Saturday, 19 August 2017

[ sometimes, read stuff you don't agree with ]

Everyone can write these days. They can blog, video, or even live-stream their every thought and experience to the greater population, regardless of talent, education, or even understanding of appropriateness. Journalism, as such, is no longer just the domain of trained writers.

Which is what it is really. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing and, though I absolutely think there is a difference between free speech and hate speech, the ability for any citizen to make their thoughts known (in a hopefully constructive manner) is still a pretty amazing thing.

Just as random examples; a while back we talked about procrastination, and how unproductive it can be. I dipped into the death of romance, and what it means to me today. Let's not forget my cheeky swipe at BvS here too. These are my thoughts and not necessarily shared by my friends, family or workmates, whether in part or entirety.


Recently, I introduced you to Alain de Botton, who writes a variety of books, my favourite of which is currently Consolations of Philosophy. It's thoughtful, funny, and jam-packed with ancient and modern references. It left me feeling both inspired and a little gloomy. Still one of my favourite books, however.

This guy is brilliant. Mark Manson is the bestselling author of this, and he's pretty inspiring to an amateur blogger like myself. He also talks a lot of bollocks occasionally and I really don't agree with some of the stuff he comes out with.

Clementine Ford makes me absolutely lose my mind on a regular basis; I'm alternately awed and baffled by her. She makes me hurrah, she makes me cringe, she makes me laugh my ass off. Here and here are the best places I've found to read her stuff, but are by no means the be all and end all.

Be warned, Clem is not for the faint of heart or those who lack the courage of their convictions. She is not here to make you feel better about yourself, but you will anyway and you'll probably learn something as well. I tend to agree with her about 75% of the time, and her methods about the same.

I read her stuff equally when I agree as to when I don't.


Here's where we come to my point; I read a decent amount of stuff that I don't actually agree with. Things I feel uncomfortable about, things that I don't really understand, ideas I generally think are, as stated above, bollocks.

Lest we mistake 'things I don't agree with' for hate reading, I'm not talking about going looking for all Trump's latest fascist vitriol, or what all the ex-Bachelor contestants (is anyone else uncomfortable calling them that...??) are up to post-eviction, or even the seemingly endless parade of malarkey our government has been trotting out the last few weeks.

Though to be fair; Trump's Twitter reads like a Garth Ennis comic, ex-Bachies seem to get more press after they've left the mansion, and when it comes to our government, I suspect even Malcolm is starting to get a nervous twitch, assuaged only by copious amounts of red wine and Valium.

But I digress.

Things I have issue with include, the now 'moved-on' (heavy on the sarcasm please, editor) tent city that was in Martin Place, blaming tap-and-go for kids financial literacy, and Westconnex (waaay too many links to just choose one).

Each of these things have such amazing contradictory elements, that I can't just gloss over and be happy with reading a story or two. Taking any of them at face-value would feel terribly superficial and trite, should I want to discuss them with others.

And that's the rub, isn't it? I often find myself in conversations with people about things they know very little about. Apart from being super annoying, it's also really disconcerting.

For example, I know someone who thought the tent city was an utter disgrace and was downright relieved when they heard it had gone. However, they hadn't actually seen it and I had (walking past twice a week on the way to training), and were unaware that the government didn't actually go very far in attempting to rehouse these people - only that it had been there, was an 'eyesore', and 'everyone' was relieved it was gone. The complexity of such a situation - who could have done what and when, including the residents themselves - was also lost on them.

This kind of social ignorance - willfully ignoring or not bothering to do research (a quick Google would have sufficed!) - kind of freaks me out. Especially when highly intelligent, skilled professionals - who are meant to be my peers - bring it up in conversation like they think it's important.


Mistaking the forest for the trees seems to another modern tactic in keeping ourselves complicit in such ignorance.

Reading that children are in danger of being financially illiterate is certainly a very real concern. Blaming it on the system that was created to make financial transactions easier, more stream-lined, and keep customers less in touch with their finances, feels less like a blow in the right direction of education, and more like a clumsy attempt to nail down a complex issue without considering all the elements in play.

Children may become financially illiterate because we are developing faster and easier ways to make adults illiterate. We give our society options to manage money without explaining it in detail, and therefore have people racking up debt they can never pay off.

It's certainly not all as bad as that sounds, but it's not all good either. Choosing the relatively recent invention of tap-and-go and then focusing on our youth - who are years away from managing finances as it is - seems a woefully inadequate start, and a strange way to spend a researchers grant money.


Westconnex is the multi-layered beast for which there seems no clear way to define. 

Way back when, while I was having breakfast one morning, there was a long and loud protest march on King Street, Newtown . This was in the very early days, before any of the actual construction had started, and I knew very little about the project to be honest, except that it was destined to be the solution to our transport problems. 

Back then, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about; er, modern new transport system, surely a good thing, right...? 

Well, yes and no, as it turns out. Far from jumping off the bandwagon, I did my research (and continue to monitor developments), and found out how much more intricate it was, and continues to be. 

I'll spare you the endless articles and pieces, and give you the frills-free notes; Westconnex was set to be a brilliant transport solution (still is...ish). We got $16 million (no, not a typo) over budget before work even started. Ex-Premier Mike Baird jumped ship just as the going got tough, which really wasn't a great sign, to be honest. Sydney CBD started to look like one giant, mechano-set, construction zone, and things kind of went downhill from there...

But, (and this is where it gets sticky, because it's all sounding rather brown trousers time about now, isn't it?), nothing is ever as simple as all that. 

Westconnex will create a transport infrastructure the likes of which Sydney has never seen. It has created 10,000 jobs including apprenticeships, and 1,600 benefiting businesses have signed contracts to the tune of a cool $1.6 million. 

Confused? Yea, me too.

Because here's the thing; I thought Westconnex was great, then I thought it was a farce, and now I'm not so sure. I walk to work through mini dust-clouds of construction every day. The noise alone is utterly appalling. Even then, it's hard not to see the proposed structure taking shape. The sections are small, and they presently do not outweigh the monster building works around them...but they are there and they are growing.

And seriously, if you bullishly ignore the 10,000 jobs, then there's not really much more we have to talk about.

Maybe the weather?


Hate reading is bad, and spreading fake news is toxic (Trump didn't invent it, he just Tweeted it first). This shouldn't be something we need to discuss.

But being naive and uninformed is. I know, because I was. Not badly and not often, but certainly at times that made me look foolish and uneducated.

It's 2017; we can't be that person.

Whether we do it not to risk FOMO (I'm appalled I know this term considering how much I loathe YOLO, but at least I know it), want to be able to make intelligent conversation, or are actually involved in whatever it is (and if we don't know as much about it as our baristas, we should probably quit our jobs) -  we need to be informed, we need to be educated, we need to be armed with knowledge. Remember; knowledge is power.

So, go on, read about the South China Sea (it's ok to be confused at the end - we all are). Check out Wikipedia's Brexit if you're still unclear about it (more confusion, also fine). Follow some conspiracy-theory threads written by not-so-peer-reviewed writers.

And pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio occasionally (yes, we still have those, they are connected to the sound system in your car, it's not just house music and Beach Boys).

Besides, if nothing else, just remember; being smart is sexy. Looks will fade, being brainy is forever.


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