Ingenuine Complaints

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So I caught up with a friend of mine who did something I found quite disagreeable. We went to a lovely café with good coffee, good food and genuinely friendly and helpful staff.

She gave them a bad review on an Internet review site. Why? Because they’d run out of scones.

Seriously. Wtf. They did everything else right but they had run out of one thing. ONE THING. I find it irritating when the one thing I want to order has run out, but my response to that is not to post sparky passive aggressive reviews on the Internet. I just order something else. It wasn’t as if she rated everything else good or acceptable. No, it was all bad.

In Australia, good customer service is hard to find. Mainly in large cities. Unhelpful, lazy, rude staff with fake smiles until you dare complain is generally what you get. This café stood out for its excellent service.

I don’t see what being the customer equivalent of the rude unhelpful staff member gets you.

I had a friend who also loved complaining about minor service gripes. He once complained about the intercity train arriving 1 minute early meaning he missed the train and got to work an hour late. Honestly dude when it comes to an intercity train, it behoves you to be a couple of minutes early. It’s abominable to blame the train for your own lack of organisational skills.

There’s plenty to complain about when it comes to customer service and service provision in Australia but complaining about irrelevant shit seriously dilutes the genuine complaints.

I guess it’s all about a culture of entitlement. Yes, we do have the right to be treated well, to have good service, to not be subject to abusive behaviour, to a reasonable standard of service. We do not have the right to sit on our arses because we can’t be bothered working, or make vexatious complaints or treat others like dirt because of minor gripes.

Framing Policy

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Reality: it’s all about how you frame it.

And of course:

Using language in this way is the usual doublethink. In Australia it’s especially well implemented by the Murdoch media complex as well as by the (related) Liberal Party, both of whom have well documented, public links to the Republican Party in the US and their shady right-wing think tanks.

A good book on this subject is “Don’t Think of an Elephant” by George Lakoff.

The classic Conservative (or at least paleoconservative) is all about “small government“; indeed in Australia, conservatives talk about any sort of human rights protections, regulations on the police & state and regulation of monopolistic behaviour as being somehow “big government”. How ironic then, that they support Orwellian measures like the “anti-terror” laws, use of war to distract the population, and of course, use of the media and language to rewrite reality.

Colluding with Despots

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I guess it was inevitable. Eventually when you come from a country with markèd instability and a rising dictator, refugees are going to start leaving. And when refugees start leaving, Australia gets up in arms about “those people” coming here. And eventually one of “those people” will commit a crime like raping a Macquarie University student. And then it’s all over.

Sri Lanka is a parliamentary democracy with a president as head of state. Supposedly a democracy. Democracy has eroded over the years and now we are in the grips of the worst upcoming dictator since Sri Lankan independence. Mahinda Rajapaksa is murdering journalists, the political opposition and “suspected criminals”. Various bizarre social policies are being enacted to promote the nationalistic interests of Sinhala Buddhists who make up roughly 70% of the population of 21 million.

This man, who has links to Iran‘s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had links to Libya‘s Muammar Gaddafi and has been condemned broadly by the UN and Commonwealth heads of state… is the Australian Federal Government‘s latest collaborator!!! Yes, he’s helping us with refugees!!!

Because sending people back to a place like Sri Lanka is a wonderful idea, so is colluding with its despot to do so, as is refusing to even consider the well-documented and legitimate asylum claims of highly educated professionals. Never mind the fact that the despotic government that the Federal Government is colluding with is known to be some of these “people smugglers”.

This is bizarre policy. I can only assume that the reason for this incompetence is a mixture of attempting to manipulate the media, play on innate racism and fear of immigration and having a very short-term view of appropriate regional politics.

I suppose the United States, our laudable ally, has a grand history of colluding with Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Saudi Arabia the Shah of Iran and other such Great Leaders.

A Sick, Sad, Sinking Feeling

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Learning about some subjects in Australian public health is pretty confronting. In particular the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

  • The relative risk to health if you’re indigenous compared with non-indigenous is not reducing. The gap is not closing, no matter what the government would like to say.
  • When you match by disease condition, indigenous people get 40-60% of what non-indigenous people get.
  • There are a lot of bullshit policy and “plans” around with no definable actual plans, money or measurable outcomes attached to them. Content-free policy indeed.
  • Let’s not get started on the institutional racism, intentional genocide, discrimination that are ongoing
  • Oh and then there is the bullying, discrimination and internal sabotage that happens in Australian institutions in general if you try to change something or complain about something.

Overall, this is very depressing. Just the lack of progress. Things can definitely be done. There are multiple studies that show huge benefits from simple interventions. But these things need funding, community consultation and a sensible approach. Things which are completely lacking in Australia.

People like me are slowly making a difference but seeing as we’re starting these changes in 2013, it will take at least a generation for the institutional culture to change enough to be dynamic and less bitchy. We can make incremental changes, and some of these things do snowball into big effects on the community, but for the most part we actually need a change from the top. Or a big, earth shattering disruptive event that forces things to change, the way that the invention of the printing press, the discovery of relativity and the end of apartheid in South Africa did.

