Growing up in the 60s listening to Bob Dylan wax lyrical about ‘Times They Are A’Changing’, my adolescent aspirations embraced this dictum with hopeful abandon, only to acknowledge recently that he spoke a simple sophistry that has engendered great sadness. That’s on the one hand as I peruse the daily newspapers every morn to read that the social malaise surrounding matters sexual, women’s inequality, violence, war, media manipulation, censorship (both self-imposed and management dictated) and political erosion of our precious democracy et alia. Many realities have not only NOT changed, but apparently stayed the same and even become more pervasive and perilous across the world. Thirty-eight years ago, I wrote novels about some of these pertinent issues; to go unpublished since then. For too many years after that time, I occasionally berated myself, as most others did too, for getting our world so wrong; distorting the truth of the times in the late 60s and 70s as if I had no idea what I was writing about. Suffice to say most people who were even interested in reading these books believed they were autobiographical; or at the least, semi-autobiographical. On the other hand now, I feel incredible vindication (not that I need it anymore) and renewed reassurance that I got it SO right; my experience of reality, my depth of understanding and realistic perceptions have been reprinted daily in 2015/16 in the mainstream media (as well as many times in bygone years). It’s both heartening to know I was so spot on about what I was writing about as well as depressing to acknowledge the unchanging realities; turning over the pages in the press that attest to the truths I was writing about that are sadly, still extant today. These realities present as timeless truths that remain almost unaddressed, unchallenged and unaccepted by so many Establishments internationally. I can only ponder whether they will ever be confronted in a truly meaningful and worthwhile way to enhance Dylan’s vision for a new world order.
Of course, I have penned many blogs about these issues in the past six years; regurgitating in some ways what I initially penned nearly four decades ago. I wrote these blogs cognisant about many complex social realities with a more intense analysis, depth and even greater wisdom than I had at 28 years-old; only to now read similar words, albeit somewhat expressed differently, by journalists/commentators/experts who are part of the ‘fame game’ our society welcomes, celebrity worship masquerading as insightful intelligence. Sometimes it is, but what’s worrying is that these so-called ‘experts’ seem to have no sense of history to realise the issues they’re writing about have been not just decades in the making, but entrenched over hundreds, if not thousands of years of human history. Of course, I was dismissed as ‘psycho’ in 1980, with no credibility or respect since; certainly marginalised with no capacity for a considered contribution to our media. Occasionally, some letters made it into print, and the odd freelance story, but since my ‘incarceration’ over two years ago, I have been deprived of even those avenues to make money and/or voice my opinion and/or dissent, realising that at times it’s because I’m a ‘nobody’ (not that that’s how I feel), a loser/failure, and still just ‘a poor, dumb, sick schizophrenic’ who is incapable, incompetent and overwhelmingly, not to be trusted as a rational and logical human being.
