Tag Archive | connection

Olympics – time for a new game

I’ve always loved sport and grew up watching the Olympic Games and in New Zealand it is like the curtains being pulled back so we can know there are sports other than Rugby, Netball, Cricket and Rugby. Part of the mystique is the tradition and we see some of that in bits of ceremony like the lighting of the torch. When Pierre de Coubertin brought the ancient games into the modern era in 1894 with the establishment of the International Olympic Committee it was hoped the spirit would live on.

I suppose some of that spirit would be the ideals of peace, where the games are meant to help strive for a more peaceful world, the notion of the Olympic Truce where countries allow safe passage of athletes and the people stop killing each other while the games take place. Part of the modern ideal is that the games should not be used for political means, that is athletes are just there to do their thing and should not bring attention to controversial issues such as racism, social injustice or abuse. So basically the Olympics is global amnesia and carefully stage managed illusion of ‘everything is awesome, everything is cool when your part of a team’ (sing along).

So as someone who loves sport and cares about social justice I’m conflicted. There are three basic reasons:

1: The commercial aspect of the games – it’s big business, real big business, huge business (and it’s probably none of my business). The athletes are really unpaid billboards and marketing opportunities. Advertising during the games is worth mega bucks.

2: Gender – the modern games is still playing gender catch up but worse than that – they are gender policing the binary. So women can be ‘sex tested’ if they are deemed ‘too masculine’ to be female which might be a natural effect of their unique bodies, but the games defines ‘normal’ female and has the right to exclude intersex people but only after subjecting them to humiliating and degrading tests.

3: The silencing of protest – when representing ‘your country’ you best keep your opinion about other things to yourself so that the illusion of ‘peace on earth’ is maintained. But there have been protests, and I salute the individuals who have stood up and drawn attention to issues. But these days athletes risk being sent home if they speak up.

Therefore I have a vision of a 21st century games, for a start let’s ditch the Greeks as the model for ethical competition. Why not use the concept of Ubuntu from Southern Africa“the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. Second why not completely ditch competing for a country. Each Athlete could choose a cause to draw attention to, and to make it more transparent each corporate sponsor would have to contribute a portion of their global profit to that cause. Rather than a truce, the media would have to report the current state of world war. Because I think we are in the middle of one and it just hasn’t been called that. As my final revitalisation, I would like all athletes competing at the same time, that is, the Paralympics being run simultaneously at the same time, yeah that’s right – actual diversity inclusion. The para games as an add-on is another way of token inclusion (another reason to drop the Greeks – Aristotle wasn’t all that cool with disabilities).

One last point on the gender thing. Intersex people are not cheating. They are themselves competing. If we are looking at the 21st century understanding of physiology and integrated technology are we simply looking at new categories of human performance, one that makes space for diversity complexity and difference.

Bring on the Ubuntu games, not The Hunger Games.


It’s the thought that counts

I’ve been divinqing with groups of young people for nearly 10 years. I remember my first divinq, it was special. I watched Philip Patston transform a  nervous giggling of year 9-10 students into a thoughtful reflective exploration of difference. That was the moment I knew I was seeing something unique.

But every divinq since then has been amazing, each and every conversation. Even if similar ideas repeat, they come back in new ways, through different people. And the laughter shared, when trying to understand the incomprehensible and knowing what we don’t know, keeps me feeling thankful for 10 years of thinking with so many creative, intuitive and brilliant young people and gives me hope for The Matrix to be reprogrammed.

Every thought is energy and matter is energy, thinking is movement and divinq is a dance in the universe. I’m enjoying the music, each idea a note. I want to thank all of my dance partners over the last 10 years – we’ve all learned new steps, tripped on ideas and perhaps stood on each others’ toes from time to time, but kept going.

If divinq has taught me one thing, it’s that people talking and being with each other is important. The clumsy, chaotic, random, real world of difference is beautiful and delicious.

Sign of the times

I came across two media posts today about sign language. The first was regarding technology translating sign language into English (although I suppose it would have to just be English), and a feature on a chef in Christchurch who managed to find an employer open to functional diversity. It was interesting to hear that staff he worked with had started to learn sign language. Now that shouldn’t be shocking, it is an official language here but actually how often do we see sign language represented as a way of communicating?

Schools offer languages and part of me is curious to know how many offer sign language as an option. I know there is a form of international sign language, and wonder why this isn’t compulsory for everyone! Think about it if you needed to talk to someone in a different language, or you had a group with multiple languages, signing would be a simple and easy way to communicate quickly.

