Monthly Archives: February 2014

An Open Love Letter From the Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang

February 12, 2014

Dear Campbell Newman and all members of the Queensland Parliament,

Photo by Penny Nelson

Photo by Penny Nelson

Knit one

Purl three…

Do they allow knitting 

In solitary?

We are the Creative Provocateurs you are so determined to ignore. So much in fact, that Bleijie felt the need to issue a public statement to clarify that we knitters, quilters and crafty Trikies would not be targeted by VLAD, your citizen-impaler.

We feel utterly heartbroken that, despite our best efforts, we have failed to attract the same ardour you have expressed for groups such as the Electrical Trades Union, the Yandina 5, the Maritime Union of Australia, the Versace 3, and Lawyers (ALL lawyers – no offence, but that is a little slutty).

Picture by Penny Nelson

Photo by Penny Nelson

Do you not like our seditious stitching, our beastly balaclavas, or our pretty gang patches?

We are also kind of jealous of individuals such as Sally Kuether and Ben Wilson. We have tattoos, regularly drink beer, and enjoy helping out our mates too.

Why do you deny us? We seek to corrupt “Bikies”, “Politicians”, and all other nefarious characters with the siren song of wool.

We will persist until you accept our confessions of love. When we learned you would resume Parliament on February 11th, we decided to give you a gift to mark this special day. At your doorstep, we left you our signature solitary confinement cell, tenderly yarn bombed with pieces contributed from across Australia and North America.

Photo by Blue Art Xinja

Photo by Blue Art Xinja

Truth is, we thought you needed a helpful reminder of what you have put into motion with your disdain for your constituents. Perhaps the cell will become an object of contemplation. You might meditate upon the economic impacts of imprisoning innocent citizens in isolation, whilst removing men and women from the workforce and encumbering their families and support services.  You might also reflect upon the mental and physical impacts that prolonged isolation would have on you, were your organisation deemed to be criminal in nature.

Should you begin to realise the shame you have brought on your public office, we invite you to duck inside the cell’s pink walls and give yourself over to her woolly embrace.  Inside it is safe and comforting, a little like being in the womb – and don’t worry, we might permit conjugal visits.

We hope you love our gift as much as we do. Although you have yet to acknowledge our confessions of love, we shall persevere. This love story has only just begun.

Photo by Penny Nelson

Photo by Penny Nelson

Knit one, 

Purl three…

Do they allow knitting

In solitary?

Love,

Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang

xoxoxo

The Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang is recruiting freedom fighting craftivists with a penchant for pink and red wool. Contact bad.ass.motherstitcher@gmail.com for details.

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The Debate Goes On…

The other morning I woke up and found myself a Jehovah’s Witness

That was the criticism levelled at me, that I was the Jehovah’s Witness of the anti-VLAD movement. This was odd, since I cannot recall knocking on anyone’s doors lately. I do try to avoid people whenever necessary. I was deeply insulted as I have had my own JW experiences and I do not appreciate having a quiet morning at home interrupted by people asking me personal questions, quoting scripture, and blasting frigid Vancouver winter into my cozy home. I also certainly do not tell people what their political views should be, however I do dispute those who claim to be anti-VLAD, anti-Liberal, anti-Newman, anti-Abbott, yet choose to do nothing but whinge about “others” and minimise those who are speaking out and seeking to make a change.

Apathy is a sickness.

Newman stated, “These [VLAD] laws are there to protect Queenslanders”. With LawyersVeteransChristiansTradesmengymstattoo parloursLibrarians, and individuals sporting tattoos being targeted by the Liberals, I have to ask Newman if he has decided Queenslanders are safest in jail?

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Critique #1 From a practical standpoint the only way that laws can be changed is through judiciary overruling of the government, or an election implementing a new party is in power with the intent to repeal the laws. Therefore, anything else is a waste of energy and resources.

I agree that fighting smart and utilising strategy is vital. I take issue with the attitude that individual activism and citizen involvement is not essential, that change is up to the lawyers, judges, and politicians. The fallacy of this argument is that politicians may not repeal the laws unless they realise that their electorate is clamouring for the repeal. Politicians need to receive pressure from constituents to make it clear that repealing these laws is part of the contract if they are to receive votes.

Furthermore, Queensland’s political system is flawed. The Parliament is based on the Westminster model but it is the only Australian state to lack a second chamber considered a balance or “check” on the elected party. In Queensland, the Government “has almost unlimited power”. Therefore, it is vital that the public ensure they have the reigns on the government. The premise of democracy is that it is to represent the will of the people.

