Tag Archive | values

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.

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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.

Coded dress

I have blogged about school balls before. I thought I was over it. But it just keeps popping up like a painful blister from wearing high heels (apparently – I don’t wear heels – I get altitude sickness – and I never passed my femininity licence).

A school has decided it can veto the style of dress worn. The main issue is the amount of skin being shown. Now on the face of it, that does sound a little OTT. However, it is a Catholic school. Why should that make a difference? Well, it is about what values the school is upholding. This is a religious school, with a particular set of ideologies and beliefs about modesty and the body. So I am not shocked that they have taken this stance. I’m more shocked that people attending the school would be. I think some people forget that Christianity is a religion.

Schools already have a sense of ownership around policing bodies, uniforms do that well and this is a school event.It kind of fits with representing the school image, like sports teams. What I do take issue with is not being able to take shoes off if they are hurting. Those wearing high heels have to suffer in order to maintain the forced gender code of femininity even if it results in excruciating pain and discomfort. I can see that being a fun night on the dance floor. My tip – just don’t wear heels or take two pairs of shoes, one for show and one for go! Another solution is to have uniform ball dresses, now there’s an idea – along with uniform ball jewellery. Let’s go all the way and have set hair styles and makeup. For guys lets say they must keep their tie and jacket on all night, gotta have some gender equality somewhere.

So as all schools head into ball season lets get a bit of a reality check. It is an old tradition we haven’t quite integrated into the 21st-century ideas of diversity and difference. It is the ‘Straightrix’ – like The Matrix that codes all forms of gender and sexuality norms. If you know that you can choose to take the blue pill for the night (no I am not encouraging drug use – see the movie!) go for it and have a fun night.

What does true diversity look like?

The following tweet turned up in my feed from Susie Sirman, from Alberta, Canada, a self-confessed “high school science and art teacher, learning coach, edtech enthusiast, busy mom and a terrible choice to follow on Twitter.” So I followed her. But anyway, her tweet:

I like the model (further tweets between us revealed it isn’t hers) and I agree with it to an extent. Simply putting different people in the same room isn’t useful, but I think it is, unfortunately, what inclusion is about currently. It isn’t, however, diversity.

So I wondered, using this model, what diversity would look like and, just out of interest, how it might differ from assimilation. I changed the colours of the dots for aesthetic reasons as you’ll see below. And here’s what I came up with:

diversity_model_key

Assimilation is when “different” people are included as long as they take on the “colour” of the majority, ie. beliefs, values, behaviour etc., in order to be accepted. This is often the result of our current model of inclusion.

True diversity, however, is when all parties are able to learn about each other’s similarities and differences — or uniqueness and commonality — and, as such, colours blend, creating a new set of values, beliefs and behaviours, unique to the group. As a result, the colour of the group — or its culture — also changes.

This post originally appeared on www.philippatston.com

To Vote or Not To Vote? – that is not the only question.

It’s an interesting thing ‘legal ages’. Society world wide is a bit inconsistent when it comes to young people and the ages of readiness to do things, but in general (at least from a New Zealand perspective) the idea is the law tries to offer protection and a lot of the time it works. We have some legal ages in NZ that are ‘loosely’ enforced such as the drinking age and age of consent for sex. By loose I mean it’s possible that some young people will enter into either of these activities before they reach the legal age or after – or even never at all. Voting is quite different. There is no sneaking around that one, its 18 through and through.

It got me wondering how those High School students of voting age this year make sense of the world of politics. It’s curious how bullying, back stabbing, name calling etc are frowned upon in schools yet seem to be almost essential qualities for politics, at least that’s how it appears to me. Figuring out which political party you might vote for is in many ways like dating. Political parties parade their policies to attract voters and if you are a first time voter they will be courting you ‘hard out’. But what about your parents? Do they have a preference of who you should be ‘with’? It’s a conundrum for many to the point where it might seem like an arranged marriage as though your party vote represents a form of faith, passed down generation to generation. It is a form of relationship and it can be hard to ‘come out’ as something other than what family or friends expect you to be. Dinner time conversations every three years could get incredibly tense at times I imagine in some households.

But it’s ok, because at the end of the day it’s just you behind the card board box wall and a pen. You and you alone cast that vote or not vote. Whatever you tell others will be a matter of politics, and we all know that what people say and do might not always be the same thing.