I swing from feeling energetic and positive to feeling despondent and depressed and angry.

I have some plans, but I’m scared it will be hitting my head against a brick wall. I need help with all of this.

Investigative Journalism

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Every now and then, I read a piece of investigative journalism. I should have learnt, I know, not to expect rigour in these accounts. Most recently I’ve read a few articles from Longreads, some articles linked from the otherwise excellent site waxy.org  as well as the books “The Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson and “Diary of a Predator” by Amy Herdy.

I’m not sure if things have changed substantially since I was younger, but these works have similar flaws in common.

Stylistically, they enjoy a sense of the over-dramatic and histrionic. Even banal pieces of conversation or interview will be overblown. They will be momentous turning points in the understanding of the subject. Descriptions are similar. People are caricatures of themselves, sometimes unrecognisable caricatures (which seems to be missing the point?)

The journalist has a “journey”. A life-changing journey. The journalist, their anxieties and their personal life is inserted into the “story”. I suppose this comes from the school of thought that since all journalism has its subjective elements then naturally we need to “experience the journey” along with its subjective (read: unreliable) narrator.

Unreliable narrator is right. Often there is a fictionalisation, an exaggeration, and sometimes things are made up wholesale. Perhaps their “postmodern” interpretation of “postmodernism” is that since there is “no one truth” and there are multiple interpretations of the same series of events, that somehow this allows them to mix fiction and non-fiction and sell it somehow as being “truer than the truth”.

A book that I refuse to read but which became the belle of the literary wank ball in Australia that had this very set of properties is “The First Stone” by Helen Garner in which she, a first wave feminist, decides to tell the story of a young woman who was sexually assaulted by her college principal by changing 1 woman to 2, only interviewing the criminal in question and taking his word at face value, verbally assaulting all young females and their lack of feminism because they dare to involve the legal system to press criminal charges and generally “making shit up” as I like to call it.

This sort of “journalism” is very problematic. There is a difference between having an off-the-wall interpretation of an event and fiction. We live in a physical reality in which physical events occur. Sound is generated as words. Interactions between people happen as a physical phenomenon. Often these things are open to interpretation as to their meaning, but assuming that adequate records are kept, there is a definable truth there. If there are no adequate records then a process of reconstruction and theory occurs but this involves careful attention to detail and an almost scientific approach.

Historical events set some centuries or even decades in the past are often difficult or impossible to piece together exactly. However, when the information is from the present day or is generated in interviews or a matter of police record, there is no excuse. Read the records as they exist. Carry a tape recorder, or a video camera. Take notes. Make intelligent interpretations, think for yourself and back your observations up with fact. Dig deep.

And leave yourself and your predetermined fancies out of it. We’re not interested in the internal meanderings of a third rate journalist. We’re interested in the subject themselves. And lastly,

STOP MAKING SHIT UP.

The Trouble with the Youth

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I hate the term “youth”. What is a “youth”? Who are these “youths”? Who on earth even uses the term “youth”? What is the “youth of today”? The more I look at the shape of that word, youth, the more it seems like a horrible, slouchy, lazy word. Something that slips off a bogan tongue, perhaps?

The yoof. The yoof are apparently between childhood & maturity but no longer tweens. The yoof can’t vote. The yoof of tomorrow are our (dismal) future. The yoof are cynical and disengaged. The yoof are selfish and entitled. The yoof are sexxy.

Oh to visit the fountain of YOOF.

I’m sure I was once a YOOF. What “adulthood” supposedly means (ie maturity) keeps getting stretched out further and further. 30 is a “young writer”, 40 is a “young politician”. A lot of that is old ground trodden by “Gangland: cultural elites and the new generationalism” by Mark Davis which I read a bit of in someone’s bathroom as a 16 year old before I moved to Australia.

It did shock me when one of my juniors today exclaimed that world politics (of which she can only remember 2001 onwards in detail) was completely screwed and that there was no hope and no point in caring and that in fact no-one else cared. It was a scary thought. And someone else pointed out that one of the problems with Australian politics right now is that the electorate has lost its empathy with other people- thus the lack of moral leadership.

Not all the YOOF are like this. Maybe we need to stop talking about THE YOOF and instead focus on particular demographics. Perhaps Bernard Salt‘s idea of 5 major regional patterns in culture/politics is an important one- suburban/inner city/coastal/inlands/outback. It’s entirely possible that people were not in fact born in discrete “generations” such as the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y & Gen Z. What happens after Z? QUELLE HORREUR.

Many good things have come from Progress. Multiculturalism, GLBTIQ rights, gender equality to name a few. While things such as the breakdown of the extended family unit (leading to the nuclear family and thus higher divorce rates and familial instability) have not had such a glowing influence. Post-2001 politics stands in stark contrast to the 90’s, the first decade in several in which the threat of world war or global thermonuclear annhilation was not a Damocles‘ Sword over us.