If I allow myself to dwell on that reality it only makes me feel too sad, yet, that is my reality and I take solace in writing my blogs as a reflection of a far more important sense of myself as a strong and sensible human being with intelligence, compassion and experience that transcends the ‘labels’ I’ve been ascribed. I’ve stopped wasting my energy, time (at least too much of it) and scant resources on pursuing ideas for projects etc that I realistically know will be rejected as I’ve been there, done that, ad nauseum, over the past four decades. Ageism might be relevant now in some perspective, but it wasn’t the raison d’etre for my rejection. More, it was too often not just what people thought of me – that is, disturbed and deranged, but the issues I was indeed writing about before the ‘mainstream’ had even thought about them. I was told 32 years ago by one male shrink that I was ‘ahead of my time’, a phrase also used just a few months ago by a 31-year-old, gay friend of mine, but it was quite the opposite; most people, women as well as men, were decades, even centuries behind me; often espousing the rhetoric and applauding it respectively of Women’s Lib, but failing to face the conflicts involved in shaking off the shackles of past gender, social norms. Many women thought a ‘career’ was the answer to it all yet while they may have worked alongside men as ‘supposed’ equals, they still allowed men to pose on their pedestals of power as the authorities and experts; indeed, many women even adopted so-called masculine patterns of behaviour rather than fashion their own unique and individual traits, accepting male norms as those to emulate. They refused to challenge the basic underlying inadequacy and inequality of that ‘power’ game; be it at work, at home or at play, reluctant to confront that aberrant imbalance, innately still kow-towing to men without introducing any refashioned behaviours. Daring to challenge that ‘mainstream’ status quo was too threatening and too dangerous. Women’s Lib for me was not about ‘blaming men’ or even condemning patriarchy, it was about developing and nurturing my own sense of self as a woman and a person and hoping that some men at least, would come with me on my journey. Not only did no men join me; the female friends I had consciously avoided me, too. For my perspective, I was in step with the times, in touch with a reality I desperately wanted to change as it subordinated women as second-class, devouring many books, magazines and articles in my teenage years and twenties (and importantly, recognising the liberating implications about the words I read if I could apply them in my own life) as well as conducting my own research and talking to all sorts of males and females about many of these issues. Reading articles about some of these issues now is at least a positive step in having them out in the public forum for debate, discourse and discussion. What else is new as there were a plethora of books etc about many of the same issues throughout the 60s and 70s – sadly, too many people are still writing about exactly the same issues more than 50 years later.
I’m now going to quote/paraphrase various articles the ‘famed’ experts have written about recently who are repeating what I wrote about too long ago.
Firstly, on matters sexual: a female recently completed her PhD on teenage sexuality, finding in a survey of 89 young people that many 14-16-year-olds rarely or never (spoke) their parents and schools about how and why sex (could ) be good. Moreover, they ‘learn that ‘sex is ‘a bad thing’; another article included a survey that 30 per cent of 16-19-year-old girls did not masturbate and others reveal teenage unwanted pregnancy remains unchanged (and reasonably disturbingly high) over the past decade. Furthermore, that over 30 per cent of women have not experienced orgasms, (though this article did not even suggest a difference in clitoral/vaginal orgasms at all) and a professor at the Royal Women’s Hospital said we have a long way to go to acknowledge and accept that teenagers have sex. No further discussion or questions as to why this is was included in the article at all. Another article about 18 months ago celebrated older women enjoying ‘good sex’ almost for the first time in their lives and I could only wonder WHY this was a story at all? Is it so unusual, so special, so different, that women could enjoy good sex? If it was the norm would it warrant a whole page article in the tabloid (quality newspaper supposedly) press?
Secondly, on the issue of ‘women’s inequality’ – in so many spheres and in so many areas, it’s so widespread that books have been written, and are still being written, about this issue – on March 8, International Women’s Day 2015, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, wrote ‘the pace of change has been glacial’, echoed just before Xmas 2015 by the chairwoman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Elizabeth Proust calling for 30 per cent quotas on business boards because there seemed no other way to achieve gender parity. Also, the CEO of BHP Billiton, Andrew Mackenzie, attempting to improve gender diversity et alia, said: ‘…the fact is that whether you like it or not, even if you don’t know it, we all have-are guilty of –unconscious bias’.(my emphasis) He added ‘ there is no role in BHP that a woman can’t play, but women only hold about 16 per cent of Australia’s resource sector jobs. The percentage of female senior executives in BHP has risen from 8 per cent to 17 per cent in five years, but (Athalie) Williams (BHP’s chief people officer) is the only woman on the top committee of 10 executives that reports to Mackenzie. Williams says that ….from a gender perspective, and from LGBTI, it’s a very conservative and traditional male-dominated industry. We are starting further back than some of the other sectors- we’ve got to think creatively.’ Mackenzie adds: ‘Where we are today is not acceptable, and we are absolutely committed to shifting the dial’. Women’s pay has also been debated and discussed by female cricketers in Australia with an ‘end to the stalemate…around the corner.’ Pat Howard, Cricket Australia’s team performance manager, said ‘he will not put an exact figure on the salary range that will be available to the Ashes-winning Southern Stars but if the top Australian players are on six-figure contracts for the first time it will be a landmark moment for cricket and women’s sport in general in Australia. Media Manager for the Australian Cricket team 2004-06, Belinda Dennett recently wrote ‘when they (women) are reduced to an amusement or a sexual plaything for men, they are discredited, undermined and often intimidated. If they speak up, they fear giving their usually male bosses a reason to remove them for their position- the position they have usually had to work twice as hard (my emphasis) as male colleagues to get in the first place. ….If more women were in leadership positions in sporting organisations (and society) perhaps rather than have men offer the advice and make decisions about what is best for (women perceived and/or treated in this way)…they would listen to how this behaviour males women feel. Another female columnist Wendy Tuohy said: ‘belittling women’s experience is one way to justify the complacency around workplace sexism. Trying to silence (my emphasis) women and even industry leaders who discuss the need to address sexism and gender discrimination to build a stronger workforce, reassures us we don’t have a problem with equality, despite the evidence of workplace studies and high-profile examples. Sexism is considered so harmless it’s largely unchallenged by many Aussies …. second-class treatment of women, as highlighted in studies of police, emergency services, armed forces, medicine, the legal fraternity, academia, construction and energy and parts of the media, is so tolerated some professional women have to beg to be believed. Another article on females ‘working’ in the political arena said ‘female advisers recount tales of sleazy frontbenchers…(just another example of an old problem)… Those with long memories say the “lazy sexism” in politics has not changed in years. …says one woman who has seen male politicians up close – “They all need to be sat down and given an education.”… about sexist behaviour…another female journalist wrote ‘ too many of us are frightened to say anything. …’It turns out that speaking out about the harassment we receive in the workplace is often as bad as the harassment itself. We are punished twice. …Every day we women are told we live in a world where equality has been achieved. That we no longer need to be so worried, so watchful, because we will be treated with the respect and dignity that we all deserve. But (the diplomat/Briggs affair) is one in a long line of men to demonstrate that the workplace is still a hostile place for women, even when you reach the upper echelons of politics in this country. …(often) women leave their jobs – or continue to suffer- because they are too frightened to speak out…’ In one of my novels, I also wrote about the female character not having self-belief or believing in her future as a top journalist and to validate my belief as a writer with experience of too many women without a strong sense of self-belief I paraphrase from a 16-year-old girl in an inner suburban secondary school who said that many young girls did NOT believe they were ‘smart-enough’ for achievement of aspirations many males subscribed to. ‘Some of the smartest people I know are women, but it doesn’t change the fact that they think they’re not good enough, and feel they can’t share that intelligence with the world because they might be laughed at. She also sees herself as ambitious and assertive; yet was ‘sick of being called ‘bossy’ and ‘bitchy’ at school. She has earned a reputation of being ‘too forthright’ – a description attributed to female, rather than male students. ‘A subtle sort of sexism’ that female teenagers routinely endure in the classroom. I wrote about some of these issues; that young women then can unconsciously proscribe their behaviour and/or intelligence et al to have friends and be accepted, as much by other females as males. ‘Furthermore, on The Conversation website just recently, two female academics from Melbourne University one in Public Governance and the other in Public Health Law wrote about female doctors hitting ‘glass ceilings’. … ‘Today, women are typically the dominant group within medical schools and yet remain under-represented in formal leadership positions and particular specialty areas.’ Similar trends are also in UK, Canada and the US. .. ‘(we believe) women are being channelled into particular areas of the profession that are lower status and attract lower pay, while more high-profile roles remain in the hands of men.’ ….The writers say that this is not to say that male doctors are (all) actively working to keep women excluded from these roles….there are a range of reasons for the barriers around perceptions of capability, capacity and credibility. “Our research found that some women may lack self-confidence or doubt their ability to undertake certain roles’. The pertinent point about this is WHY some medical women doctors may lack the self-confidence or doubt their abilities; this was not explored in the dissertation but it IS an aspect of what I wrote about in one of my novels; that my female character felt a conflict of confidence based on an unconscious syndrome of ‘frightening’ men who were their bosses. Indeed, the character says she felt ‘terrified’ by her own innate confidence; terrified because to compete with some of these men was ‘threatening’ to these men. At times, the character withdraws from the challenge in her young twenties; depressed at the same time by her having to accept second-class status; albeit unconsciously till she works it out for herself in the sequel novel I later wrote. The Melb Uni academics continue that the medical doctors “women (may not be) taken seriously as leaders or surgeons…sociology has a long tradition of scholarship arguing that organisations and professions are highly gendered and valorise masculine values.” … “These barriers are not simply externally imposed on women by men and maybe internalised (my emphasis) in women through the broader culture and values of organisations. Internalised beliefs about the traits and qualities required for particular roles can dissuade some women from actively seeking out these roles….At an interpersonal level, unconscious biases, sexist micro-aggressions and a ‘club culture’ contribute to a hostile environment for women within some health-care settings’. What is pertinent is WHY these women medicos are seemingly NOT questioning that culture and where the biases are emanating from and perpetuated by whom? Is it just the males in their lives or women too – their mothers, sisters and female friends who just maybe are still locked into more traditional roles, seeing anyone who ‘breaks out of them or even aspires to, as a ‘threat’ too? Why aren’t these women medicos thinking (doctors are supposed to be bright?) about all of these issues to make conscious what they are apparently absorbing unconsciously? This is also an aspect of what I was writing about; as daring to confront these unconscious biases et al can often isolate and exclude women in a male-dominated hierarchy; the men fearing to lose and/or surrendering their roles of power, status and prestige to women who they unconsciously believe are inferior. However, I was also writing about jealousy and bitchiness between women, too; it’s not just male-only unconscious biases. For some women who confront those biases of other women this can sometimes lead to an even greater sense of aloneness and frustration. Shutting up and not even putting yourself forward for promotional positions can be a less perilous and lonely alternative. Letting the status quo remain unchallenged may be a ‘safer’ option for some of these women; albeit even unconsciously.
Thirdly: violence: My books are about both physical and psychological violence, perpetrated by men as well as women, between both genders. Two years ago, one female TV media celebrity in 2014 said that ‘women can be unkind to women’ and this is an issue that I was writing about that’s not oft written about at all. (I’ve rarely read about it and heard it discussed even less). If one woman does have a strong sense of self-belief and aspires ambitiously, she is not just facing a ‘glass ceiling’ erected by men, but also can be labelled delusional and/or sick by other women, or just a ‘nasty, snobbish bitch’ or a ‘prima donna’.
Gender irrelevant! Moreover, the issue of domestic violence, or alcohol-fuelled violence, is now dominating newsprint, TV and the daily news online – yet, almost everyone focuses on males as the perpetrators and women as the ‘victims’. My novel, as I researched a documentary about a woman who was violent and also grew up in a family of psychologically violent females towards me, focuses on both male violence and female violence; the latter being called mad and sick. So it was at least somewhat heartening to read a ‘famous’ feminist writer only last week write about female violence; albeit sadly, it was all about their violence against men, not each other. She writes about PM Turnbull’s first major policy announcement on domestic violence, which whitewashed this complex issue by presenting men as the only villains. When I wrote last year about research showing (I must have missed that article unfortunately) the prominent role women played in violence in the home, I received many supportive letters from women, including professionals working with families at risk from violent mothers and other women who had grown up in such homes, or had witnesses brothers, fathers, male friends experiencing violence at the hands of a woman. Many commented how surprised (can’t say I would use that word; denial of female violence, ignorance and a reluctance to face the pervasive gender irrelevance of violence is embedded in our society) they were that Turnbull made such an offensive, one-sided policy announcement. Politicians who play gender politics risk antagonising not only men fed-up with the constant male-bashing, but also women determined not to live their lives as victims; women who want responsibility for aggressive, offensive behaviour to be sheeted home to the true perpetrators – male or female.’ One of the points the writer misses is HOW violent women are regarded in this society; as mentally unwell and sick. That could explain tragically however, why Turnbull et al focus on men-only; male violence may be unacceptable and lambasted, but it is not intrinsically perceived as a ‘mental illness’. My research over decades is that female violence is regarded in this way all too often (I wrote a story about this too in 1999 which was published but was ‘savaged’ by the sub-editor who put a terrible headline on it – “women in a fury”! As well, I watched a TV commercial just this week for an apple cider drink; it featured two young women and a ‘bitchy and jealous’ exchange between these women about how many apples they had each picked. Game on!