Those who place responsibility for the repeal of anti-democratic laws onto the Political and Judiciary systems,  negate their responsibility for action.  Think about the Civil Rights movement in the US (1955-68) – a battle fought in the courts, in government, and on the streets. There were extreme groups and moderate groups. There were individuals who quietly took action in the nature of Rosa Parks who may never be recognised. There were individuals who became leaders and rallied the masses, such as Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., That movement succeeded because it was fought on all fronts every day, not just when an election came along. The early part of the Civil Rights Movement relied on litigation,  public education, and legislative lobbying. However the 60’s saw a direct action strategy of mass mobilisation, nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience: marches, boycotts, sit-ins, and Freedom Rides.1623686_10153777437860580_1898106637_n

By being vocal and visual we are sending a clear message that the electorate is angry and will not put up with these anti-democratic laws. Yes, some changes take time, take judicial repeal, take elections, but parties need to know that we are expecting them to work for our votes, that we expect change.

Critique #2 Your Work Won’t Change Anything

Advocating for my clients, I have successfully  negotiated with municipal and national departments by putting in the time, using pragmatic arguments, consulting with ombudsmen, citing reliable studies, using valid assessments, and outlining a breakdown of the risks and costs of a certain outcome. Successful or not, at the end of the day I look my clients in the eye and tell them I tried everything I could.

Of course you will fail if you do nothing. That is guaranteed. If you try, you may fail, you may be partially successful. You may succeed beyond your expectations.

I want to look at myself in the mirror and say “I did everything I possibly could because I live my values, I walk my talk”. Anything less is bullshit…and I am having so much fun!

And here I will let Howard Zinn, by way of Matt Damon have the last word.

Critique #3 Your Actions Do Not Have Enough Impact and Critique #4 There Are Not Enough of You

How do you measure impact? The cell that KYR created became a learning opportunity for many children at the demonstration. Their parents used it as a way to discuss imprisonment. It was a physical representation of an abstract concept, and made a real impression on them. Maybe years later, that experience (and many others) will contribute to who they become, what they accomplish in their lifetimes. Certainly we have goals and hopes with the work we do, but there are many ways to have an effect, ways that we may never be aware of.

In the short time of working with KYRTG, I have made amazing friends. We support each other with emotional and practical help. We inspire each other and collaborate. Is that not a sizeable impact?

David Bowie and a little sparkle

David Bowie and a little sparkle

The next time someone questions the value of what a small group of people are doing, remind them that all it takes are a few key individuals to have a tremendous impact. They may be unknown and unacknowledged (and that is why most people think individuals have no effect) – but that does not negate their impact. Consider the individual radio operators and interceptors during the war who could recognise the message styles of different “enemy” transmitters and spent hours documenting seemingly nonsensical code for the cryptanalysts (who were themselves essential individuals). Their work was key to guiding military strategy and the allocation of resources.

Critique #5 You Are Not a Very Serious Group…

As I said in the KYR press release, “there are many ways to fight. There are many ways to express rage”. You see it all over the world: the mothers of the disappeared gathering together in public squares in Argentina, the clever bobsledding ad by The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, even the Olympic outfits of the German team – do not tell me that those do not have an impact or that there is not strategy behind them. Many of us in KYR are activists and work in health or community services. We have considerable insight and experience as individuals and as professionals behind why we feel the desire to act.  There is room for the artists: spectacle, symbolism, visual impact, advocacy. Other organisations have requested our attendance at their events because of our innovative approach and visual impact.

Canadian athlete Kripps went head to head with Russian censorship laws when he tweeted this picture of his team...looking good

Canadian athlete Kripps went head to head with Russian censorship laws when he tweeted this picture of his team…looking good

Action Points:

  • Keep reading. Find some great media resources to stay up to date about current events (the ABC Perhaps)?
  • Check out this great article about law and order and Queensland’s abuse of power by Crooke and Fitzgerald (Gary W Crooke QC was senior counsel assisting the Fitzgerald Inquiry (1987-89) into Queensland Police corruption and Tony Fitzgerald AC QC was chair of the Fitzgerald Inquiry – so they know about the abuse of power).
  • Contact those running for election in your catchment area and ask them what they are doing to represent your views. Let them know that by voting and rallying you are doing our job, what are they doing? Demand actions, not words.
  • Read the VLAD legislation
  • Utilise Facebook and similar social media are great for networking and learning about upcoming rallies and events (ie. Queensland Civil Liberties Network)
  • For those inclined to craftivism or something humorous and creative, consider joining groups such as Knit Your Revolt (Australia-wide, with international members) and/or the Queensland chapter, Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang
  • Find speeches, blogs, discourses that inspire you

The people are more powerful than the government. An apt metaphor is the training of elephants. As youngsters from the wild, they are conditioned to think they cannot escape when tied to a tree. The elephant is raised to believe it can be held captive by simple means when in fact it could rip trees out of the ground and break metal chains. Are we happy to remain tied to the tree, or is it time to rampage? It is time for the public to take back their votes and make it clear that parties need to start listening to the people.

