Sunday, August 23, 2009

Urm, last time I checked this was MY uterus

Dear father-in-law,

It may have escaped your notice, but we're now living in the 21st century. Women "achieved" equality with men in Australia in the 1970s, contraception became widely available around the same time and religion has been on the decline in Australia since about then, at least. Specifically Christianity, the religion you profess to belong to... well you'd state Catholicism, because you define it all differently.

Anyway, that's kinda besides the point. Lets remember some history here so my comments are more in context. In July 2006 I had an ectopic pregnancy. Now, you seemed to have, at that time, no understanding of what an ectopic pregnancy was, how people can and do die from them, and how close you came to having a widow for a son. I say you have no understanding because you asked, 3 months later if I was pregnant again, "gotten on the horse that threw you" kind of stuff. I was so shocked I didn't knee you in the testicles, though everyone agreed later that I should have.

In May 2007 I got pregnant again and then miscarried. It wasn't as upsetting as the whole ectopic pregnancy thing (funnily enough) and I got over it. I didn't tell you. I didn't tell you because a) it was none of your business and b) I miscarried at 6 weeks, which is incredibly common. If everyone who miscarried at that point told the world, we'd all be upset for them all the time.

In December 2007 you discovered that I had miscarried in May and we had a HUGE blazing row when I told you that I didn't want you to ever talk about me being pregnant again to you... you threw me out of the house... what you don't know is that this was one of the funniest experiences of my entire life. Granted you had had a serious heart attack earlier in December and were emotionally fucked up as a result... hence me not taking your yelling and screaming at me personally. By this stage I was actually over both the miscarriage and the ectopic pregnancy, and was of two minds as to whether or not I'd try again... you certainly didn't help.

In July 2008, when you were down for my grandmother's funeral, and after I mentioned my sisters' children, you ask if I've finally gotten over my two losses. I can't remember what I replied, but as my grandmother had just died, and you'd done me the "favour" of coming ALL this way for her funeral, I decided to not kick you out of my house at that point.

In December 2008 when you came and visited again, you compared my miscarriage to your daughters recent one. I thought that this demonstrated an incredibly lack of tact and understanding on your behalf. Miscarriages are painful things, and people generally want some privacy to grieve and not to have comments made about them.

In April 2009, when we had come up for your 50th wedding anniversary, you told me as I was leaving, that if I wanted any help with getting pregnant that I should speak to your wife who has blessed medallions that are guaranteed to help.

On Saturday, August 2008, ten minutes after arriving in my house for a visit while I had a pile of homework to do for school and your son was in the US for business (and you only gave me 24 hours of notice that you were coming), you ask me, "How's the pregnancy thing going?". My response, "We're not talking about that." Your interpretation, "Oh, so you've given up. I'm sure God has other plans for you."

Thank you God for having other plans for me.

My response, "If God wanted me pregnant, I'd be pregnant by now." Which is a nice way to end a conversation that I didn't want to have anyway. Clearly you'd forgotten the huge blazing row we had had in December 2007, and given that you'd had a heart attack about 4 weeks beforehand, that is entirely possible... but let me remind you of some of the things you said...

"You do realise that any children you have would be MY grandchildren?"
"You can't call me Peter, you can call me Dad or Mr Dominguez"

Lets start with the first one shall we? Any children I have, will be MY children... not yours, not my parent's, not the next door neighbour's, not the church's or anyone but me and its father. If I choose to have children, it will be because I want to have them and any pressure or sense that you think I should have children can take a flying leap into eternity for all I care. Its my body, my reproductive system and I have a right to privacy as far as my reproductive potential goes.

Get your goddamn hands off my uterus.

Oh, and you already have 16 grandchildren. Don't you think that there are sufficient grandchildren there? I certainly think that 16 is overdoing it a bit. I manage to remember all their names, but am not close to any of them, don't buy them presents and am generally a very poor aunt.

Tonight, while we were at dinner, you again hoped that I might have the joy of having a child. Just last night we agreed that I wasn't going to have any children, and then you tell me that you hope I might change my mind and have the joy of a child. When will you just fuck off about this?

Motherhood, by the by, is not what women aim for in life. Well not all women, some really do want to be mothers, and that is their be all and end all in life. However, you should never define a woman by whether or not she's had children. Our discussion of Quentin Bryce, the current Governor General of Australia, should not have, "Ah yes, another fine woman, a mother, a grandmother..." mentioned anywhere in it, unless of course we were talking about her children, which we weren't. Women are more than uteri that have the potential to have children. I am not a lesser woman just because I am not having children. To make me a second class citizen of a class that for the most part can be defined as second class citizens is so very very wrong. I don't begrudge women who have children, but I certainly don't think that they are better than me for having children or define them by the fact that they have had children.