Now, as a cyclist I have been communicating through hand signals for years and it is satisfying to have someone understand you in a short series of gestures rather than the messy vocal stuff that I often want to say but usually try and keep in my head. So I reckon signing has to be one of the most useful skills anyone could have actually. Think about all the places where you can’t have a conversation or want to communicate something across a room. Heck rugby for a start could do with some signing, how many times does the hooker put a hand to their ear at the start of a lineout to try and hear what the call is! Players could communicate instantly across the field. Not so sure about underwater hockey and water polo though, might look like everyone is just waving at you.

So perhaps if you are looking to learn a language pick sign language and if your school isn’t offering it, ask why not? Or better yet if you have someone at your school who is using sign language just give it a go, for a start there is nothing hard about smiling, putting your hand up to say ‘Hi’. Check out the New Zealand Sign Language Online site.

I’m going to be spending some time there – adding to my cycling vocabulary.

Group dynamics

Yesterday I remembered how useful it is to have a group if you want to have a group discussion.It’s interesting noticing how arriving at a venue for a workshop or presentation first, can be a little weird. My theory is that less than 5 it’s way too intensely personal and at 8-10 it’s starting to feel ‘groupy’.

It kind of got me thinking what it’s like to be in a class of 20-30, how young people in schools become familiar with ways of sitting in groups or ‘put into groups’, left out of groups. Like standing in lines – being in groups is a bit of weird thing anyway. However a group of 7 means individual participation is magnified and what surprised me was how in spite of this awareness people kept offering their thoughts, observations and taking that focussed energy and dispersing it, sharing it around and refracting it through stories or laughter.

By the time we’d munched our way through hot chips, discussed our favourite movies and books and watched Katherine Schulz talk about being wrong the number 7 had grown in size and presence, the depth and complexity of diversity was not just a topic of conversation it was being lived in the moment in a swirling mass of whiteboard scribbles, punctuated by plenty of giggles.

Labels – past their used by date?

When you go to the supermarket to buy stuff, you expect to read labels. I mean if you want shampoo it makes good sense to have shampoo bottles labelled so you don’t accidentally put toilet cleaner or dish washing liquid in your lovely locks.
There has been both a move toward creating more labels for people and resisting labels and trying to ‘unstick’ some that have become old, worn and perhaps not so helpful in understanding what is behind the packaging. In particular the language around sexual diversity has exploded, (I’ve already done something on ice-cream but this is slightly different). The supermarket equivalent could be breakfast cereal or chips. Back in the day there were only 3 flavours of chip – plain, chicken and salt n vinegar…don’t ask me how chicken got in there, still a mystery. Gender and sexuality for years were pretty simple packets. Two flavours of gender and two of sexuality – three if you were in a sophisticated supermarket, I mean environment. Someone who might best represent a label free upbringing is iO Tillett Wright. Functional diversity has followed a bit of the same journey with disabled and ‘normal’ being the limits of language in the past. I like more options to define ourselves but I’m not convinced that infinite labels are the way to go.
People are not consumer products, although maybe some might want to stick warning labels on at times. But whether we like it or not labels for people exist. Pretending we don’t notice people based on certain characteristics is sort of like saying all cats are the same…try bringing home a full grown tiger and pretend you got it from the SPCA! Anyway, my point is noticing difference is fine, it’s absolutely normal and natural to observe things that ‘stand out’. Our eyes or other senses are drawn to this so if we are in an environment where everything is the same then the slightest difference will stand out.
For example, if you are at a ‘single sex’ school, with all girls wearing skirts or boys wearing shorts then people might naturally start to notice alternative forms of diversity. Probably the most common thing we notice is ethnicity but what then? Well I suggest our ideas about what that could mean might start filtering assumptions, beliefs or ideas about whether this person is someone ‘like me’. Sometimes it might be hard to know but at some level we’ve probably already put some knowledge into motion to assess if this other human being could be someone I can relate to, communicate with, have a laugh with, feel safe with?
What I wonder about is the role of communication in all of this. If someone looks ‘foreign’ either because of their ethnicity OR because they function differently (e.g. in a wheelchair with a different kind of communication device) our first instinct is probably related to ‘how will we communicate?’ So I think enough of the labelling, or trying to label more things about people – I’m already confused but talk to me about bikes, lego, sport and science fiction and I don’t care what planet you are from you are one of my kind!