Maybe it’s not such a bad way to go after all.
Wiped from the earth like waste,
nuclear footprint leaving your only trace.
Or to die in the aftershock,
or to burn alive in the fires.
Contamination of water and crop…
Could be worse.
Maybe it’s worth billions of pounds in investments
from a paranoid democracy making a statement of intent.
Threatening shepherds from fields in the east.
And giving the third world a more glorified way to die than to starve.
Until men are actually promoted on merit, there’s no reason why women should have to be. True equality is as many mediocre women in positions of power like federal cabinet.
There’s an old piece of early 1930s newsreel footage I saw in a documentary somewhere that features Mahatma Gandhi visiting Britain for the very first time. With his classic white loincloth and round glasses on the end of his nose, he is an exotic sight amongst the British newspapermen (they’re all men, of course).
One of the journalists yells out a question: “Mahatma, what do you think of Western civilisation?” He responds: “I think it would be a very good idea.”
And that is precisely what I think when I hear people talking about promotion on merit. I am all for it, but I see absolutely no evidence of it occurring at the moment. If you doubt me, just think for a second of all the places you have ever worked. Think of all the people in authority you have ever had dealings with. Now tell me, hand on heart, that all of those people got to the top purely on merit. I sometimes think I have met more idiots at the top than I ever have at the bottom but, to be fair, that’s probably because idiots with power are far more of a problem than idiots without it.
What I notice about people at the top is not their merit, but how similar they are. If we really do promote on merit, as so many claim, then merit is astonishingly concentrated among white, middle-class, private school-educated men. (Someone claimed last night on Twitter that there were more ex-students from Riverview in the Abbott cabinet than women.) This is either a biological and evolutionary reality that is well worth scientific evaluation or a rather stark demonstration of bias. This doesn’t mean that people who fit the above description have no merit but simply that they may not have quite the stranglehold on it that many of them appear to assume.
Because that’s another thing that is a little revealing about the claims by some that — much as they’d like to help women — they “prefer” to promote on merit. Those who like to congratulate themselves on such exceptional fair-mindedness and commitment to excellence are so often members of the very same group that they think has all the merit! Another quite remarkable coincidence (honestly, I think there must be a few potential PhDs in this).
When anyone suggests that it is “tokenism” to include members of “minority” groups simply because of their gender or ethnicity — indeed, that it might even be “insulting” to do so — I am reminded that women are not a minority group. In fact, they make up the majority of Australians. Mind you, if you are one of those people with merit, it is an understandable mistake on your part because one place where women are always a minority, of course, is in any corridor of power. Wherever there is an underpaid, overworked and undervalued workforce, on the other hand, they are in the majority. Not because there is any systemic bias or prejudice, presumably, but because they lack merit.
There is also an enormous fear of quotas to help get more women into positions of power. This is also curious to me. Quotas are not new. Indeed, until relatively recently, there was a worldwide 100% quota that reserved all positions of power, authority and privilege for men. This was regarded as natural, normal and unexceptional.
Even in our very own federal cabinet, quotas are in existence. I heard a discussion about how difficult it was to select a new ministry given how the PM had to balance the required number of ministers from Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, etc, plus the required number of National Party people. Um, sorry, pardon my ignorance (perhaps its my vagina-owning lack of merit), but aren’t they quotas? Do the ministers from Queensland feel patronised that they might have got their cabinet positions based on their location, not their merit? (I’m not going to ask if the National Party members feel patronised; I am sure they do, all the time.)
Many boards in the private sector have similar interstate quotas so — pardon my presumption — why is it only quotas for women that are so unacceptable? Indeed, one could ask why it is only women who appear to have to earn their place at the decision-making tables by proving their merit at all.
Perhaps it’s because men — particularly those who tick all the class-related boxes listed above — are assumed to have merit unless proved otherwise. Women — no matter what boxes they tick — are assumed to have no merit unless they can prove otherwise.
Until men are actually promoted on merit I see absolutely no reason why women should have to be. In fact, I believe we will only have true equality when there are as many mediocre women in positions of power as there currently are mediocre men. And if you’d like to see just how mediocre things can get, look no further than our new federal cabinet.
As my mother lay dying in hospice, on her final day in this world, August 8th, I asked the attendants if there was any way we could play music. There was a television in her room and I did turn it to the country music channel, but there was no country music. The country music channel had become, like MTV, completely without music.