Fourthly: war and all its implicit undertones – fear, paranoia and hate – in my novels, I was trying to draw an analogy between the nature of war as it’s fought between AND within countries and people’s personal wars – both within themselves manifesting as self-hatred, self-loathing and fear as well as the projection of an internal civil war as an ‘unconscious’ self-hate onto others…set in the early 70s when the civil war was raging in Vietnam, I had the perfect war as an analogy; now, as the civil war rages in Syria (and I’m not going to quote as it’s all too blatant) this is yet a 21st century manifestation of both internal and external war played out even more fearfully with IS in so many countries. I also wrote about ‘war’ in Israel; the paranoia and fear generated as is now extant in Paris (among other cities) after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the November 13 attacks in 2015. A recent headline in the mainstream media – ‘Living beyond the fear’ – attests to much of what I was writing about; albeit in different countries, but even Israel today reams are written about the extant dangers and fear living not just in that country but the occupied territories. Indeed, a former Israeli soldier, Assaf Gavron, wrote in a quality Melbourne newspaper, that ‘the internal discussion is Israel is more militant, threatening and intolerant than it has ever been… There seems to be only one acceptable voice, orchestrated by the government and its spokespeople, and beamed to all corners of the country by a clan of loyal media outlets drowning out all the others. Those few dissenters who attempt to contradict it – to ask questions, to protest, to represent a different colour from the artificial consensus – are ridiculed and patronised at best, threatened, vilified and physically attacked at worst. Israelis not ‘supporting our troops’ are seen as traitors, and newspaper asking questions about the government’s policies and actions are seen as demoralising.’ He talks about social media – ‘There, the gloves are taken off, social courtesies abandoned and hatred rears its ugly head. (my emphasis) ‘The cumulative effect of this mindless violence is hugely disturbing.’ As I was trying to write and/or understand what he calls ‘mindless violence’, he concludes his article using the same sentiments I was writing about ‘ For our own sake, for our sanity- we must stop now.’ Is Paris any different on one level? One woman said ‘In Paris, after the attacks ‘came the fear’. ‘The fear started with Charlie…I think before that, we were unconscious.’ Another woman said ‘The fear never stops –everybody says no fear, no fear, but I think that is naive. You have to live with fear. There is no day goes by we don’t hear about a terrorist attack.’ The papers, TV and radio are full of how the terrorists are fuelled by hate; equally disturbing, is the backlash against Muslims around the western world as evidenced by Republican US Presidential candidate Donald Trump who called for an end to migration into America of Muslims. The hate and fear is palpable; albeit engendered by different issues than what I wrote about, but they are all about exactly the same underlying issues I penned – people’s frustrations, unhappiness, fears and egos running rampant against themselves (suicide bombers) or against others as mass murder. So many malcontents are engaged in fighting ‘wars’ just as much now as 40 years ago.
