Tag Archive | difference

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.

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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.

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.

Talking bull

This week is bullying awareness week, well, unofficially and Pink Shirt Day is Friday 20th May. So how to start a conversation about bullying that hasn’t already been done a thousand times….

There are plenty of bullying stories out there, and stories of people who make a stand it against it. There are lots of ideas on how to stop bullying, and schools put in punishments to make it clear it’s wrong to bully. There are also plenty of groups willing to come in and do a presentation, performance share a personal story to help ‘get the message out’ about how bad bullying is. How is that in spite of all this education, it still happens?

I think some of the reason is we go looking for a kind of person or action that we can identify. But is there such a thing as ‘a bully’ does this type of person actually exist? Because I get a bit confused when I talk with people about ‘bullies’. If I ask a range of people about a student from parents, teachers, friends, coaches I get different responses – I never have everyone say ‘yeah they are a bully 100%. So one shift I think needs to happen is to look at bullying not IN people – but BETWEEN people. Anyone can bully or be bullied, there is no ‘type’. You can also be bully and bullied at the same time, which is perhaps why it gets a little confusing.

Another thing I find interesting is the idea that people grow up and grow out of being bullies, I’m not so sure about that. Adults bully that’s a fact, our family violence statistics back that up. Family violence is about control and the use of fear to maintain that control. Bullying is similar. Anyone can bully because everyone feels vulnerable, scared and powerless at times. Bullying is a form of social event – no – I don’t mean it’s something to promote, but people form connections. People make sense of themselves and others through these actions, they give entry into groups. If we look at it this way then anyone can become involved because everyone needs to feel connected, a sense of belonging.

One good example is mocking, put downs, teasing. Humour and laughing are something all of us enjoy. The thing about humour is in order for it to work there has to be some form of shame attached – otherwise it doesn’t work. Friends can sometimes do this with each other. If someone has to say ‘naaaaa jokes’ to convince you that you shouldn’t be offended then it’s likely to have been intended to shame, hurt or humiliate.

Bullying and humour can be an uncomfortable fit. Both can pick on difference, or a sense of wrongness about that difference, this is something we all need to challenge. Laughing together at circumstances or even ourselves is good and healthy. Humour can help us understand the strange ways we are expected to be in the world based on our gender, culture, age, sexuality or functioning. But pointing and laughing at someone is not joining with them in a sense of understanding, it’s alienating and isolating.

I guess my challenge is to groups of friends. How do you respect each other’s differences when having a laugh? How do you laugh in public together-including in digital spaces? Is someone potentially getting their way of being in the world made wrong in the moment? How can you in that moment shift what you do to create a safer more respectful and ethical form of action? Because while you might not be doing the action that gets defined as bullying, your response will either be part of the acceptance and normalising of that or it will challenge it. I’m also interested in challenging homophobic put downs and harassment. Even if it’s amongst friends it can hurt but making it unsafe to be gay or transgendered. Sexuality and gender are unique human qualities we all want others to value. Feeling safe in who we are as people is a fundamental human need.

And just for the record, I think the worst examples of bullying are from adults not young people. It’s also why I love animals, they are just straight up about how they feel about you and they don’t really care about what their friends think if they are friends with another species.

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!