An Australian Brag

If you were born in Australia you have been subject to The Brag all your life. If you emigrated here you picked it up as soon as your feet touched the ground. Either way, it has become so engrained that you would be hard pressed to notice it.

The Brag? Well, it really involves a lot of Sub-Brags. We’ve just had this year’s April 25th Brag. We’ll have more Brags whenever the cricket starts up again and all through the football season. If a local cinema actor is nominated for an award…indeed if anyone is recognised with some sort of gong, we’ll add another Brag.

And we are just about to have a federal election – Federal parliament will be replacing its House and Senate members in the next month or so. And it is time for the Election Brag. And I’m proud to be able to enunciate it:

The Federal Election will be honest.

The individual members of both houses that contest the seats, their advisers, and their party organisers may have consciences that could be used to scrub pots…their parties may be collections of bigots, zealots, and ne’er do wells – they may have devious money-grubbing  schemes…but…

The Federal Election will be honest.

No stuffed ballot boxes, no stand over militias, no bought votes, no midnight disappearances. No seizures of power. No bribing of judges. No tanks, armoured cars, or riot police. No burning buses. No dead people.

Instead, we’ll get a huge ballot paper, a tiny pencil, and a funny little cardboard booth to figure it all out in. Our choice will be complex to make and be tabulated in a complex fashion – but it will be done cleanly. Some electorates will declare quickly and there’ll always be one at the end that takes jolly weeks. If some mistake happens that results in the loss of a ballot box, there will be a by-election for that seat and it will all clank through again.

We’ll all get a vote and our vote will count. We’re the luckiest damn country in the world for this – because we can buy barbecued sausages and lemon slices and scones to eat while we are waiting to vote. And smarmy Facebook memes that suggest our vote is worthless are a damned insult us and to something this country does very right.

 

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Harmony And Harmonica Are Two Diffferent Words

Are you on Facetwit? Or Googram? Do you respond to your phone, computer or tablet every time it makes a dinging sound? Are you a modern version of a Pavlov dog?

Congratulations – you are a prime candidate for Le Régiment Zukerberg. Also known as the 101st Internet Lancers. The Old Brigands. You are the person that they want  – because they can make you do anything that they want you to do – and do it willingly.

If you are suspicious of this, consider your history on the internet:

a. Do you write your own material or just ” share ” what they lay in front of you? Are you advancing on your own recognizance or are you led…or driven?

b. Do you respond predictably? Can they count on you to share, tweet, like, or proselytize just as directed?

c. Do you do this for free? Or do you pay for the privilege of doing it?

d. Are you passionate? So passionate that you will embrace anything that you’re told to embrace? Would you do this physically at the bidding of a master? There’s always a place for a willing prostitute, so don’t worry if the answer’s yes.

e. Can you be turned quickly from one opinion to the opposite if Central Command decrees it? Are you ready to applaud the Brest – Litovsk treaty one week and declare class war the next?

f.  Are you willing to ignore the bad behaviour of other people if it is useful to your party? And to find cause for outrage in the mildest opposition?

If you can agree to some or all of these observations, you too can be a social media instrument. An instrument of power – of vengeance – of justice. Also of propaganda, of deceit, and of treachery. What a career you can have.

But be aware that it is not all happiness in the Divine Instruments Of Justice Brigade. While you might think of yourself as a Trumpet Of Glory, the reality may be that you are merely a Harmonica Of Wind. And the sad thing is eventually someone will turn you upside down and rap you against the table to get the spit out.

 

They Get To Complain And You Get To Not Care About It

And that is the most efficient way to resolve many problems.

If you’ve got a Facebook account for yourself or through some other group, you’ll have seen the posts that complain about something. They are sincere, sometimes…and self -serving, sometimes…and totally obscure, sometimes. Some people can actually write the trifecta, if they wish.

When they do,they may get a number of reactions:

a. Everyone will ask them if they are alright.

b. Everyone will suggest that they are all wrong.

c. No-one will react at all.

In each case they can derive some benefit from the exercise:

a. They’ll have gotten their pain/opinion/baited trap out to the world for all to see. The internal pressure will have been relieved. In some cases it takes time for the smell to dissipate.

b. They’ll find out whether they have any friends. And what their opinions are. And how they can be goaded in the future.

c. They’ll be able to receive targeted advertisements that touch in some way on every word written. You might not think that the social media engineers can make a credible marketing strategy out of the word ” and ” but you’ll be wrong. The writers should be prepared to be shilled with heavy-calibre ordnance.

The readers will also benefit:

a. They’ll know someone is alive. This may cause them joy or pain.

b. They’ll know all the deepest secrets. If people are dumb enough to write them.

c. Read (b.) again to yourself slowly…

c. They will have an opportunity to explode with rage and/or love. I cannot say which will be worse.

d. They will have been freed from the inclination to ever again have a thought on the subject. A great boon for some topics.

Who Do You Choose To Scold You?

Tell me that, and I’ll tell you who you choose to rule you.

Now, I realise that when we are young, and small, and unformed, we may be ruled and scolded by whoever is older, larger, and bolder. But nearly all of us arrive at a point in our lives when we are old enough, big enough, and smart enough to set ourselves free from this sort of control. Yet so many of us still shrink back into the harness…

If we pass our time as employees, dependants, or enlisted personnel, we are often not allowed to choose our own oppressors. They are attached to us by the company, army, or family within which we subsist . We are ruled by decree, in no better situation than the medieval serf. So few of us stiffen and rise with pitchfork and tumbril that we might as well just relax into the chains. But some of us do have a choice, and therein lies that interesting question that formed the title of this essay.