Fifthly: media manipulation and censorship (self-imposed or management dictated?) –You can read what the Israeli soldier claimed about newspapers in Israel above, but in Australia, just in today’s newspaper, January 15, 2016, there was a story about an ABC technology and games issue writer, who resigned claiming on Twitter when asked if he was ‘gagged’ replied ‘yes’. The ABC denied it. It has been reported that over the past five years, the MEAA media union estimates 2000 journalists lost their jobs and newsroom staff halved between 2007-2013. A political science associate professor at Melbourne University writing in The Age that journalism ‘is more than a set of skills or a designated job. It is an ideal. That ideal has never been fulfilled and perhaps never can be. Journalism promised so much that the mythology clouds over what most journalists do, day in and day out.’ She quotes the Guardian reporter who broke the Murdoch phone-hacking scandal Nick Davis that’ journalists told themselves a fantasy to get themselves out of bed each morning; that they could expose wrongdoing and it would stop. In his experience, this was untrue. Even after exposure, the bad things often continued.’ She continues about Australia ‘ often newspapers have been on the wrong side of progress, opposing women’s suffrage, defending the White Australia policy or promoting the Vietnam War, for example….There are reasonable questions to ask about journalism and what it achieves. (my emphasis) This is indeed some of what my novels focus on too; we need, she says, to ‘provide feeback about what we want from journalism today. If we still want journalism, knowing all of its limitations but still valuing its contributions, we have to help sustain its ideals and those who work towards them.’ Also, there has been debate about ‘objective reporting’ – one esteemed British import and former ABC presenter of Media Watch claiming objectivity is ‘a thing of the past’. This is also an issue I raise in my novels; and current ABC director of editorial policy disagrees that objectivity is no longer. Indeed, he claims that ‘anyone who simply collects facts and sets them down is not a reporter. That’s not journalism; it’s stenography. It has always been the case that reporters need to sift through facts, weigh them up, male editorial judgements (and therein lies an issue for me anyhow) about their relative strength and importance and then present them in a way that illuminates the truth of a matter. It’s not called ‘editorial’ content for nothing.’ Furthermore, he postulates that ‘this process of making editorial judgements about facts is fundamental to great journalism.’ It doesn’t, he continues, ‘involve abandoning a commitment to impartiality and following your own whims and preoccupations.’ …’What it does involve is gathering information without fear or favour, weighing and assessing that information and then reaching a conclusion based on the evidence.’ And this IS the key to appreciating self-censorship or even an unconscious appreciation of a management’s editorial policy and/or direction: ‘It involves a conscious and disciplined process where the evidence is not misrepresented or suppressed if it doesn’t suit a preconceived opinion. A process where the reporter examines and challenges his or her own ASSUMPTIONS (my emphasis) and blind spots as well as everyone else’s.’ The debate continues…I raised many of these issues in my novels.
Sixthly: Political erosion of our precious democracy: I wrote about democracy, socialism, fascism and totalitarianism in my novels; in different countries as I understood these complex political realities. However, not much focus on Australia and its abuse of democracy; indeed, I wrote about Britain, Israel and Spain et al. Many of the ‘laws’ Australia has introduced since 9/11 have dangerous parallels to what I read about China and what I wrote about Spain under the fascist dictatorship of Franco in 1974-75 and in a limited way, the centrist control on a kibbutz in Israel; albeit as a socialist enterprise. The metadata laws that came into effect on October 13 2015 have frightening implications for us all; as people’s emails, internet, mobile and landline use will now be kept for up to two years for ‘investigation’ if warranted – whatever that means. Where are our freedoms of privacy, of expression and of speech? Moreover, the incarceration of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru (most of whom are later found to be genuine political refugees) is testimony to the imprisonment of many in countries such as Spain that I had first-hand experience of. Furthermore, attempts by Chinese authorities to either ‘silence’ or imprison dissidents for daring to criticise government policy et al is NO different to Spain under Franco. Yet, we court China as our biggest trading partner, among other things. Where are our principles about freedom (however limited and relative), human rights and democracy? It appears we don’t have any when money, trade and our economy is at stake.
I could continue quoting ad nauseum about so many of these issues but suffice with what I’ve tried to present. The fact that my novels remain unpublished speaks for itself. However, there is one salient issue I raised I don’t read about: people’s hypocrisy; the rhetoric can be impressive, reality reveals them as liars No more to say.