2017, Gayblog, Life, Opinion, Thoughts

The Social Influencer

‘Social Influencer’, he had stated at the top of his Instagram.

Or more correctly, ‘S O C I A L   I N F L U E N C E R’

A [very] handsome early 30’s guy living in my town, with thousands upon thousands of followers and fans of his who fawn over his looks, with endless pic after pic of him pouting his perfect lips in perfectly put together outfits in front of abstract chic city backdrops of walls and alleyways. I’m not jealous. Much. A perfect beard and handsome perfect face, under the term ‘Social Influencer’, in this guy’s description. Perf.

I don’t have fans, nor do I like the idea of someone like me having ‘fans’. Or more critically the idea of a person being a ‘brand.’ It seems awfully self-involved and entitled to think of yourself as some kind of ‘brand,’ star, diva or celebrity when you’re not, especially in my case. I work in a warehouse. I lift and move shit all day, Monday to Friday. I am in short an unimportant, miniscule barnacle in an infinite ocean. Not even a barnacle. Plankton. I am not, nor will I ever be the centre of the universe. And I’m ok with this.

As time goes on, I find more and more that I am disconnected from things I’m not really into. I guess pop culture and the importance and influence of social media being one of them. Don’t worry, I still love aspects of it [Star Wars Star Trek Game Of Thrones anime etc etc], but lately I’ve started feeling fatigued and a malaise with so much that is new or fad-based in pop culture, not to mention trends in social media. Maybe it’s my age. Perhaps I’m suffering from what was termed as ‘Future Shock‘ in the late 1960’s, wherein it was predicted that technology and the influence on technology would ramp up faster and faster, and transform and change all our lives. It would become more and more imperative for us to keep up and follow the rapid changes in technology, and many of us would inevitably suffer from ‘Future Shock:’ being unable to keep up with the latest and becoming outmoded and obsolete. Sound familiar? If you haven’t read this book, please do, as much of what is spoken of and describes in the 1960’s has chillingly become reality.

For instance, the idea that people are a ‘brand‘ or refer to themselves as ‘Social Influencers‘. They’re both terms I find so repellent and repugnant, as they smack of self-indulgence, arrogance and entitlement. They now pigeon-hole people into the category of ‘Douchy priveleged Millenial’. But that’s the time we live in. Maybe I AM becoming an outmoded creature.

I know this sounds contradictory, as I have an Instagram account, a Twitter and this blog I write on. I post shirtless selfies and tag myself places. Believe me I’m just as much to blame. I guess I am ‘branding’ myself as a commodity after all for consumption.

I’d like to think that I am at least aware of this. How many others aren’t? How many are caught up in this world of ‘Social Influencers’ and followers and likes. A world where  people spend thousands of dollars in order to go to a festival that was heavily marketed with non-sensical buzzwords and phrases , and packaged as a ‘transformative’ experience where goers will rub shoulders with models and social influencers. For instance. Only to find that they were dumped on a deserted island with no infrastructure or even running water.

A new Lord of the Flies. Pictures of great looking predominantly white Anglo-Saxon people enduring what so many countless millions do every day felt, unfortunately and admittedly, so satisfying. I couldn’t help like many others feel a sense of ‘serves them right’. I found this whole debacle so fitting for this new era we are living in, where people spend and spend to experience something exclusive and then show off their exclusivity via Instagram and Twitter et al, all in the hopes of what? Likes and followers? Displaying your sense of superiority? There is so much today that feels toxic to me, yet I know I am a willing participant in this ridiculous mousewheel of face filters and gym selfies. What is the logical end point to all of this?

I find myself becoming more and more politicised, whether that is a good or bad thing, I’m still unsure. But I do think on the concepts of fame, wealth, power and popularity, and how much of our receding and declining Western society is built and placed around these concepts more and more these days. The entirety of Los Angeles as an example appears specifically constructed around fame and the pursuit thereof. A nexus and cornucopia of ‘me’ culture. I know it sounds dramatic and almost sensationalist, but I really do feel that things aren’t getting better for us, that we are becoming more and more concerned with the self as opposed the welfare of our fellow human beings, and that as a society, we are headed down the path to as similar scenario to the world depicted in Brave New World: a world where the masses are forever distracted and diverted from the problems of their society and world around them by drugs, new fads and media.

