Introduction the second

It’s been a long time since I was in the habit of regularly writing. It’s certainly been a long time since I’ve written and published anything regularly maybe three years. A lot has changed in that time. The world has changed, communication has changed, the internet has changed, blogging has changed, and I have changed.

I’m somewhat foggy with what I want to achieve with writing here on my blog. Part of me thinks it may help somewhat in dealing with the difficulties of life, learning to be more resilient. Part of me thinks that in some small way I might be part of changing an opinion, helping someone think that little bit more deeply about life and positively transforming their life in some way. More certainly, for me writing has always been about communicating opinions, starting conversations, and expressing ideas and frustrations.

I know I enjoy writing. I like playing with words. I love to create the perfect sounding piece of prose, or well wrangled rhetorical flourish. I also like to think. I think a lot, maybe too much. Writing for me is not the beginning of an idea but rather the crystallising of it. Sitting and writing, is about working out how to communicate an idea in the clearest, simplest, possible way to share with others.

But I do all this knowing that I don’t always get it right. I get angry. I get frustrated. Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors are ever present waiting to trip me up. I don’t always write in ways that I should. Sometimes hurt people. I have many flaws, we all do.

If I had a goal perhaps it would be this, to help myself and others along on this journey we call life, not as someone who has all the answers, but as a fellow traveler reflecting on experiences and the sometimes difficult world in which we find ourselves.


The stupidity of Steven Conroy and the Daily Telegraph

See what I did there?

If you disagree with my title, your mind has probably already skipped to thinking how much you disagree with what I said. In fact, you might be tempted to skip down to the bottom of the page and just state your contrary opinion in the comments section without reading further. Perhaps your blood pressure has raised slightly...

On the flip side if you agree with my post’s title you’re probably experiencing feelings of smugness and perhaps even self-righteous congratulation and which will now shape how you understand and perceive what I’ve written...

My point is simple.

"The way in which an idea is communicated has an effect on how people respond." 

If it’s overly simplistic and inflammatory, this has the effect of causing strong reactions, which push people deeper into already intrenched beliefs. This low brow approach appeals to people who think more simply, with others having neither the education, skills or impetus to read deeply on an issue. Rather they adopt what seems “right” and fits with how they already think about the world.

There are also other problems with this. The more inflammatory the tone, the more polarised the debate becomes. Instead of working toward ideas we have in common, we move away from a more centrist position and wind up adopting an extreme positions. In my experience (and upon reflection) I have found myself fighting for extreme positions, which when I’m thinking calmly and rationally, I don’t really agree with. This approach also stifles discussion, so rather than sitting round a table discussing things like adults we end up shouting one liners and ad-hominem arguments at each other across the playground.

Now of course now provocative headlines and commentary can be ok. Good examples of this include blogging and editorials where opinion is designed to spark discussion. Often I’ve seen that very effect here on my blog. But that’s a far cry from the front page of a newspaper where an Australian Senator is compared to a bunch of Military Dictators.

Important aside - While inflammatory opinion is generally unhelpful, I don’t think the media should be censored from printing such stuff. Part of living in a free and democratic society is that we allow people to express views we don’t agree with and even allow them to be presented in ways that are unhelpful.

What I do want to see is for the media (in this case the Daily Telegraph), take seriously the responsibility to present news in a fair and balanced manner and tone rather then seeking to push an unhelpful inflammatory agenda. Personally I think that reform and regulation of some sort is needed in the Media industry in Australia (more here), however I also agree the timeliness and manner in which Senator Conroy has gone about the issue of reform is counter productive and silly (I haven’t actually looked at the detail of what’s proposed).

However it’s one thing to do something unhelpful, naive, even stupid, but it’s another thing entirely to respond in an even stupider manner. As is so often the case, two wrongs don’t make a right. In this case the Telegraph has overreached in a childish, unhelpful and irresponsible way. They’d do better to sit down at the table with a cup of tea, talk calmly, and treat people like rational thinking adults.

UPDATE: It's also worth watching Media Watch's take on this from Monday.


Love, relationships and other stuff

The ABC does reality TV much better than the commercial channels. When I watch I don’t feel feel like I’m being patronised and having advertising shoved down my throat every second of the program.... Which brings me to Making Couples Happy a four show series that has just finished on the ABC (although you can still catch it on iView). The premise of the show is to counsel struggling couples and seek to improve overall happiness in their relationships. The show had some great one liners. I won’t detail them here but it’s definitely worth watching for that alone.

I’ve enjoyed it because it’s helped me think about my relationships. I found that it held a mirror up to some of my own behaviors showing the effects of engrained ways of thinking and acting. As the show went on I increasingly identified with some of the subjects.

One of the more helpful things was to do with Five Love Languages. If you haven’t heard or read about them before, it pays to check that Wikipedia link out. The basics are pretty simple and you don’t need to read the book to glean very helpful information, and while it’s a Christian-ish book, the principles are secular and universally helpful regardless of what you believe.

In short everyone has one of five different love languages. The theory goes that your personal love language is the the one that you use by default when interacting with others. For example my love language is Words of Affirmation, therefore in my relationships I offer words of affirmation to others.

The problems begin when (for example) my wife’s language is Physical Touch. So where I keep telling her I love her (words) she just wants me to give her a hug. On the flipside she just gives me hugs when I need to hear her say she loves me. Therefore when it comes to showing our love we actually miss each other entirely. Finding this out for the first time was a revelation. I can still remember thinking back over my past relationships and realising for the first time why some of them had hit the proverbial fan.

I’ve also found this sort of stuff doesn’t just apply to “partner” style relationships but relationships in general. To best express appreciation for a colleague friend or student it’s sometimes worth making sure you’re speaking their "love language"... of course you need to be careful here.

To summarise I found both the Five Love Languages and Making Couples Happy series very helpful. And you dear reader, might just find it helpful too.