Christchurch 15/03/2019 #TheyAreUs

Grieve, but do not let easy solutions put your grief to bed. Once the initial tears dry, it will be time to find a new, resolute headspace and get down to work so that Aotearoa truly is a place where this cannot happen.

In the wake of this attack, we feel uniquely powerless. This was someone who planned. They made this abhorrent act their mission, and they arranged contingencies. The police, the intelligence community, courts and others will be under the spotlight in the wake of this attack, but the sad reality is that there was an imbalance of power here: this was the shooter’s recent life, 24/7, and anyone that committed to violence and minimally competent will usually find a way to achieve it.

For now, we grieve. Some call for the death penalty. Others for a lifetime in prison. Others for more gun control, better background checks, expanding the security apparatus. Our grief needs an easy outlet, a path to flow into that will give us some measure of comfort. So we shout, we swear, we cry and we punch the walls. We feel weak, so we respond with strength. Anger and frustration are normal. They are necessary.

But we need to keep our grief in perspective.

We have lost 49 people, in, yes, a cowardly terrorist attack that affects us all. None of our anger can bring them back. Nothing that happens to the shooter and their accomplices now can make amends or give satisfaction to our grief.

We should not give a shit whether the shooter thinks they’ve “won” or not. This is not a competition or a game. What matters is that we do not lose ourselves in the face of their hatred and violence.

They chose to kill. We chose, and must continue to choose, to be better. They chose to kill the innocent. Our society has chosen to spare even the most guilty. This is not about the sadistic, broken arsehole who perpetrated this assault. This is now about us, and who we will be.

So let your grief flow. Cry, scream and wish the shooter dead. Pray, laugh, listen, love and live: grieve as you must, in its many legitimate forms. But as we move through our grief, we also need to leave behind the easy solutions. They satisfy in the moment, but are ultimately too shallow to do justice to our dead.

Lisa, me, and most of our networks are wondering how we can be better. How we can drive initiatives to challenge ourselves as a society, and target some of the underlying issues that nurture and enable harmful ideologies to mature into action. Because the shooter – uniquely culpable as they are – is also a product of the status quo, which makes them our responsibility too.

Grieve, but do not let easy solutions put your grief to bed. Once the initial tears dry, it will be time to find a new, resolute headspace and get down to work so that this truly is a place where this cannot happen.

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/