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2017, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Opinion

FAGGOT

FAGGOT.

‘He’s become a snob now. The kid’s dad is a faggot and they don’t even know.’

This simple yet hate-filled and poisonous sentence is one I overheard, waiting with my boyfriend for our takeaway Pastizzi in King St, Newtown. Obviously a family man, sitting at an al fresco table, wife next to him, another couple and two kids. This sentence spilled out of this 40-something’s mouth as flippantly and easily as if he were simply remarking on how nice his plate of food in front of him was, or something that had happened during his day or week proceeding.

We stood there, mouth agape, eyes wide. Shock isn’t something that really is a part of my life these days. I feel as though I’ve gotten to a point in life where things rarely warrant me being shocked over anything. A bit of ‘been there, done that’ attitude that many of us attain by the time we reach our thirties. We just stood there, as this privileged man ranted on about someone in his life who seemingly moved from one area to another and, according to this man has gained the airs and trappings of a snob.

His mannerisms when proclaiming this person a FAGGOT were just so laid back and casual. His flippancy, confidence and casualness when using this word disturbed me, and still does as I type this. And this is the problem. So many of us in this world are simply happy to use words like this which can have real damage in such a purely easy and casual way. Something like a stroll. Ease to do and no consequences.

I don’t know how many of you who may be reading have been called a faggot. It, along with the word ‘cunt’ and ‘poof’ make me upset, angry and bitter. Being called a FAGGOT for so many of us in the LGBTIQ world seems a part of our lives, heck even our upbringing and adolescence. I still recall it being hurled across the playground like a grenade. I recall flinching and recoiling internally with fear whenever I heard that word uttered, whether or not directed at me. Like an explosion. It still gives me chills, recalling how pubescent children in an all-boys school, a Catholic one nonetheless, where piety and righteousness and protection of the meek were espoused and regarded as virtues, yet would so easily and simply use this word in particular, without fully understanding the utter complete damage this can cause.

I’ll never forget the kid at my school who started in year 10, and promptly left by year 11. He was as queer a kid as could be, short, slightly pudgy and the antithesis of the lithe, tall and athletic Anglo-Saxon blonde Aryan kids my school seemed to regard as the peak of the school body. I remember chatting to him briefly in Art class once, then subsequently getting picked on and questioned if I was gay, ironically by boys who would later in life come out as gay themselves. In hindsight, my school was rather fascistic and monolithic in it’s approach to education at the time. We all had to play sports, either Rugby or Soccer, or Debating for the non-athletic ones. Athleticism was held in the highest regard. Academia was a second, only in order to produce more students entering universities by the end of their school careers, nothing more. This school wanted to be high up on the list for HSC results. It was for all purposes an academic factory, and I was one of those unspoken, un-catogorized kids that wasn’t great at sports, wasn’t a great academic, and was particularly mediocre and managed to always go under the radar and slip through the cracks. I strived to become unseen, unnoticed and invisible. I wanted nothing but to simply get through the days and weeks without attracting any attention. I regret this now, in hindsight, as there obviously is such a large world out there where being true to yourself is not only valued but necessary in order to live a full and rich life.

The word FAGGOT was scrawled in bright red Posca pen diagonally across the queer kids locker. It was mid morning, when I walked past hurrying on my way to class. I still feel the sentiment of my heart clenching in it’s casings. I don’t know if I identified with being Gay back then, I guess I knew that something may have been different about myself but I wasn’t at that point to be confident in facing this. This single word branded over this poor kid’s locker had in hindsight a terrifying affect on me. I can only imagine being this kid whose locker it was on. I have that image burnt indelibly in my mind, forevermore. I wish I was there for this kid. I was just so scared for my own safety.

