Tag Archive | assumptions

Small Change

Today I was at my local supermarket. It’s a small local one and it reminds me of home. I love how food shopping is an opportunity to see diversity at work in the community.

On my way in I stopped at the dairy section and I pondered cheese with a woman, who was equally baffled by the price of 1kg block. While a man walked through crying and talking to himself, I looked up and he had found what he needed, happy again. Onto the checkout and I nearly run into the same guy, but he’s talking to one of the assistants who is trying to figure out what he needs. Children look up at me perplexed by this loud grown up, I just smile like its no big deal. As I pay for my chocolate and broccoli (not planning on cooking them together), I overhear the checkout person behind me say ‘you are short $1.20. I turn and ask ‘you a bit short man, can I help? The look of gratitude transcended words, as I handed over the money I notice the complete lack of acknowledgement of my gesture of kindness…which is exactly what I hoped for.

No flash mob cheering me, no hashtag, just a nod to the checkout operator, a smile back at the same kids who smile up at the loud guy with a beard who cried. In the end it wasn’t about me and my offering of small change to make up the deficit, it was the small changes I saw in people that makes a difference, that erases any deficit.

Humour me

Language is interesting. Humour is something we all might recognise in the modern world as describing something amusing, that might make us laugh. But understanding where the word humour comes from gives insight to how language is connected to the ways knowledge is constructed.

Humour comes from Latin and means ‘moisture’ which then passed into English to mean bodily fluids – humours, of which there were 4 and were connected to moods and functions of different organ systems.

For a long time, there was no distinction between the sexes, there was one human template. There were variations on humours and degrees of temperature that defined the spectrum of difference. Male was at the hot end and female at the colder end of the spectrum.

The science and medical profession of the time found ‘evidence’ of the inferiority of women and other cultures and used it to maintain social order. What I find interesting, I suppose, is while modern anatomy and physiology have moved on since the 17th and 18th century, some of the assumptions and ideas live on. I mean, just look at how hard women had to fight just to be able to compete at the Olympics –they weren’t able to run in the marathon until 1984, nearly 100 years after the start of the modern games. You can’t tell me that it was a misprint in the programme.

Scientific knowledge has a level of power to it, to define the truth about something and this is what is interesting to think about and notice. That is, how various branches of science over time have categorised people and other species, given them particular qualities, limits and justified practices of exclusion, exploitation and mistreatment.

I wonder what science will look like in 300 years. What truths and facts will be as laughable to that generation as the idea of blood being turned into semen by body heat. Now that is humorous.

What’s the buzz?

When you watch someone die knowing they were addicted to socially acceptable legal substances like alcohol and tobacco there is a hollow sense of irony. The questions I am left with are more about how substances are seen as harmful or helpful.

We like to feel good, we seek excitement, we like things that give us experiences, sensations and states that are enjoyable – we are drawn to them naturally. Funny thing is if you look into it, all species are into altered states. I’m not kidding. Young dolphins have been known to seek out poisonous puffer fish, hold them in their mouths then release them in order to experience the effects of the toxins. There are numerous examples in nature of this phenomenon of ‘getting out of it’.

It’s interesting to look at the history of some substances and how they have been seen by cultures and societies depending on their perceived usefulness. From shemanic rituals to religious experiences, traditional herbal medicines to pharmaceutical medical applications, there are histories and knowledges that have allowed some to come through seen as ‘good’ and some as ‘bad’.

You can do your own research about substances from all sorts of perspectives and evidence but the question remains about choice and control. I still struggle with the idea that we can watch people smoking and drinking, advertise alcohol, have it in movies and t.v. while those desperate to seek treatment for seizures with cannabis oil are denied access under our current law. It’s like our eyes are wide shut when it comes to rethinking drugs and alcohol.

But ultimately I think about my uncle who represented Wales in Trampolining in the 1960’s and how he was a thrill seeker. How he replaced one buzz for another but because they were socially acceptable and normalised few people probably expressed concern. I will finish with a question written by Carl Sagan 24 years ago about the war on drugs in America;

“is there something intrinsically immoral about feeling good by taking a molecule”

That question really does blow my mind.

Hair – the long and short of it

Hair. It has to be one of the most defining features of human beings. We are virtually hairless as a species. But the hair on our heads definitely seems to be one of the most significant ways we identify each other. Schools seem to have incorporated hair into the realm of uniform. I’m not sure about all schools, but most that have a school uniform probably have some rules about hair styles and colours. Two examples have come to the media in New Zealand over the last week both involving young men.

Hair length definitely seems to be a bit of a gender definer. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that boys generally have short hair and girls have long hair or at least that is the most common expression of difference related to hair, especially before facial hair appears thanks to testosterone. But that is pretty limiting right? Hair is a wonderful medium to express your individuality, cultural or religious identity or your affinity to music.

Being ‘clean cut with a neat, short, hair’ probably fits best with a military style of discipline. Discipline is something schools take seriously. However I am wondering, if in the year 2014 we could shift our understanding of what it means to show respect and reflect school pride beyond requiring students look the same. It does seem to contradict the idea of valuing diversity a little bit.  Read More…