I don’t see how people are meant to stay active or engaged however if they’re infantilised as “THE YOOF”. If they’re expected to never play unsupervised. If they’re told “you can’t have everything as a woman and what you actually want is babies not a career” or that “nice guys finish last and are effeminate and there are no male role models so you have free reign to be a dick”. If they’re financially bound to staying in their parents’ houses due to rental costs. If the media sexualises people and then calls them sluts for conforming or being victimised. If they’re not taken seriously.

This is an ongoing problem in society. Part of these problems are part of the natural process of the elder generations claiming that the new ones are immature and weak until they are surpassed. Part of it is a gradual shift that has happened over the last century. Part of it is very new.

If THE YOOF ARE OUR FUTURE OF TOMORROW and THE YOOF HAVE LOST THEIR WAY, then it’s our job to make sure this is corrected.

Perhaps talking to them would be a start.

Trash Magazines Belong in the Trash, Not in a Doctor’s Waiting Room

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When I have my own consulting rooms or practice, I’ve made an I think very important resolution. I’m going to throw all those women’s magazines in the recycling. You know the ones, the ones that go on about how celebrities are too fat and too skinny (possibly after they’ve just given birth). The ones that give bogus dating advice about how to manipulate men into relationships and “keep them keen”, as well as terrible, terrible psychological and medical advice.

These magazines are ubiquitous in the doctors’ waiting rooms (as well as dentists, hairdressers, you name it) as well as in hospital tea rooms. I suspect that these publications have acquired some form of replication, otherwise how to account for their huge and expanding numbers?

Why am I on the warpath about these trashy pieces of crap? Because honestly, the advocate for exactly the opposite of good health. Their models are Photoshopped to look unnaturally thin. While at the same time saying that post-pregnancy celebrities are too fat or too thin for looking essentially normal. It’s so exaggerated that it’s mostly laughable if you’re in the know, I guess. But you know, there’s no way to win with The Women’s Weekly or Cleo. It’s a game where the only option, sadly, is to lose.

The relationship “advice” is particularly pernicious. How to dress and behave to “snag” a man. How to appear “hard to get” so as to manipulate someone into liking you. How to “treat them mean” and “keep them keen”. What kind of guys are losers. How to give the best blow job. Are you kidding me? This stuff is the equivalent of male “pick-up artist” forums.

As ever, it all feeds into the idea that “having a man”, “having a wedding”, “having a hot body” and “having babies” is all about “having” an object and means in which to achieve this ends. A profound status anxiety centred around a social materialism where you think of relationships as objects.

As a doctor there is no way that I could ever, ever be comfortable with promoting this sort of unhealthy set of ideas in my waiting room. How can you claim to be treating people on one hand while creating a fountain of expression for this societal disease. I don’t really particularly care if people find this sort of garbage entertaining. It’s going in the bin.

Australia Day Redux

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I’ve had varying experiences of STRAYA Day.

In Melbourne, I mainly ignored it other than as a signal for the appropriate day to mark Triple J Hottest 100 Day, a far more worthwhile ritual. In my later years in Melbourne, that land of wanker-parochialism, I found it increasingly worrisome. Angry bogans with Southern Cross tattoos and Australian flags wielding their national symbols as nationalist, white supremacist icons. Unsurprising, I suppose, given that it’s Invasion Day, the landing of the First Fleet in Botany Bay.

In Sydney, however I’ve found it far more welcoming. Seen people from all ethnic backgrounds happily enjoying the holiday. People greeting me to say “happy Australia Day”.

Ironically, but awesomely, this photo is from the suburbs of Melbourne; a young Somali-Australian lady and her friends wearing hijabs of the Australian flag designed for Harmony Day but shared by a Melbourne creative arts centre, Artplay.

muslim girls australian flag hijab

Of course, no Jaguar Python post would be complete without something utterly negative. So here it is.

Unfortunately, a lady who I happen to temporarily share a house with has the most atrocious taste in humour. And there is a television in this house. Which means that I had to endure “Miss Congeniality” and thus Sandra Bullock’s snorts alternating with my temporary housemate’s raucous tittering, advertisements featuring Lambast-ador Sam Kekovich (another Australian non-celebrity) claiming that not eating lamb is “un-Australian” (bogan for “probably a good thing”) and the horror known as the Channel 10 Australia Day Showdown.

What is this “showdown” monstrosity? Well, it’s bankrolled by the meat industry and billed as some sort of “comedy debate” about “whether it’s possible to be too STRAYAN” devised by the same “geniuses” in charge of that “cutting-edge” panel show “The Project”. In the 10 minutes I spent subjected to this tripe, I managed to experience a “comedian” Sheila give a cringe-worthy diatribe featuring some True Blue Aussie stereotypes, but not in a funny, ironic or particularly insightful manner. Next in the cringe-carnival was the EMCEE (a The Project genius?) introducing the next mass-debater as “our TOKEN display of TOKENISM featuring a TOKEN ETHNIC ARAB” or something along those lines. I kid you not. The TOKEN ETHNIC then caused further reflexive cringing by joking about how STRAYA was Awesome because the closest we’d come to a Civil War was … The Cronulla Riots! No, not the Eureka Stockade or those weirdos in WA who keep “seceding” as “principalities”. The Cronulla Riots. Totally awesome.

Sigh.