Live and let bonk

The Age reported today that a British MP was “outed” as bisexual, which may have “scuppered his prospects of leading the Liberal Democrat party”.  The article dealt with the matter as a straightforward result of the whole hacking scandal which has had the press in paroxysms for what seems like years now.  It never addressed the question of why the sexuality of that MP was in any way relevant to his leadership chances.

While in these days of quiet desperation
As I wander through the world in which I live
I search everywhere for some new inspiration
But it’s more than cold reality can give

It saddens me that we are still here – in a world where being gay can scupper your chances of anything (except, possibly, a heterosexual relationship), and where being bisexual is a political liability of unassailable proportions.

How can that be? How is a politician’s sex life in any way relevant to his or her performance in office? How is anyone else’s sex life in any way relevant to me unless I am trying to pursue a sexual relationship with them?

If I need a cause for celebration
Or a comfort I can use to ease my mind
I rely on my imagination
And I dream of an imaginary time

Who I take to bed is no-one’s business except mine and my partner’s. Or partners’, should I so choose (ah, the subtle impact of apostrophe placement!). Who you take to bed is none of my business, unless it’s me.

I want to write more on this, but I am really stumped. It seems so blindingly self-evident. Sexuality is for the bedroom. It is (or should be) irrelevant to politics. Once we legalise gay marriage (and we will – it’s inevitable, get over it, move on), sexuality should not appear on the political stage. We all need to grow up.

Oh oh, and I know that everybody has a dream
Everybody has a dream, everybody has a dream
And this is my dream, my own
Just to be at home and to be all alone with you

Everybody Has a Dream, Billy Joel

I dream of a time when sexuality is irrelevant to politics – when who and how you love is up to you. Johnny Galecki, star of the Big Bang Theory said it best when questioned about the persistent rumours that he is gay, and why he has not bothered to scotch them. “Why defend yourself against something that’s not offensive?”

Why indeed?

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Reawakenings

Every so often something happens to make you pause and look at your life closely. Sometimes you wonder: is this who I truly am? Other times you look around, blinking in the bright light, wondering: how did I get here? We hurtle though our lives at breakneck pace, and more often than not we are buffeted by the waves of circumstance, rather than deciding our own destiny.

I recently grabbed my destiny by the throat and chose to have major surgery rather than continue to endure the chronic pain that had begun to define my life. I am fortunate that I had the choice. Many don’t.

Last week I underwent surgery that I was told would take 4-6 weeks to get over. After 6 days I was already in less pain than before the operation. Today – just 10 days later – I am starting to get my bounce back.

With my bounce comes an exquisite emotional intensity that I have been privileged to experience before. It is the emotional reawakening that comes as I walk out of the dark, dead woods of chronic illness into the bright sunlight of wellness. In this state music can move me to tears. An email from a friend can take my breath away. Flowers, visitors, even phone calls are so joyous they almost hurt.

Fortunately this state doesn’t usually last too long. Right now it is tenuous as I continue to recover from surgery, but I am hoping that it will last, and soon I will no longer be a boiled frog in a world of pain. You know the story – if you put a frog in boiling water it will leap straight out, but if you put it in cold water and slowly raise the temperature the frog doesn’t realise what is happening, and it will stay until it boils and dies. That’s what happened to my pain levels. They got worse and worse and more and more frequent until I was in constant pain that ate away at my entire being. It stole my energy, my good humour and my resilience, until I barely recognised myself in the mirror.

I have stood here before in the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

King of Pain, The Police.

What I find truly shocking about this experience is how many others are suffering similar pain – mine was from adenomyosis, which is an exceptionally painful condition that begins with painful periods and can end, as it did for me, in constant pain – not unlike being in labour 24/7. Talking with friends about why I chose to have surgery, I have heard numerous tales of unending pain. If there is no “serious” pathology underlying it, such as cancer, the medical profession seems to downplay it and, often, they are not terribly interested in finding solutions. So we walk away and continue to suffer. I am lucky enough to have a compassionate doctor who listens to me, and trusts me. I am lucky enough to be regaining my spirit, my energy and my life right now.

I can’t help wondering how many people out there are enduring chronic pain that is actually treatable. How many lives are needlessly draining away in endless, aching trauma?

Tell me lies

Critical thinking is a skill that remains sadly untaught – or at least unlearnt – throughout our society. Of course we don’t have time to analyse every statement and research every reported fact. To a large extent we trust the media to do it for us, but this is a risky move, especially when you see someone like Gina Rinehart buying into a media empire. It is widely reported that she expects to be able to control editorial content once she has a big enough share of Fairfax.

Is this what we have now? A system of media where whoever has the most money controls what we see, hear, and even feel?

GetUp recently circulated a video where Christopher Monckton suggested that the mining industry needed to create its own news channel in order to influence public opinion. Which leads me to ponder – who influences my opinion? Who influences yours? Are our opinions up for sale to the highest bidder?

It rather puts paid (hah!) to the notion of a free and fair press.

Even where motives may be less suspect, journalists frequently seem to lack the ability to apply basic critical thinking skills. That’s the charitable interpretation, of course – it may be that they simply go for the most alarming headline. Consider this one, out of The Age in Melbourne today: “Worst Retail year since 1984.” Gosh, that does sound bad. Given that retail sales have been growing, and that was – oh, my! – nearly 30 years ago, sales must have fallen dramatically to have been worse than 1984. However, 2 minutes spent reading the article shows that sales have grown since the year before.

What? How on earth does that work?

Worst retail year since 1984, yet sales have grown since the previous year?

Yes, boys and girls, apparently it is the worst year because it is the lowest growth of any year since 1984. So sales have grown – every year, in fact – but they grew a little less last year (the year before they grew by 2.5, this year a measly 2.4). Quite apart from the whole conversation about the sustainability of endless growth (as David Suzuki said: “Economists and cancer cells think they can grow forever”), I can’t help feeling that sales declining might justify that headline, but sales increasing just a fraction slower do not.

Ok, I would be the first to admit that I am not an economist. Economics is a closed book to me, (and probably a burnt book as well), but critical thinking has become something of a passion of mine. My kids despair of the suspicion with which I view any bold statement such as “Yes, Mum, I really did put all my clothes away”. I am renowned, and reviled, for checking the fine print and asking difficult questions like “what exactly do you mean by ‘away‘?”.

Sadly, most of the bold statements in the media don’t take much more effort to check, but we rarely bother. Levering open the cupboard door quickly shows the chaos within.

 Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies
Tell me lies
Oh, no, no you can’t disguise
You can’t disguise
Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Tell me Lies, Fleetwood Mac

Sometimes I feel as though I am waging a lonely war on ignorance. Debunking myths like “J Random Store will give $500 to everyone who likes them on facebook”, blowing urban legends out of the water, picking apart alarmist news articles. It frustrates me how quickly and easily myths spread, and how slothfully the truth crawls after them.

It’s so easy to believe what some guy at the pub asserts as fact, particularly if it’s

scandalous: “Wiggles Wage War on ex-yellow Wiggle

or comforting: “Climate Change is nothing but a big conspiracy, go ahead and consume the world as voraciously as you can, it’ll be fine

or with a big whiff of schadenfreude about it: “Celebrities get divorced/go into rehab/do something stupid in public“.

The only thing we can do to save ourselves is to switch our brains on as often as possible. Ask the difficult questions. Query the bold assertions. Not only do we need to think for ourselves, but we need to encourage everyone else to think as well. So next time you hear someone assert something dubious, or swallow a headline whole, see if you can make them cough it up. Look a little deeper. Think a little harder.

Tiny things like this can change the world.

Take my word for it.