Saturday, May 18, 2013

Saturday Morning Musings - innocence, respect, the invisible person with a dash of money

This morning's post is a round-up, a muster, of things talked about on this blog and elsewhere. For the sake of simplicity, I am using headings to separate multiple topics.

Respect, informality and the art of listening

In The importance of the Aboriginal concept of respect,  I expressed my concerns about what I perceived to be a decline in respect in current Australian society and contrasted this with the Aboriginal sense of respect. In response, Winton Bates commented that the use of surnames alone did not constitute disrespect. He also wrote: "In my view respect is a basic human need. I remember a person who had an official role in an American prison telling me that respect was the basic requirement survival. "It is all about respect, man"."

I agree with Winton that the simple use of surnames such as Gillard or Abbott does not constitute disrespect; it's the way the names are used that concerned me. Winton's comment was followed by a short comments thread on the rise of informality. Formality and respect are different concepts, both linked also to manners.

I like the less formal Australian approach as compared to, say, England or Germany. By Australian standards, the world I grew up in was relatively formal with complex overlapping social hierarchies. I once tried to explain the naming conventions, the way you addressed others, to a Chinese friend. He was astonished at the complexity!

That world is largely gone, swept away by Australia's economic and social changes. I write about it now from time to time because it was important to me in in a personal sense, more because it is interesting and very different from other Australian worlds. While I regret some aspects of the changes, I also welcome the relative informality that replaced it.   

In terms of Winton's prison comment, I think that the need for respect for us as a person is deeply imbedded in all of us, more so for those who are in some way dispossessed or marginalised. Here Evan wrote: "I am wondering if respect has to do with honour/shame." I think that's accurate.

Evan also wrote: "My feeling (based on hugely limited experience) is that the aboriginal sense of respect has a greater feeling of being personal than our idea of 'respecting the office not the person'." I'm not sure that that is absolutely right. However, I do think, and should have drawn this out, that the Australian Aboriginal concept of respect does incorporate a listening component, a respect for person, that is lacking in the broader Australian society,

The importance of the reader or listener

In recent discussion in various fora, I have said that I try to write for people, A fair bit of my writing has particular individuals, sometimes just one person, in mind. In my mind's eye, I am talking to to them. You can see this in the start of the respect post, That post was written with very particular people in mind, as was my current New England Aboriginal language series in the Armidale Express. 

While I enjoy the craft of writing, this personal focus and the response it gets has proved to be by far the most satisfying aspect of my writing. Here I quote from a Facebook comment. I have deleted names because it was a personal message.

I also mentioned to XXX, that I enjoy reading your articles, because it feels like you’re having an actual conversation with me. So I’m pleased to be a part of your audience. As far as being energised, I must thank you and XXX for motivating me. I am so eager to learn more and have decided to do a BA in History, majoring in Indigenous Studies.

To say that I was flattered and pleased would be a gross understatement. I went dancing round the kitchen (my computer is presently there). One of the messages that I have tried to get across to my fellow writers and especially my fellow bloggers, is that we do have an influence. Of course, I am trying to keep them motivated, I am trying to slow the thinning of the blogging world, but its also true!  

The Invisible Man

In a comment, Ramana reminded me of one of his posts, The Invisible Man. I had forgotten it. Its a very simple post, not long, but I found it to be a very good post directly relevant to the concept of respect. Have you ever felt like the invisible person? I know I have.

Real vs Nominal Economy

Turning to the more mundane, in a comment on Budget conundrums - real vs nominal growth, kvd wrote:

Now you've really got me confused. I thought that in order for 'real growth' to exceed 'nominal growth' you would have to be in a period of deflation. As I'm not aware that we have recently been in such an environment, I'm wondering what report you have read which suggests we've just experienced such an effect?

One of the simplest explanations here is provided by the Sydney Morning Herald's Ross Gittins, Rising damp: why nominal GDP is so flat. It all comes back to the way we measure things!

In responding to kvd's comment. I realised that what was really puzzling me was why this should have affected the estimates. How come Treasury got things so wrong, underestimating tax revenues on the way up, overestimating on the way down? I guess it has to do with the econometric forecasting models and the way that real growth is built in. I should add that I don't know, I'm just guessing.

If that's the case, it strikes me as a bit dumb. Still, it appears that Treasury is promising to focus more on "nominal" growth (ie the normal money measures) to get things better!

Loss of Innocence

In response to Loss of innocence, Ramana wrote:

Paranoia about children's safety. Society has gone bonkers everywhere Jim. I have young nieces and my daughter in law who are frequently seen with me and on more than one occasion I have been called a dirty old man! For exactly the reasons that the grand father could not understand, I have stopped making friends with young children in our local park as some parents think that all of the oldies there are perverts.

So it's just not an Australian problem. As I said in the post, I don't have a solution to this. It just is.

As I write, there are multiple paedophile inquiries running in Australia, while the Anglican Bishop of Grafton has resigned over his treatment of allegations about abuse at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore. It's really all too hard,

Maybe it's time to bring in some hard rules.

No male can be seen in public with a child, male or female, unless a woman is present. No male may speak to a child of either sex unless he can demonstrate under later investigation by the police that the child is relative and that, further, he can prove that he has done no damage to him or her. No person at a public beach, male or female, may undress a young child to wash him or her under the public shower. No male taking a young female child to the beach on his own (not on, see rule one), may take her into the male changing rooms because she needs a shower or he does and doesn't want to leave her alone.  

  Seriously, it's become all too difficult!  


Anonymous said...

I read Ramana's link (which is very good)and also the comments attached - which is where I struck a fellow called Mitch Mitchell whose own 'invisible story' was good enough to get me reading his blog.

He's an independent contractor, such as yourself Jim, and I'd recommend a browse around his thoughts. As an example, the following is a link to the first in a series of posts, rather than simply to the blog itself:

He makes a lot of sense (even when restating well known factors/perceptions) so my thanks to Ramana for the initial linkup!


Jim Belshaw said...

I am glad you liked Ramana's post, kvd. It is good. I have bookmarked Mitch's blog. Thank you for that.