Now, the whole "dad' or "Mr Dominguez" thing. You are NOT my father. You will never be my father and as my father-in-law, you only have a limited right to any of my personal information and no right to cast comment on me or my lifestyle, no matter how much you think you do (oh and only if you knew about my lifestyle... but anyway). You also have never gained my respect, so "Mr Dominguez" is not something that I'll ever call you either. You'll have to manage with "Hey you" and "Peter". I don't care if you don't like either of them, since I don't have any other options and "fuck head" and "dick head" are considered obscenities.

In general I find your conservatism, conspiracy theories, racism, homophobia and religious intolerance impossible to bear. I grit my teeth when I am around you until I get really bad headaches from the jaw tension. Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, converts, small l liberals, greenies, people of the LBGTIQ spectrum and anyone with a different skin colour to your own is as much a valid human being as you, and as entitled to walk this earth, occupy positions of power and do what they think is best. I find your narrow minded beliefs incredible and do wonder how on earth that thing between your ears that you call a brain functions, because everyone else I know is completely alien to you, even my mother who is more conservative than me.

I find you impossible to deal with, the fact that I can tell you something and two minutes later you've forgotten, because you weren't paying enough attention, irritating. Yes you are deaf, I understand that, I do what I can to make myself heard, but you don't listen to me anyway. I can tell you to turn left at the next roundabout, only to have you, when we get there 2 minutes later, keep driving straight and to act all offended that I hadn't told you, even though you had acknowledged what I said 2 minutes earlier.

Now, I have a splitting headache and need to sleep... and hope that you feel sorry for me in the morning and don't wake me up when you leave.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The Ten Suggestions or A Royal Law of Love?"

Subject courtesy of the "United Church of God" and a pamphlet they sent me recently. I want to address the whole idea that the 10 Commandments apply to EVERYONE in the WHOLE world. I think it's sheer arrogance... but here is what else the United Church of God has to say on the issue.

Do the Ten Commandments have relevance to our every day life in this hectic and confusing 21st century?

Some people consider them to be only good suggestions, while others may make an attempt to practice some of them. Very few view these commandments for what they really are: the best advice our loving Creator can give us. They are designed to protect us, our families and communities.

Properly understood, these principles not only apply to today's world, but they can also transform the way we think and how we approach the problems and difficulties of life.

Ok, so apparently the 10 Commandments are just as valid now, as when Moses walked down Mt Sinai countless centuries ago... First lets go and find what the 10 Commandments actually are... as biblically stated versus the common understanding of what they are... because biblically there are actually two versions.

The first in the bible is actually from Exodus 20:2-17 (NIV) and the second version is from Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (NIV). There is also a set of 10 Commandments at Exodus 34:11-27, which are completely different to the first Exodus set and Deuteronomy. Wikipedia has usefully outlined the similarities and differences here so that I don't have to. Actually go and read the whole article, I can wait... its interesting.

Ah, you're back... so the 10 Commandments... are they actually still relevant in this day and age? All of these are taken from here which doesn't necessarily tie in with the NIV bible I have in front of me. Where significantly different, I'll comment...

ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'

Right... clearly this only applies to people who believe in the Christian-Judiac-Islamic God. There is no wiggle room here for Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians (??), Taoists, Atheists... or anyone who isn't Christian, Jewish or Muslim (though the Qu'ran has its own Commandments).

Clearly this fails the modern day understanding of freedom of religion being a human right.

TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'

I think many Christians fail this one... Muslims tend not to create sculpture or paintings of people for it is forbidden, and some Jews also don't have statues or paintings of people for the same reasons.

The actual bible quote refers to creating and worshipping idols, somewhat different to creating images and likeness of stuff. Oh and the original bible verse has God being a vengeful God... hardly the type of image that we want to propagate these days.

4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

So, yes this one fails as well. Again assumes a belief in a certain God, and then tells you not to worship other stuff. Something that many people tend to forget... Evangelical Christian right in the US? Hello, can you hear me? Worshipping money and power? Bad people, naughty... big smacks.

THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'

Oh Jesus Christ! Oops did I just blaspheme? I don't typically say that phrase, but I think that most English speakers these days use, "Oh God" just as freely as they say, "and", "if" and "oops". Again this relies on a belief of a certain God, and for those who don't, clearly doesn't apply.

FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'

Which Sabbath day? Exodus goes on to suggest that no one, not the Jews, the slaves, their animals or foreigners are allowed to work on the Sabbath, hence the Orthodox Jews not working on Saturdays, looking for ways to avoid working accidentally... you know by using light switches... I think that its all a little over the top, but that's their choice.

So, back to which Sabbath day... The Jews, the originators of the Old Testament of the Bible say that the Sabbath is Saturday, the last day of the week. Most Christians view Sunday as a holy day because that is when Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore is holy for that reason... the Sabbath moved thanks to Jesus. But Christians may attend a service or mass, but then continue on with the rest of their lives, working or whatever on Sunday... well these days anyway.

I think the Seventh Day Adventists returned the Sabbath to Saturday, but I don't know a lot about them, and haven't researched them, that's a story for another day.

So, again, this requires a particular belief in a particular God, because you're resting on "His" day of rest, so... it fails.

FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'

Not a lot of leeway here. So what about the parent which abuses the child, physically, sexually or emotionally? Should that child honour their parents? I certainly wouldn't suggest so. That's gross betrayal, and certainly not good parenting according to anyone's idea of decent parents. We don't live in the dark ages any more. It'd be nice if the 10 Commandments didn't any more either. This one fails for not considering what happens to the children who are abused.

SIX: 'You shall not murder.'

Yay! One that passes. Apparently Catholic catechism goes one further and states that "You shall not kill... except in cases of capital punishment (though they'd prefer incarceration and rehabilitation) or war (if necessary and for good reasons).

So, standard ethics here... don't kill people because you don't want to live in a society where people could kill you. Killing is bad... m'kay?

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

According to the bible I commit adultery every second week night and every other weekend when I sleep with my other husband. Because men could have multiple wives back in biblical times, women however were the property of their husbands and didn't have the right to have multiple husbands. I'm fighting back against this trend... lets not also mention the bisexuality... that might make the bible writers head explode.

So adultery you reckon... what exactly is adultery?

Thanks to wikepedia (again)

Adultery is the voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not that person's spouse. In most cases and especially in Western countries, only the married party is said to have committed adultery, and if both parties are married (but not to each other) then they both commit separate acts of adultery. In other countries, both parties to the adultery are considered guilty, while in others again only the woman is able to commit adultery and to be considered guilty. In some cases it is only considered adultery when a married woman has sexual relations with someone without the permission of her husband.

Right... actually on the basis that modern, so called Christian societies fail this one on a regular basis, I'm thinking of Governor Standford as a beautiful example here, and I'm sure you can think of other so-called Christian and perhaps even Jewish people who have had affairs and recognise that this standard is failed by society in general.

Given that I'm not a practiser of monogamy, can I actually be accused of adultery? If I cheated on my partners, then perhaps I could... I'll let this one pass only if we can redefine adultery to mean "cheating and lying" and then tie it into number 9 below.

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

This one passes too. You don't want to live in a society where people steal your stuff, so you shouldn't steal their stuff. Nice simple ethics.

NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'

This one passes too. Don't lie, be honest. Not that hard really... I don't care how much you don't like or even like your neighbour... being honest is the right thing to do.

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

To covet:
1 : to wish for earnestly
2 : to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably (Merriam Dictionary)

What exactly is wrong with wanting something? I'd love to be as rich as... urm... Bill Gates, minus the tosseriness (and yes that is a word). I'd really like to have so much money that I can sleep on it, rub it all over my body, burn it to keep warm... and not have a care in my life. I don't... but what is wrong with wishing for that?

What is wrong for looking at a neighbour's or relative's house and thinking that I'd like something like that, or some item in that house? Provided I'm not stealing or lying about it, how is this wrong?

This one fails on being illogical. Its good to have dreams and its good to chase them... wishing or desiring an object, a status or lifestyle can provide the impetus to seek out those dreams. I'm all for coveting, so go right ahead.

So in summary, the 10 Commandments are not "A Royal Law of Love" and are not relevant to the 21st century. Lets find some other decent ethics and create a new and interesting moral society... I'm all for moral universalism myself.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Exclusive clubs

Exclusion on any basis tends to annoy me. Always has. The exclusive nature of apartheid in South Africa was probably one of the things that taught me that exclusion was a bad thing. Afterall everyone was saying how bad it was, and South Africa was a pariah among "western" nations... so clearly excluding people on the basis of skin colour was a bad thing. This much I figured out.

I also wasn't a fan of unfairness which wasn't quite exclusion, but was almost. Someone being treated unfairly because of a real or perceived difference by someone else. A beautiful, intelligent and patient Aboriginal girl at my primary school was made to repeat Grade 3 (after finishing Grade 6) because the school did not know what to do with her. Suddenly an 11 year old girl was placed with the 8 year olds. When I spoke to her about it, she said that she would transfer to Yirarra and finish her education there as soon as she could. In a typical 8 year old fashion, I never chased it up nor do I remember if she eventually did.

