20 July 2013

Social Media Fasting

Recently a fellow tweep @little_freedia and I decided to go a week without access to any social media.  We decided to see how we would cope without it.  Would we have withdrawal symptoms? Would we give in prior to the end of 7 days?  Or would we discover things that we didn't know existed?

To make it easier (or harder) we had to deactivate all social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  For myself, Facebook wasn't an issue as I had permanently deleted my account more than a year ago.  Twitter and Instragram are my main social media nowadays.  We decided that emails were allowed as it really is a communication platform and not a social media outlet.

So on Sunday night 7th July, I deactivated my Twitter and signed out of my Instragram account.  Having done this I actually felt like a naughty schoolboy who has done something mischievous in the classroom.  Well I couldn't worry too much about this as I had made a commitment to my fellow Tweep and was determined to see this experiment through.

Monday came and normally I would access my iPhone and check Twitter.  This time I couldn't. So I  got ready for work and made my way to the bus stop.  Immediately, my bus arrived and I shuffled on board.  I noticed that virtually everyone had their head bowed and were on their smart phones. It struck me that I could not do that, so I decided to look out of the bus window. It was a glorious sunny day and as the bus made its way over the Sydney Harbour Bridge I glimpsed the Opera House looking resplendent in the early morning light.  It was kind of therapeutic looking out of the window rather than looking at my phone screen.

Work was a challenge as well.  Periodically during the day I do check Twitter and Instragram for the latest updates. Naturally, I was not able to do this. What I noticed was that I was more focused on my work and engaged more with my co-workers.  The temptation was to check my phone but I stood firm.

Monday evening was certainly the hardest.  I always send numerous tweets out during the Q and A show on ABC.  This time I had no choice but to watch the show and not participate from a social media perspective.  I noticed that some of my Tweep friends (Em, Jennifer and Mariam) got their tweets posted. I felt helpless and unable to congratulate them.   

Tuesday was also another hard social media free day but it seemed easier to handle than Monday.  I noticed also that I seemed to have more time on my hands by not using social media outlets.  I seemed to engage better with friends and colleagues as well as spending more time on things like reading books.  

This trend continued throughout the week.  The more I was off social media the less I missed it.  I also noticed that I seemed to be more in control of my time and, strangely, felt quite relaxed.  That may have been in part due to the fact that I had a long weekend in Ballina, rather than my social media exile.

Finally, the end of the experiment came around.  I was now able to access Twitter and other social media platforms.  Quickly I re-activated my account for Twitter and re-logged into Instagram.  It felt strange being back after a period away.  

So what did I learn?  probably the obvious things.  In today's society we are very reliant and addictive to social media.  It is a drug that we cannot live without.  It also takes over our lives at the expense of proper interaction with our friends and loved ones.  Like most things, once you have been absent for a period of time the addiction wanes.  I found that time seemed to slow as I had to revert to the pre-social media ways - talking directly, watching television and movies without accessing a phone as well as reading magazines etc.  

I am now thinking of doing this on a regular basis - possibly every three months.  I will see if I can get @little_freedia to join in again.  If anyone else wants to take the social media experiment then I can thoroughly recommend it.

07 July 2013

Migrant Musings

I am a migrant.  I have been in Australia for many, many years and call Australia home.  Likewise, as I didn't come to Australia as a youngster I still have a soft spot for my country of origin - England.  Naturally, I am not a refugee, unless you can call the English weather grounds for applying for refugee status!

For the benefit of all migrant phobic readers, yes I did steal one of your Aussie jobs.  I have been able to create a life here through sheer hard work, and the fact that Australia offers opportunities to those that grab them.  I went out and grabbed mine with both hands.  Although I haven't reached what I set out to do, I cannot complain as to where I am today.  

As a migrant I feel a kinship towards all other migrants whether they are from Zimbabwe, Bosnia, Iran or Venezuela.  To settle into a new country, even if you can speak the language fluently - which naturally I can, takes a lot of getting used to.  This can range from the different climate, unusual food types, culture and understanding what you need to do to, for example, applying for a job or even catching a train across town.

In my time in Australia, I only have been abused twice - both a long time ago.  One was by an Aboriginal who was blaming me for what Captain Cook did in 1788 by bringing 'white people' to Australia.  In this case I didn't really know how to reply, all I could say rather weakly was that it happened well before I was born and was therefore out of my control.  The other occasion was in a bar and I was resting myself against a poker machine.  All of a sudden an ocker Aussie came and started abusing me, thinking that I had played the machine whilst he 'was in the dunny'.  I hadn't played it, but that didn't help my plight.

Up until two years ago I had played soccer here.  Then a snapped Achilles and two operations put an end to my long career.  During my time playing I did get called 'wog' a few times as I am not a pale skinned, blue eyed Pom. I have slightly olive skin courtesy of my father's side of the family.

In social media, eg: Twitter, I have only really been trolled twice.  Interestingly, neither time was by an Australian! One was an American who was a member of the NRA, and the other was a right-wing member of the UK EDL (English Defence League).  Their personal attacks didn't affect me as I have grown much more thick-skinned and tolerant over the years.

As you can see I have had it fairly easy as a migrant.  I am not going to deny this, as I cannot.  Yes, there have been times I wished I wasn't in Australia but by the next morning my mind has always changed.

However, there is the other end of the spectrum.  There are those of us migrants who have escaped from their country of origin due to a number of reasons such as war, fundamentalism, famine and religious persecution amongst others.  I have met a number of migrants who have some of the most heart wrenching stories about how they came to Australia.  One such story involved a husband taking his wife and young children through a minefield to get to safety, and then later on to Australia.  You can only imagine what must have been going through his mind as every step he took could have lead to death.

