I’m not that kind of girl!

Alright, I’ll admit it, I’m female! There that shocked you didn’t it? No? Well according to so many stereotypes I’m not… I can remember the time I did a test that told me in the results that I have a man’s brain. They didn’t tell me his name, so I couldn’t give it back.

I didn’t believe them anyway because I don’t believe that only men can reason logically (plus I’ve met a lot of men who don’t even have a nodding acquaintance with logic). I don’t believe that only women can be caring either. Some women are wonderfully warm and supportive, an awful lot aren’t. Some men are just the best at taking care of others, it doesn’t mean they’re not men.

It frustrates me that these stereotypes are still kicking around, the pressure that is put on children to conform is phenomenal, when you add in gender expectations it becomes ridiculous. So, girls and boys… I hate pink. I virtually never wear it, I own very few things that are that colour. I’m not really a pastel person. I don’t wear make up, I can’t be wasting my time faffing around with it. I’m not a sucker for babies, I’m sure they’re very nice, but I’d rather have a puppy.

Are you beginning to get the picture? Well, the thing is, I can knit and crochet and sew. I can also do DIY, fix broken toys, wire a house for electricity. I get interested in things, and then I like to find out how to do them. I like to read books too.

So my advice is: ignore other people’s expectations, find out about the things that interest you, go fishing, or ballroom dancing if you want to, and don’t worry about gender stereotypes. If someone has a go at you, realise that they are almost certainly more worried about what they think they should be doing, than you are about what you should be doing. They are threatened by you, and scared of you, that’s why they’re attacking you.

I know it isn’t always easy, but you have a responsibility to yourself, plus all the generations growing up in the future. Be who you are.

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Tradition

Tradition is a good place to start. There is a reason why something has been done by more than one generation, it works, at least a little bit, for some of the people. Is that a good enough reason to keep doing whatever it is? Well, no. Definitely not. Every tradition has it’s day, and then it should be evaluated to see if it really is a good way of doing (or thing to be done)

Many cultures through history have had slavery. I can see no moral, or practical, justification for slavery. I don’t think slavery ever was, and never should be, justified. That it’s not good for the slaves, should be able to go without saying. But neither is it good for the slavers or slave owners. When you brutalise or dehumanise another human being, you also brutalise and dehumanise yourself.

We are all connected, what you do to others you also do to yourself. People who are judgemental, judge themselves first. The sad thing is they are always far harder on themselves than they are on anyone else, and anyone else is on them. People who treat other people as if they aren’t real, do so because they are afraid they aren’t real.

You cannot treat another human being badly without it having a harmful effect on you. And to close your eyes to people being hurt around you is nearly as bad, sometimes worse. When we take responsibility for our own actions, it does not mean that we can them close our eyes to what is going on around us.

It means we have to respect other people’s right to make their own mistakes and find their own answers, but we still have a responsibility to try to get other people to understand what we believe. So that they have that information to evaluate too.

Tradition sometimes lasts because it is a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because no one realises it isn’t a good way of doing things, sometimes it lasts because people are afraid of change. Why are people afraid of change? They are afraid because they haven’t practised stepping out side of their comfort zone and have not discovered the rewards of trying out their “stretch zone”.

In permaculture there is frequent reference to the value of edges, the edge of your comfort zone is a great place to be. It’s often both frightening and exhilarating, to dip ones toes into new water, to try out a different behaviour, can be quite wonderful. It can also be quite awful, but even that teaches us something new and good about ourselves.

Personally, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of tradition. I don’t like lazy ways of making decisions about people’s lives, our how our society should be run. There is often insufficient flexibility to cater for everyone’s personality or needs.

All women are not the same, neither are all men. Why should they be lumped into one category? That’s lazy stereotyping, it also means that some people never get to find their particular aptitude, because they are told (at a very young age) that they “can’t” do that because they belong to the “wrong” group for that particular activity.

What is particularly worrying at the moment is the disconnect between what is happening in British society (and other societies too) and what the media is claiming is happening. So many people still cannot believe that the mainstream media would lie to them because “someone would stop them if they told lies”. Why they believe this, is a mystery to me.

Our culture has changed rapidly and in an unhealthy direction in the last few decades. We have moved away from the traditional lifestyles that were rooted in a certain common sense, to a society that has little real security or resilience. This Britain could not survive the depredations that were visited upon it during the second world war. This Britain will be lucky if it survives the next ten years.

We need to revisit some of the traditions that our parents and grand parents knew, and see if they might not be more healthy for us to re-embrace now.

Common Sense?

As I said on facebook the other day, “common sense truly is the least common of all senses”. I feel honoured to have many friends who do possess it, but I am afraid we may be in a minority. I find it sad to see so many people are drawn to prejudice and discrimination, I think it is because they lack feelings of self confidence and self worth.

At the moment this world is a dreadful mess. There are so many unhappy people. People who should have no cause to be unhappy. I often feel I should be doing more, doing better, or at least doing different.
But I find every day is a struggle, as it is for most people. We all do the best we can, we don’t have the emotional, let alone financial, resources to do better.

When we look hard enough we can see that our governments keep us under pressure and isolate us as much as they can. It means we don’t have the resources to do anything about them or the systems they attempt to impose on us.
Currently our system seems to attempt to destroy self confidence and feelings of self worth, self respect etc. especially in the young. The education system is under constant pressure to under educate and undervalue the very people it should be supporting and building up.
The welfare system is designed in such a way that it is difficult for people to get the benefits they are entitled to. There is no automatic payment of entitlement, but a constant stream of hurdles and disruptions, that make survival all some people can manage (and others can’t even manage that).