Fighting a unified public is like fighting water. Water inevitably wins. It can be a steady drip accumulating over decades, or a tsunami that levels everything in its path within moments. Neither is better than the other – just depends on the context and needs of the time.

PS – here is a gift for those still asking “why the hell Abbott?”

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Sometimes it’s Simply Synchronicity…

The Cauldron, Vanessa Swift

The Cauldron, Vanessa Swift

Sometimes an artist offers the world an expression, an urge, that finds a corresponding desire in the community. Vanessa Swift is such an individual. In discovering her love for depicting the bodies of sensual, empowered women, she found other like-minded artists and a wider audience eager to participate in the first Female Form exhibition in 2013. The success of our first year and the overwhelmingly positive response sparked a vision for an annual event. This year we are excited to offer an exhibition with greater scope. The new venue allows us to showcase a larger number of artists with a wonderful range of aesthetics, mediums, and subjects. So too our performers for our celebration night will be showcasing a diversity of styles. We are immensely proud to be raising funds in support of the Butterfly Foundation, a national organisation offering help to those with eating disorders and negative body image, and the Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre (BRISSC) and Brisbane Domestic Violence Centre, services dedicated to assisting women who are affected by sexual violence

As with any vital endeavour, this project has encouraged introspection and raised controversy. Some have claimed that we are perpetuating the very issues we claim to combat, namely the objectification and violence visited upon women by themselves and others. It has been argued that we are the exploiters, that depicting feminine flesh and sexuality objectifies women. Yet a defence for equality of the sexes must recognise that all women have the capacity for judgement, that oppression and empowerment are not objective, and true parity involves self-determination.

Leather II, Vanessa Swift

Leather II, Vanessa Swift

In addition, we have invited investigation into what comprises a woman. Developments in biological sciences, medical interventions, legal practices, and cultural mores lead us to be far more diverse and nuanced in our understanding of “female”.

Contained in these pages are statements by the artists associated with this exhibition. Our work is diverse, challenging, comical, disturbing, whimsical, sensual, shocking. As contradictory and mercurial as any woman.

Our viewpoints vary, yet we gather to celebrate. We do not offer you answers or propaganda, but an invitation to peruse our stories, engage with our art, and consider for yourselves how to honour the female form.

Celebration of the Female Form

Brisbane Table Tennis Club – 86 Green Tce, Windsor, Brisbane, Queensland

Art Exhibition opens to the public $5 admission go to Butterfly Foundation and BRISC:

Saturday 8am to 5pm 28/06/2014
Sunday 8am to 2pm 29/06/2014

Celebration night with performances and prizes:

Saturday 28/06/2014 6pm to 10.30pm

Night Moves, Vanessa Swift

Night Moves, Vanessa Swift

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A Day to Reconsider: Coping, Addiction, Emotional Suffering

I awoke today to learn by way of the Facebook news machine that Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed away, a needle in his arm, suspected heroin overdose. It gave me pause:

A Few of My Musings about Suffering and Addiction

Today Philip Seymour Hoffman reminded me that there are many, many people in pain. That suffering and coping is not something only experienced by unemployed, “unsuccessful”, or traumatized individuals. Suffering is difficult to diagnose, it is strong because it is secret. As with Heath Ledger and Cory Monteith and so many others, being intelligent, witty, rich, great at your craft, recognized by your industry does not mitigate the suffering in your heart. I have much to ponder today.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman

There are many strong studies that correlate chronic diseases and addictions to previous trauma. Pretending the addiction is an illness allows others to judge the individual as a failure of character existing in a vacuum. It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t mean a person can say “I had a bad childhood, therefore I have carte blanche” but it doss mean that we can find where the healing / “rehab” needs to focus.

Then my friend AG shared:

“I just find it is a temptation that doesn’t go away. Mental illness was a big trigger. Just to feel ‘normal’ for a while. I have good people in my life & my spirituality helps. You have a lot of compassion for substance abusers, I have noticed. Sadly that seems to be rare, ‘he knew the risks’.