So a number of migrants come here for a chance to rebuild their lives, a new start, a fresh beginning.  A large number of migrants cannot speak fluent English when they arrive.  This impacts their interaction with others and also restricts what they can do, certainly in the early stages of life in Australia.

Some migrants are of a non-christian faith and as such wear turbans or headscarves and contribute to their local place of worship.  Head coverings have certainly become an emotive issue in the West ever since 9/11.  Skin colour can also play a part in identifying a migrant from 'mainstream' Australia (whatever this is).  For example, there are not a lot of Africans in Australia, unlike the US, UK or Europe.   

However, if I was to ask some of them publically whether they have been abused personally, or trolled online I am sure I would get a reply of 'yes'.  Now I am not saying that Australia is a racist country, but there are elements of racism here and all over the world.  Unfortunately it is a human condition when we see something that is a little different to ourselves, we can be accepting of it, or fearful. 

Recently, I watched the ethnic business awards on television and was amazed at the stories of migrants who arrived in Australia, and through hard work have made something of their lives, as well as employing Australians and giving time and money to charitable causes.  In fact, migrants have been contributing to our society for more than 200 years.  I was also humbled when a few of the migrants said they were abused for their background but just shrugged it off and kept on believing in their dream.

So where am I going with all this?  

I really want everyone to realise the contribution that migrants have, and will continue to make to Australia.  The vast majority of them are just wanting a better life for themselves and their families, which is no different to you and I.  They may look different, they may be devoutly religious, they may even speak with a different accent.  However, at the end of the day they are AUSTRALIAN! 

If migrants seem scary to anyone who reads this, go out of your way to talk to one or two.  Get to know them better.  If you do this, your outlook on migrants may indeed change and we can all start to live together more harmonously.

06 July 2013

Political Boxing

Imagine this - you are watching a heavyweight boxing match between the two best boxers in the country.  One boxer has been on the attack for the first nine rounds whilst the other boxer has been grimly hanging on, hoping for that one chance to launch a rare counter attack.  Then, round ten starts and, all of a sudden, the boxer who has been on the back foot for most of the fight launches a couple of upper cuts.  The other boxer is stunned, not only by the force of the hits, but also by this unexpected aggression from his opponent.  The attacks keep coming and the roles are reversed.  The aggressor is now defending, and the defender is launching blow after blow.

This analogy really sums up what the current political situation is here in Australia.  Since the last election back in 2010, Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National Party have been on the front foot attacking the Government and, in particular, Julia Gillard.  In scenes reminiscent of Groundhog Day, Abbott has been espousing phrases such as "we will stop the boats" and "we will get rid of the Carbon Tax" over and over again.  As well as reminding all and sundry about how the Prime Minister got the top job in politics.

The Government had no option but to go into defensive mode.  Things like justifying the Carbon Tax, explaining why the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was ousted, grimacing as the opinion polls showed that the Australian Labor Party was heading for a virtual wipe-out at the September elections.  What could the government do? The sharks were circling, it was only a matter of time before the blood letting would start.

At the eleventh hour our hero arrives.  He is nerdy looking, has a distinct mop of grey hair, wears glasses and looks like an older version of the Milky Bar kid.  Enter Kevin Rudd.  Yes the man who was ousted by his own party had been re-elected as Prime Minister of Australia.  Virtually overnight the opinion polls showed a large swing back to the ALP.  Instantly frowns started to appear on the Opposition's brows.  The easy fight they had been experiencing for three years was about to get much harder.  The worm was about to turn.

Rudd is a clever politician. He knows that he must nullify the only two real policies that the Opposition have made public.  These relate to the Carbon Tax and the refugees fleeing from Indonesia, via boats, to Australia.  Rudd also knows he has to attack Abbott and try to get under his skin.  Tony Abbott is not popular with the electorate despite the polls showing that he would be Prime Minister at the next election, this is the Opposition's Achilles heel and must be exposed. 

So what has Prime Minister Rudd done in just over a week?  Quite a lot really.  He has indicated that Australia will move to an Emissions Trading Scheme rather than an fixed price Carbon Tax.  Rudd has also had talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) about the 'boat people' issue.  SBY has made it clear he will not agree to Australia towing the refugee boats back to Indonesian waters, as indicated by Tony Abbott. It is a policy that will not work and gain favour with the Indonesians.  Within a few days, the two main policies of the Opposition appear to have been stifled.  Now it is Abbott with the problems and not the Government.  

Rudd pulled off a masterstroke this week.  Challenging Tony Abbott to a series of debates about the Government's and Opposition's policies for the forthcoming election.  Abbott, not surprisingly, has declined.  

Since the 2010 election Tony Abbott has not appeared on 'Q and A', a programme that enables voters to question a panel of politicians and non-politicians questions about relevant topics.  Abbott has not appeared on the ABC show 'Lateline' for more than a year and a half, Insiders for a year and Radio National Breakfast for a year.  For whatever reason Abbott seems to have a phobia of appearing on shows where he can be questioned in relation to the policies of the Opposition.

This has lead to Kevin Rudd saying that Tony Abbott "does not have the ticker" to debate him.  The word "ticker" is a clear reference to the comment ex-Prime Minister John Howard said of Opposition Leader Kim Beasley when asked if he thought Beasley could run the country.  In fact, Rudd took this further by saying that Abbott could take his 'assistant' John Howard along to the debates as well.

Rudd has come out with all guns blazing ala Milky Bar Kid style.  This has caught the Opposition, temporarily at least, off guard.  The upper cuts from Rudd are making their mark.  Now it is Abbott and Co waiting for the bell to ring to re-coup and try to come out fighting in the last two rounds.

As for Rudd, he has one objective.  That is to win the election.  At the same time we can expect him to continuously attack Abbott and the Liberal-National party.

One thing is certain, this is going to be a messy election campaign up to and including polling day.