypothesis. I'm an athiest because I see no god or grand architect in all the workings of the universe.

Evolution is far more satisfying and compelling than creationsism, the big bang is far more reinforcable by empirical obsevation than the word.

Thus even if the world was overrun by Inca fundamentalists and I was burned on a funeral pyre after having my heart cut out, I think that people will always be spontaneously discovering atheism as revealed to them in what is perhaps known as a 'crisis of faith'. Its my belief, and its not necessary for anyone to share it, that the only belief that has any real chance of spontaneously recreating itself without an institution to specifically propagate it, is atheism.

By contrast when the conquistadors arrived in the New World, they didn't find Catholicism waiting for them. The Papal ambassadors to Prestor John whom they assumed must be emporer of asia and representative of the universal faith of Christianity only found the court of Ghenghis Kahn.


Now I'm going to eat lunch, and I'm going to enjoy it.