This is not a primer on white privilege…

It is a snapshot of one white, straight, cis-gendered male’s approach to white male privilege in the context of the 2017 election in Aotearoa New Zealand.

So why post it? There are many better resources out there, authored by people who experience the sharp end of privilege.

I’m sharing this because we are approaching a tipping point. Awareness of privilege is higher than at any point in history, simply by the diffusion of communication channels. However, cultural pushback is also on the rise, as people struggle with specific understandings and (often incorrect) assumptions about privilege.

The filter bubble is usually blamed for this – but that blame perpetuates another misconception: that filter bubbles are absolute.

In most cases, our self-selected groups do overlap, in small but significant ways: and here is where the work of allies is vital. My voice on this is not as important as the voices of those affected. But my silence would be taken as assent to the status quo.

A few people have asked what I meant by “white male privilege” in my last post – and it’s telling about my own biases and filter bubble that I took the phrase for granted.

In some ways, privilege is an unfortunate term because it is ambiguous. In the context of white privilege, we’re not talking about people strutting around savouring gold-plated cigars – that’s a whole different problem.

White privilege in Western-majority countries, as defined by numerous studies on unconscious bias and equity, is about the disadvantages you don’t encounter by being born into a dominant cultural group.

You’ll never be pulled over by the police because you’re a white man driving. You’ll never have to fear that a wolf-whistle will escalate into an assault. You’ll never be subjected to “jokes” about claiming back people’s land, or reparations. You’ll never have to fear that you’ll be labelled a bitch for being too assertive in that meeting.

It’s about the luxury of being able to call yourself “colourblind” when every other segment of the population is constantly made aware of their skin colour, and when our collective biases have measurable negative effects on those demographics.

But more than these examples, and at its core, white privilege is about being able to see yourself as the norm, the default expression of humanity. It’s never really being othered, marginalised, in any context, because your whole life has taught you that you belong anywhere. That implicitly makes it harder to empathise with marginalised groups and individuals.

There’s no sin in being privileged. It’s often called invisible precisely because white males can’t see barriers that they don’t face. But if you’re convinced of its reality, I believe you have a duty: to listen, to try to understand and to ally yourself with those around you who do encounter such obstacles, and against the institutional and cultural constructs that penalise them.

Are there other forms of institutional and societal bias? Absolutely! We all, irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation and philosophy, think using stereotypes and other mental shorthand. Many of these biases, when not critically appraised and factored for, have a similar tendency to cause harm. But as a dominant, visible problem in Aotearoa, that shapes the assumptions behind our public and especially our political discourse, I believe white male privilege has a lot to answer for.

If you prefer facts and figures to my generalised and imperfect synopsis, I’d recommend Google and Facebook’s Unconscious Bias workshop materials as a comprehensive introduction, along with the many independent resources, papers, books, articles, and infographics available with a quick search.

Aspirational voting in 2017

There are many ways to frame this election, but the one I keep coming back to is that Saturday will show us, by the numbers, how strong white privilege is in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We (white males) have a disturbingly pervasive subtext that minimises and condescends to questions of culture, values and politics, dismissing anything other than the status quo as self-evident idiocy.

And we wonder why the outside world still sees us as parochial, ignorant and naive.

This election is about whether a party with a record of lies, claiming the work of others, changing definitions to “solve” problems and denying the consensus of experts across multiple fields retains its mandate to govern, with the (false) justification that politics has always been done that way.

It is about whether we want to endorse greasy backroom smear campaigns and reward fearful, defamatory rhetoric.

It is about whether the joke that is politics should be met with a shrug, a laugh, and a concession that this is the best we can do.

This election is about giving National another three years to make problems go away by clinging to outdated understandings of brand and message. For someone who criticises Labour for being stuck in the past, Bill English has a very retro grasp of identity and vision.

Do we perch in complacency, because everything is superficially okay for us, personally, at this instant?

Do we rely on philanthropy to solve poverty, turning survival into a lottery for our most vulnerable?

Do we accept that the numbers on a screen are more meaningful – even when misrepresented – than the people and the society that we want to be?

Or is this election not really about us at all?

The wealthy, the privileged, the educated, and the well employed aren’t going to see their world shaken by this election.

We vote not for ourselves, but for our society – that is the essence of democracy. And we need to look to the outliers. To vote for the poor, the sick, the addicted, and the oppressed. For them, this election may be the difference between life and death.

We need a vision.

We need to admit that the status quo is never “good enough” while people are starving. While there remains systemic and cultural discrimination against specific minorities – and majorities, in the case of women.

We need to strive – as we do in our jobs, in our families, in our relationships – to be better people, and to do that we need above all else a clear, cohesive vision for the future. For an Aotearoa that acknowledges and learns from the mistakes of our past. For an Aotearoa that seeks better ways forward. For an Aotearoa that actually wants to be “100% Pure:” in our motivations, in our self-critique and in our care for our people.

We need integrity. We need hope. We need a social conscience.

But in the face of stupefying resilience by White Male New Zealand (never Aotearoa) we may also need, to quote an unlikely source, a little stardust.

#changethegovt #letsdothis #nzpol #decision17

A home for my words

“I could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and write with my typewriter on my knees.” Louis L’Amour once said. “Temperamental I am not.”