Since facing my own addiction issues, I have often wondered if anyone who is a substance abuser happy? Are we all trying to cope with a world we are sometimes too sensitive for?”

This gave me more to ponder…

There are many people who cope with life using food/alcohol/violence/exercise/cigarettes/coffee/drugs/sex/risky activities/shopping/gambling/stealing/obsessions/compulsions. From a mental health perspective, it is not a “problem” until it begins to prevent you from doing activities you need in order to survive (bathing, eating) or want to do (relationships, family, hobbies, sports, employment, creativity).

Many people maintain a balance and remain functional and/or succeed in hiding their coping methods. What about all of the painters, writers, comedians, actors, models, musicians who manage huge careers whilst relying on a substance? In the music industry, drugs were how stars could stay awake on the road – driving to the next town after a show. It also made them easy to control.

I once read about an exercise bulimic who mined her obsession with the body, youth, and female thinness for her exhibition work. She was very successful (probably because young slender girls found a corresponding obsession in the rest of the Western world).

The point of pain is to warn us of a problem that endangers our continued existence ie. if you expose your hand to extreme temperatures, you “cook” your tissues and a damaged hand will not be useful for feeding, fucking, or fighting. Science shows us that emotional and physical pain activate in identical areas of the brain. Our current (physical) pain theory is that chronic pain is a nervous system that has wired itself to send the “danger!” signal even when tissue damage is not present. So too, with emotional responses such as anxiety and depression or cravings/addictions. Neurons that wire together fire together, so the more often a person “affirms” that pathway, the more easily it is triggered. I feel that the pain experience warrants deeper investigation. Human suffering is relative, but it is one of our strangest driving forces: avoid pain at all costs, seek pleasure.

Carl Hart and everything-you-know-about-drugs-is-false

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Dr. Hart

Carl Hart is an Associate Professor of Psychology in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Hart was recently elected to Fellow status by the American Psychological Association (Division 28) for his outstanding contribution to the field of psychology, specifically psychopharmacology and substance abuse. He is the author or co-author of dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology, co-author of the textbook, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, and a member of a NIH review group.  He wrote High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. In a country that 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population, most of whom a incarcerated for drug possession, Dr. Hart’s work is very important in combating the fiction and hysteria associated with drugs and drug users.

Carl Hart explains that through his experiments and critical reviews of the literature, the evidence reveals much of what we are told about drug use is false:

  • 80-90% of the people who take drugs are tax-paying, employed, responsible citizens
  • Drug use reduces when addicts are provided with alternatives. In the Rat Park experiments, this took the form of an end to isolation, opportunities for activities, a sexual partner, or enjoyable food.
  • In an experiment where human crack cocaine addicts were offered money or a merchandise voucher or a hit of the drug, half of the drug users chose the money and vouchers when they were valued at $5. At $20 almost all drug use ceased. Therefore, drug users exemplify a rational behaviour and a preference for alternatives to crack cocaine.
  • Amphetamines has been used for decades in the military
  • in the US in 1986 legislation was passed that punished crack cocaine possession much more harshly than powder cocaine, this unfairly targets addicts from a lower SES
  • 1.5 million 85% or more are arrested for possession. Through the enforcement of drug laws, African-Americans are punished to a greater degree than Caucasian. Black men make up 6% of the population of the US yet represent 35-40% of the prison population.
Dr Carl Hart

Dr Carl Hart

Dr. Hart advocates creating a drug-literate society:

  • Methamphetamine can lead to chronic sleep loss, which is associated with types of cancer and  psychiatric effects
  • Cocaine is cut with other substances (ie. animal dewormers) which can impact the body’s ability to fight infection
  • Combining heroin or another opiod (analgesics or pain killers) with alcohol (a sedative) increases the risk of possible overdose

Closing Thoughts

There are extensive lists about well-known people with mental illnesses and/or substance dependencies:

Are famous people addicts because of the nature of fame?

Are artists more susceptible to mental illness and addiction?

Are the majority of all of us addicts and mentally ill but enjoy “anonymity” not afforded to the famous?

Philip Seymour Hoffman is hardly a rare case, but he is famous, talented, renowned, and someone we feel connected to through enjoying his performances. It encourages us to stop and think about what is and has already been taking place in our society.  I dearly hope that on micro and macro levels we can bring about change and bring on great healing.

ADDIT:

A most beautiful eulogy for PSH:

Musician and actor Torquil Campbell shares his memories of being on stage with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/As+It+Happens/ID/2434665556/

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