Many of us have married, partnered, or shacked up with someone, and like as not this has led to one or other being the scolder of the household. Sometimes it is a mutual arrangement that divides the topics of discontent and allows both people to alternately bark and cringe. It can be awkward to find it only on one side, but then there are ways to correct this…which I will not go into for fear my readers try them out.

Then there is the modern phenomenon of social media, where we can be bombarded by friends and acquaintances with some of the most arrant nonsense…much of it third-hand…and sit blandly through it. Fortunately there are mechanisms to shut it away or off completely if it becomes too shrill. And as long as you do not number Jane Fonda or Justin Trudeau amongst your Facebook friends you can shut the laptop down and pretend that it just did not happen.

For myself, I like to be scolded by historical figures; Thomas Paine and Voltaire for preference. Occasionally I’ll take a little snifter of Sinclair Lewis, but only if I ignore his biographical details.

As far as putting up with local politicians, social critics, and the entitled aussietocracy…I choose to snap my fingers at them.

 

I’m Offended

I’m offended:

a. That you have posted a picture of the American president. It doesn’t matter whether you love him or hate him…it just gives me an opportunity to be offended, and I’m going to take it. Had you not posted one, I would be equally offended.

I’m a double-acting scream engine…

b. That you are a different race/religion/sex than I am. And that you know it. And are not apologetic for the fact. Not that I would be prepared to accept an apology from the likes of you…

c. Because of history. Not yours or mine, as such…just history. Oooh that history!

d. That you think I am a fool. And that being a fool is somehow wrong…or foolish. I have a constitutional right to be a fool and you are required to validate my folly. I’ll sue you if you don’t validate me. And then I’ll sue your lawyer – and mine for good measure.

e. Aww, C’mon. At least validate my parking ticket. I’ve been here for an hour.

f. That you do not respect the flag. Or the badge. Or the coupon, post-it note, or phone number that my uncle wrote down on the wall.

g. Continuously. 24 hours a day all through the year. It’s a calling and a profession and I am proud to be angry at you all the time. For God’s sake don’t do anything nice or I’ll look bad…

h. That you have taken offence…at anything. Least of all, at me. Leave that alone. That’s my schtick. Get your own. You’re culturally appropriating me with your eyes. My culture is up here…

i. Because of what you said. Even if you did not say it, I read it on a Facebook meme. You could have said it. Shame on you.

j. Because all my friends are offended and it would be offensive not to join with them.

k. By statues. I’ve already got rid of Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest and I’ve got my sights on the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. Friedrich the Great in Potsdam and the Sphinx had better watch out, too.

l. Because there’s a lot of good free stuff you can get if you make enough of a fuss.

m. Because there’s a lot of bad stuff you can avoid being found responsible for if you make enough of a fuss.

Note: This column was not meant to cause offence. Or, for that matter, defence. Perhaps if you are offended and defensive right now you may be reading the wrong writer.

 

 

Throwing Up On Facebook

I have friends who throw up on Facebook. It is possible that they also throw up on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram – users of social media often have multiple receptacles available to them. This is a great convenience – they might not be at home or near a work computer when something overcomes them.

Of course, no one has ever solved the age-old mystery of where the tomatoes and sweet corn come from ( I didn’t eat either of those – I only had 14 pints of ale…) but that is rarely a problem on social media. The really peculiar thing is where people get the stuff they do ” share “…

Oh, wait. I may have given you the wrong impression. I wasn’t talking about emesis. I was talking about the racist, nationalist, sexist, and political material that is posted daily. The half thought half-thought-through that nevertheless  appears repeatedly. Talk about things coming up again…

I’d normally just step round the stuff if it was on the footpath in front of the kebab shop. As it is I can make it go away with two clicks of the computer mouse…and I am starting to realise that I can do that a lot these days. Suggested posts that are thinly veilled information fishing exercises are one thing that go out immediately. I know nothing and tell less.

Then the Trump posts. None of the people I know  who throw up anti-Trump memes have any connection to the United States, to the Presidency, or to Mr. Trump. Their shared memes and snarky comments are irrelevant. Gone.

Then the vagaries. I am bad at guessing games and worse when the games are psychological. I cannot imagine what some of the posters are on about – the only clear message that comes through is that there is no clear message. I can get that by turning the radio dial a quarter inch to the left off-station.

I do pause at cats and dogs. They can stay, as can hot rod cars and panda bears. I do also study semi-official posts that ask me to look out for a missing person – though I do wish that when a person is found that someone will also notify us of that.

And I am a sucker for domino races or improbable collections of mechanical operations that eventually turn on a popcorn maker. The engineering students with nothing to do for three days are always good for a laugh.

Mary O’Nette

I am deriving a great deal of pleasure and interest through my use of social media – but then you have to remember that I also used to have a good time shooting gophers on my Uncle Jude’s farm in Montana.

In my defence then, I was young and uncaring – in my defence now, I have grown older…

My current savage amusement is watching people jerk, bounce, and twist to the impact of memes – the preferred ammunition of the smarmy and righteous. The spectacle is made all the more enjoyable by the realisation that the victims are people of intelligence -and that in most cases they are willing targets. They stand up on the psychological parapet and try to attract the snipers.

Do you want someone to think the way you do? Meme them.

Want them to condemn something for your benefit?  Hand them a loaded meme and slip the safety off.

Want to look smarter, cooler, prettier, or finer than you really are? Meme your way to it. No-one will dare question you if they are looking down the barrel of a meme.

And the best part is you can make the victims think that they are all unique – and all in exactly the same way. One meme will fit all.

Isn’t the internet wonderful? Share this on Facebook and Twitter.