My parents, well more my mother, was big on fairness, non-discriminatory behaviour and treating people equally regardless of who they were and where they were from. The missionary inspired teachers that taught me in Alice Springs were also big on social justice, and the nuns and brothers of the Sacred Heart in Alice Springs were also big on social justice.

One good thing about my Catholic upbringing, was generally the ability to discuss social justice issues and talk about fairness and justice in general. Certainly more useful in my primary school in Alice Springs versus my secondary schooling in Bendigo.

My mother, in Alice Springs, taught Aboriginal students in the Aboriginal Unit of my Catholic Primary School. She thought that it was exclusionary for those students who had good attendance and who did not need the extra support that the Aboriginal Unit was developed to provide to be kept away from the mainstream educational system. She fought for those students to be included in mainstream schooling and only for those who needed extra support and attention to be in her unit. She had the support of the Parish Priest, but outraged those social conservatives who thought they knew best about what these students needed, and lets face it who were probably consciously or unconsciously racist, to be kept in the Aboriginal Unit. So outraged were they, they started a smear campaign against my mother and the Catholic Priest, suggesting that they were having an affair and were horrible to me and my sisters. Thankfully we left town for unrelated reasons just as this started to get really nasty.

So why this blog post... well I've had some interesting conversations with people about exclusion recently, and read some interesting articles about exclusive clubs and the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission's thoughts on exclusion for clubs. It has been suggested by the Government I believe that exclusions granted to clubs and institutions to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and the like may actually not be in line with Victoria's Human Rights Charter.

Of course religious groups have complained that the state is interfering with their religious freedom by not letting them discriminate and exclude people whose lifestyles and/or beliefs are not in line with their religions, and Men's clubs in Melbourne are also under attack. Both of these, of course break my heart and bring tears to my eyes... not.

You see... I've rethought exclusion. I have a problem when a powerful group excludes a powerless, or less powerful group.... though there are caveats here. So when white Africaans in South Africa excluded all black people... they were a powerful minority, the same goes for Sunnis in Bahrain excluding the Shia in Bahrain. Its not about the size of the group, just the power that they possess. So a Men's club in Melbourne being under threat by a change of law? Yippee! Force them to live in the modern day and age... and deal with some diversity - because I'd suspect that they're not only a male only club, but they also have "standards" as to who their members can be... so I'm guessing wealthy, mostly white business men.

The same goes for religious groups... and I'm looking mostly at Christian churches here, because that is where my experience is. A group that has spent time persecuting and excluding less powerful members of society or their own less powerful members... they'll suddenly have to employ single mothers, queer folk, divorcees, etc. This cannot be a bad thing, as much as they may sook about it. I'm quite happy that Christian school children will actually have a wider world experience with people from different situations in society. It'd be really nice if there was a way to force the Catholic Church to accept women and married men as priests... but I don't see that happening at this point.

The legislative change also goes for Women's Clubs... which I have a bit more of a problem with, because traditionally women actually have less power, and need safe space to network and generally exercise. I suspect that Women's Clubs will be able to successfully fight for their right to exclude men on the basis that far too many women are harassed and killed in gyms than men (just look at that recent massacre in the US for instance), and that women's clubs are required until women really do have full equality with men .

But what happens when a persecuted minority group, who has their own private club on private land, begins to exlude others? I can understand a lesbian's collective excluding men... and to an extent I can understand them excluding hetrosexual women. But by what token can they exclude bisexual women or even trans-women? Apparently the argument for excluding trans-women is that they were born male and therefore have accessed the privallege that men have... but surely by transitioning to female, they've not only forgone any privallege they may have had (and since when was the queer looking boy at school granted any privallege?) they've also assigned themselves far into "other" territory and are far more discriminated against and excluded than lesbians. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I guess bisexuals, by their argument, have the best of both worlds, spend time passing as hetrosexual or something. This is not an issue which I have spoken to any radical lesbians about, I just participated in a conversation with someone who is bisexual who was aware of this conundrum.

An ideal world is one where people are recognised for the intrinsic value they possess and the unique gifts they bring into the world. A world where gender, sexuality, relationship status and skin colour aren't even noticed.

Doctor Who - The Doctor Dances [2005]
Captain Jack Harkness: I've gotten to know Algy quite well since I've been in town. Trust me, you're not his type. I'll distract him. Don't wait up.