This is all backed by a political system which doesn’t penalize those who deliberately misuse their power. They see their system as a fair entitlement, even though they have far greater resources at their disposal than the people they vilify and demonise. The slackers and the shirkers are not in the grass roots, they are at the “top”.

Added to a corrupt and self-serving government we have a media that has bought titillation over information. Over the last nearly one hundred years, since the inception of the BBC in the UK, the televisual media has moved further and further from it’s stated aims of informing and educating. Instead of revelling in the huge variety of audiences that are available to them, they have constantly focused more and more on the lowest common denominator. Instead of inspiring, TV is numbing. And they wonder why their popularity is waning.
We are immensely complex beings when we are allowed to be. For our mental health we need to indulge in a variety of activities and interests. We are multi-dimensional beings, not cogs in a big machine. But there is so little recognition of this that it is not surprising that many people feel they have no interest in the culture that they live in.

What we see from the people who should have our interests at heart is basic divide and rule philosophy. This is typical short term, short sighted thinking. We are all human and we are all in this boat together. Sometimes we need specific space to work through issues, but male, female, young, old, gay, straight, any skin colour, any physical or mental health problems (or lack of them), any religious affiliation (or not) we are on this beautiful planet together. and we need to see where we have shared interests in keeping both ourselves and our planet alive and thriving.

To counter all this negativity, all these attempts to drive us apart, all this pressure to conform to a more and more limited selection of stereotypes, we need to combine and subvert. We can do that. We will all benefit from doing that. And, we can do that with love and forgiveness in our hearts. Forgiveness for those who did not understand, did not see. They have problems and demons that make their lives too difficult to look up, to see the bigger picture.

Understanding will have to serve for those who did what they have done, who have been short sighted and selfish, with awareness and deliberation. And that understanding will give us a starting place to build our society so that such people can never hold positions of power again.

We can build a better, more loving world, we need to do that firstly by taking responsibility for ourselves. So many people seem not to be aware that only I am responsible for my actions, no one else is; I am not responsible for anyone else’s actions, they are.

In all honesty I can’t make you do anything you really don’t want to, and you can’t make me do anything. We can exert pressure on each other that may make us feel that we have to, but everyone has a sticking point, beyond which they will not be pushed.

If we talk to each other, if we are willing to see each other as valid human beings, we can learn new things, not by force, but by negotiation, mutual understanding, and, compromise (compromise is not a dirty word, unless you are talking about compromising your moral stand point).
Compromise is how humans (and many other animals) get on. It is meeting in the middle and everyone giving a little bit of ground, so that no one is standing on anyone else’s toes. Give and take, balance, mutual respect…

That has to be a good starting point. It seems like common sense.

Everything is Political

Some times going shopping is very difficult. Not because of lack of money, though we are a long way short of well off, but because we are increasingly aware of the fact that every financial decision is a political decision.

I am a great fan of orang-utans. I am aware that their habitat is being destroyed in order to grown more palms to process to make palm oil. Therefore I do not want to eat anything with palm oil or palm fat in it. This means that almost any processed food is out. That’s not so bad, processed food is seriously lacking in nutritional value.

But what about tea or coffee? As a confirmed caffeine addict I can’t do without it, but how fair is Fairtrade? I know Fairtrade insists that local people get paid a reasonable amount for their work, but what about other issues like, is this a crop that should be grown in this area or not? Do the farmers embrace sustainable farming practices? Do they treat their animals and other human beings well? What is their dependence on oil? And should we really be importing goods from countries that would benefit far more from feeding their own people than from gaining western currency so that they can import food from other places that probably need it even more than they do?

I hope you read that previous paragraph very carefully, because I don’t want to be accused of being unfair to Fairtrade. I’m just using them as an example to help illustrate how complex the whole nonsense of buying has become.

Additionally there is the problem of which corporations do you really want to give your money too? Nestlé is mining water from various drought stricken states in America. Then selling the water back in bottles.

Very often even when you think you have made a good decision in spending your money you will discover that the company you trusted has been bought by one of the mega-corporations, sometimes directly, other times through one of their subsidiaries that most people don’t realise has any links with the mega-corporations.

But even on a small local scale, what about having your hair cut? Do you go to your local hairdresser? Is it part of a national chain? Which companies do they get their supplies from? Are these companies you want to support? Do you really want to support the “beauty” industry (I think it should be called the “insecurity” industry, it exploits peoples feelings of insecurity about their appearance).

And so it goes on… nothing is without links to other things. Making choices is very difficult today. You could spend hours each day researching whether a company is one you want to support or not. Or you could do what most people do, ignore where your money is going and buy what you think you want. Both are still political decisions. One is exhausting and potentially very frustrating (though I guess sometimes you might find a real winner), the other is an abdication of responsibility that actually supports the status quo.

When I talk about the status quo (not the band), I do not mean a system that will protect our lifestyles, I do not mean a system that will keep us safe and comfortable. I mean the system (or culture) that has gradually moved us away from the lives we knew as children, I mean the system that is changing increasingly quickly, and becoming more and more inequitable. It is both a political and a financial system, and it exploits anyone without the wealth to protect themselves.

The financial and political systems are interlinked to a frightening degree. In America the latest election was more or less bought by the party that had the wealthiest corporations backing them. In the UK the Conservative Party and UKIP are supported by huge financial injections from people who have a vested interest (they think) in keeping the poor poor and divided.

They are people who have very little understanding of just what they are supporting. They tend to see things in terms of right or wrong. They have never stood on their desk in the classroom to discover that your perspective changes both what you see and how you see it. Life is complex, everything is interlinked, every choice can either support the current system or help to ease things in a slightly different, and possibly better, direction.