People listen to music, you see. They don’t watch it, not really. Thus, whatever disposable, throw-away plastic piece of fucking shit you’re hawking in your commercial won’t sell. That overpriced, overproduced SUV you’re trying to convince me is actually a way of life won’t sell either. This is why all the “music” channels have gotten rid of music. The purpose of television is to sell you shit, it’s only purpose. You might mistake the content (i.e. shows) on it for art, as “good”, due to your low standards and expectations, but the content is there to sell you shit, too. When your television is on, your mind is being manipulated in such a way that you become a consumer.
So I asked the attendants if there was anyway I could play my mother music as she lay dying from having consumed cigarettes. They were nice (they were always nice) and brought me a boom box. If we didn’t want to listen to the radio, they said, there was a whole shelf of CDs in the Reflection Room that “guests” had donated through the years.
I had been to the Reflection Room before. It was full of comfortable chairs and religious books. There are no atheists in foxholes, nor, it seems, in hospice. This includes me.
Like I said, I had been to the Reflection Room before, several times actually. My mother had been in hospice for about a month and I went to the Reflection Room the very first day, even. I remember being shocked that there were actually Buddhist sutras in it, including a few versions of my favorite, the Heart Sutra. I stood reading it in the quiet, tears streaming down my cheeks.
…form does not differ from void,
void does not differ from form…
I hadn’t noticed any CDs before, but, sure enough, there they were, dozens and dozens of them. I sifted through, looking for piano music. My mother was a classically trained pianist and I remembered her playing, always playing. As a very small boy, hardly bigger than a toddler, I would sit cross-legged under her piano bench and listen, watching her feet work the peddles.
“That was called the Moonlight Sonata, Mike. Did you like it?”
I found some Mozart, skipped it, then some Chopin, which I set aside. Then some Erik Satie….Erik Satie? Seriously? I looked at the little white sticker on the front: “A gift from the family of Beverly Cowlings, November, 2007”. The same sticker was on the Chopin. I went back to the Mozart and it, too, was from Beverly Cowlings.
I sat the Erik Satie aside and I wondered about her, about Beverly, as I sifted through the rest of the music. I saw in my head a small, gray-haired lady with glasses. Had she died in the same room my mother would die in? I decided that she had.
Then I found it: Collected Piano Music of Ludwig Van Beethoven—a double CD.
Thank you so much, Beverly.
I played the music softly and sat at my mother’s bedside. In hospice, everything is done softly. I prayed even the dying too, prayed hard. Every hour, the attendants would come in and shift her position, murmuring about bed sores.
They reminded me with soft voices of the fridge down the hall that contained snacks and drinks and told me it was “totally ok” if I wanted to order food delivered.
“Thank you, I’m fine,” I lied.
The piano music was for me, of course. My mom had been unconscious since the morning. She could hear, I was sure, but in life she rarely listened to classical music, only played it. She listened mainly to country and jazz and a smattering of rock and roll. She loved classical music, certainly, but only if she was making it.
My son, who is also a musician, inherited her piano upon her diagnosis of lung cancer and death. It was one of the only things she was certain about in all the initial shock.
Night set in and I’d gone through the Chopin and the Satie (twice) and some of the Beethoven, but when the Moonlight Sonata began, the music suddenly stopped. There was a loud SNAP, like what a cassette tape makes at its end, then nothing.
I got up and looked at the boom box. It appeared to be off. I poked the power button a few times. Nothing. I opened and closed the CD player lid. Nothing. I checked the cord. Nothing. The radio display and little red and green lights were all dark.
At this point, my mom’s breathing changed. It became heavier, like sighing, continuous sighing. I forgot about the music, sat down next to her again, and took her hand for the last time.
Here it was.
Soon, the sighing became a gasping. The attendants came in to shift her position and I told them to leave her alone, quite curtly.
“That boom box is broken,” I said, nodding my head at it.
“We can get you another one.”
“That won’t be necessary,” I said. “Thank you, though,” I added, feeling bad about being curt to them.
They left, taking the boom box with them.
After it was over and I walked slowly out of the building and into the middle of the night, my hand aching from holding hers for so many hours, I saw the boom box she had broken without even touching it.
It was in a trashcan, of course, along with everything else.