The Doctor: Relax. He's a fifty-first century guy. He's just a bit more flexible when it comes to 'dancing'.

Rose Tyler: How flexible?

The Doctor: Well, by his time, you lot are spread out across half the galaxy.

Rose Tyler: Meaning?

The Doctor: So many species, so little time.

Rose Tyler: What, that's what we do when we get out there? That's our mission? We seek new life and...


Rose Tyler: and...

The Doctor: [nodding] Dance.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PETA annoy me

I'm not against the ethical treatment of animals, I think that PETA has done some sterling work in relation to having people think about the ways animals react to things and considering them as beings versus objects and this isn't a bad thing. However, I do object to PETA's demand that Australian farmers stop mulesing their sheep and their critique of Sam Neil and his support of the meat industry.

Lets start with mulesing. PETA state that it's "cruel and painful and that more humane alternatives exist" (wikipedia), without actually stating what "more humane" alternatives there are... you know being useful instead of just condemning. It would be nice if they decided to research said humane alternatives and provide a response instead of getting businesses to boycott Australian wool for our alleged cruel practices.

The Wikipedia article linked to above has a good summary of the debate and what is being done where. If you want more education on the whole debate, that's not a bad place to start.

I don't know if PETA have actually seen a sheep with flystrike, but my mother cared for one a couple of years ago, and what she described sounds far worse than mulesing. She told me that the sheep looked like it was walking mince meat... it was in obvious pain and midway through the infestation was unable to walk and barely able to feed itself. It eventually healed thanks to both my parents care and is now a healthy sheep... but is it crueller to provide short-term pain (much like a vaccination) or let an animal (or person) suffer the consequences of an infestation/disease because the short-term pain is considered cruel?

Now Sam Neil. You can see his long term involvement with the meat industry here, here, here, and here. Some of them are funny, go and see.... this post can wait. He also did, though barely recognisable, an ad for vegetarian food, suggesting that vegetarianism is the next step in human evolution. Clearly Sam Neil also has bills to pay.

Anyway... What annoyed me about PETA's commentary on Sam Neil's personal decision to be, or not to be, involved in an ad campaign was their language and assumptions. Firstly they banter around the word "Jurassic" because he was in the movies... failing completely to realise that the Jurassic period had no ape like ancestors around at the time, and that all the mammals at that time were small rat-racoon like things (evolution of mammals here and human evolution here). The first primates, our ancestors, appeared about the same time that dinosaurs died out.

Of course PETA could be suggesting that meat eating is a dinosaur thing... but really most of the mammals around at that time would have been insectivores. And Sam Neil is right, well the script writer for the ads that Sam appeared in, is right. Without eating meat, it is unlikely that we'd be the species we are today. Whether we consume too much meat or not is another issue... and one I'll address shortly.

The whole "Meat: It's What's Rotting in Your Colon" myth that PETA continue to push, without any medical citations also annoys me. Snopes have a good commentary on that here, but lets just think about the whole claim logically. I eat meat... I have various digestive issues that relate to fructose malabsorption and the fact that I have had my gall bladder removed recently, so I also have what is called an enzyme dump, which will rectify itself in time. On that basis, my colon is often spasming due the laxative effect of the fructose and enzymes... on the days that it is not, I certainly don't notice the horrible effects of meat rotting in my colon. I live with two other people, and I don't notice any horrible effects of meat rotting in their colon... and given what road kill smells like, surely my house would smell the same if meat was rotting in anyone's colon here.

Oddly enough its actually very hard to dig up enough information about the veracity of the claim that red meat (or any meat) rots in your colon. The internet is full of people with opinions and agendas to push (hello there) and so there are doctors who are devoutly religious who have vegetarian agendas to push, PETA with their agenda to push, misinformation and other stuff... This site suggests that meat can take some days to digest, depending on your individual circumstances.

Wikipedia (and here) doesn't suggest that meat sits in the digestive system for days, and as its the most reliable source of information I can find at the moment, I'm going with them.

Now, if PETA had gone down a sensible path... suggesting, for example, that farming animals is bad for the environment, uses too much water and produces large amounts of Greenhouse gas, as the people have leaned to, then they'd be more credible about the whole thing. If they'd run with, "abattoirs are horrible places and animals suffer terribly in them AND meat eating is terribly bad for the environment" I probably wouldn't be so annoyed with them.

In the end, I personally recommend eating less meat... don't eat it every day, exist on less, eat more vegetables and fruit than meat, etc. The current editorial thing on advocates that, and that is a far more successful message... tap into the growing green consciousness and welfare of animals versus scoring cheap political points.