I grew up seeing those words as the terrifying mark of a great storyteller: someone so engrossed in the flow of the art that their surroundings became something lesser. And this transcendent state too often eluded me.

Later, advice from Stephen King, Jim Butcher and other greats provided a different way to parse L’Amour’s words: as a challenge. A quiet prompt to let go of all preciousness and pretension. To write, because you write, irrespective of where you are or how you’re feeling.

This distinction matters, because otherwise environment too easily becomes justification for procrastination and defeatism.

Those writers are simply better, that’s why they can write anywhere/are so prolific/are so inspiring, yet eternally beyond my reach. When my internal monologue offers such helpful input, I now edit it. Because they choose to write anywhere, those writers are prolific and have grown great, and if I let their example inspire me, my writing might grow in kind.

My favourite place to write, then, is beside my sleeping wife at 2amsuffocating under the sheets to shield her from the light — tapping a sudden turn of phrase into my phone before it’s snatched away by slumber.

It’s sitting on the beach where I first encountered heartbreak, scribbling in a notebook and letting those long-ago stirrings play with the pen.

It’s at my desk, internet blocked, and a list of chapter outlines on the screen.

Desk, dark, couch, mountain, café: there are places that colour my writing, and places that facilitate the craft, but any environment can provide both context and constraint, which is the space in which writing feels truly at home.

This article was first published in The Writing Cooperative on Medium.com, and won the 2016 Autumn Writing Challenge.

Phase Three Pre-orders

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been working on a new stand-alone novel, and trialling a new distribution model to accompany it.

Phase Three is a science-fiction story that explores a near-future Earth and the implications of our emergent technologies through the eyes of four unique characters. It’s still in draft form, so the blurb is currently a little vague to avoid spoilers, but here goes:

Cover-PhaseThree-DraftThe world has an addiction. Augmenting reality – augmenting ourselves – averted a looming energy crisis, but it has become something more than that. “Overnight equality,” promises the slogan, and what’s a decade or two between advertisers?

We redefined what it means to be human, then bought our own bullshit retail.

But the physical world still exists, however much we stare into the infinite. People yet remain, living outside the reality bubbles we create. And so do the consequences of our inattention.

Three individuals, each a casualty of flawed implementation, face intimate, inconsequential decisions in pursuit of their goals. Then there’s Gordon, who simply wants to escape his past without being killed.

And their actions could unravel the world. Or save it.

Sound good? Want more? Well, you can read a sample chapter and meet the characters at the link below. Better yet, you can pre-order a copy (or three) and help bring Phase Three to life.

Read and support here: www.inkshares.com/books/phase-three-2584

You can also read my interview with The Warbler, a book review blog that’s also worth checking out, which touches on the background of Phase Three and my reasons for choosing to trial the Inkshares model.

The Warbler interview here: www.thewarblerbooks.com/featured-author-peter-ravlich/

Poetry round-up – April 2016

Below you can find a few of the Twitter poems I’ve posted over the last month.

I’ve been hard at work revising the second volume in The Fallen Mythos, but I’m taking some time to refocus on my science fiction novel in progress, which happens to fit the bill for the Geek & Sundry Hard Science Contest. Starting April 4 (or 5, local time) I’ll be spamming you all with plenty of info, and I’ll create a separate post once that’s up and running.

When writing poems for Twitter, the character limit doesn’t often leave space for a title (or I’m just greedy) so the poems with single-word titles are titled with the prompts themselves, whereas I cheated and posted the remaining poems as images.

Promptless

I string the tinsel
haplessly
on a branch
without a tree –
or a tree without
a bough –
and wonder where
it glimmers now?


Striking

What strikes
me the least –
aside from my wife,
she says –
is the blow
that foiled expectations
are meant to land.


Ignition

To touch
the fuse
then stand
in silent mastery –
or subtle self-deception –
as the flame ignites
and your eyes
burn


Of your former self

Tap, drop, sear
me and I will shatter
shards of viscous
potential broken
exposed and raw

but when you hit
that singular
solid place
the one
that will not be moved
the one
you always find
your fiercest blow
is but a breath


Ethereal verse

The sidewalk slick with druken dreams
– or sick, look out – don’t stand in it!
While poetry caresses scenes
your feet can tread in real shit.

So what’s the humble scribe to pen,
or arsehole, if we’re being fair?
Retire your lofty muses, then,
and let the shit be the idea.

There must be more, your instincts say –
the world a radiant, hopeful sphere,
and pretty words can still convey
the miracle of being here –

Yet even now, your shoes are stick,
and wiping reaffirms the smell;
So see the beauty in the muck:
Aim for heaven, but speak from hell.


Consensual text

“It wasn’t defiance my dear
when I said I’d prefer to wait.
If a no is so hard to hear
that you have to negotiate –
your rhetoric urging me try
and unpacking your need to mate –
then I’d better revise my reply,
’cause I’m now in a passionate state:
Go fuck yourself,” she said –
but her tone made the means
deflate.

They call it torture

When the droplet

falls

over and over
charting illusory impressions
on your face

So why is
your memory the illusion
that draws these droplets
from my eyes?

And where is the torture,
if not in our grief,

the dropping,

and the late that
forms below?