Suffice to say, this unnamed student promptly disappeared shortly after this. I still regret that I didn’t try to make friends with him. I regret that I was so paralysed with fear at having the ‘faggot spotlight’ pointed at me and being singled out, that I would rather hide in the shadows while this poor child was vilified and called a horrific name. The last thing I heard was that he ended up at a far more liberal school on the North Shore. I can only imagine the hurt and pain this would’ve caused. I still recall that not a single word of this whole event was mentioned by the staff and faculty.

The use of this word and others like it hurt. They can change people, into ghosts like I was as an adolescent, or conversely, it admirably can steel an individual and make them even stronger and give more conviction to their identity, and to fight back. I wish I was like that. I wasn’t. For some, it can drive to depression, self hatred and low self-esteem and ultimately for some, lives taken away needlessly and cruelly.

What worried me in this most recent instance was the cool and casual use of the word FAGGOT. I stood there, unsure of what to do. In the past, I’ve been called that name among others. Walking down the street, holding hands with my boyfriend. Or on my own. Lately it hasn’t happened, I haven’t been singled out and called a FAGGOT. Why, I don’t know. Maybe my appearance is more threatening or less overtly Gay these days. As if. Tonight as I write this, I can’t say that as I wore platform shoes and a very bright multicoloured shirt. But I don’t know. I wish I was strong enough to confront this weak man and call him out on this. I wish I stood my ground not for myself but for others whom may be younger than me and still malleable and possibly effected by this language of hate, and say that this is my house and to be respectful to others. I wish I was able to break through to someone and impart that it’s not ok to use this word in any context and for any reason. Hopefully, one day I will be able to.

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2016, Australia, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Opinion, Thoughts

Dear Orlando

Dear Orlando,

This is a difficult post to write. So many thoughts have been running through my mind as I first punch down words on my keyboard. The last week since the tragic occurrence in Orlando has filled me with despair, sadness as well as volumes of guilt.

The portraits of the victims; all smiling, knowable people, the video footage, the imagery and accounts have all had a profound effect on us all no matter where we live. We are all your brothers and sisters. Pain and suffering has gripped us all. I’m sure I’m not the only one to say that we all have been thinking about you.

I was sitting by a pool in an idyllic tropical paradise when I found out what happened, initially via a friend who lives in Orlando who was letting everyone know on social media that he was alright, which made me slightly worried as no details had hit social media yet. This was followed closely by my sister who informed me of what had happened. My heart sank. My eyes welled up. My sister, my boyfriend and I, all three of us being LGBTIQ, looked at each other with shock.

Day by day, more information and more details were gleaned. Social media became absolutely saturated with posts about what happened, rainbow flags popped up everywhere like flowers in a show of solidarity. It became almost too much to take in and process. All of us reined in with posts, thoughts, condolences and information. Many of us changed our profile pictures in support, or re-posted articles. Vigils were held in Orlando as well as cities and locations further afield. A sense of unity grew yet for the saddest and most dire of reasons. Some 49 innocent people died. They died being themselves, being in what was meant to be a safe place. A place that many of our forebears had to fight and suffer and sometimes died to build and protect. These people died enjoying and celebrating their lives, their worlds and their ability to love and be loved and to show this to the whole world. I still look at images of those who died. I feel like I know these people. I think we all have. I’ve met them for coffees, had them over for dinner, met them out dancing and had cheeky romantic interludes with them. They are every one of us everywhere.

Being somewhere like Bali, which is such a haven for decadence, drunken and heinous behaviour and frivolity, I came to feel quite guilty. Guilt at enjoying my time there, guilt when going to a Gay bar, having a drink, meeting new people and yes maybe going on stage to dance with a go go dancer. How could I be there having fun when something so singularly terrible occurred? I still feel this acute pain and sentiment day by day since. How do any one of us feel safe in what is meant to be our own proscribed safe spaces? Should we be feeling this collective sense of guilt? Or is the answer to get into the bars and clubs as well as out on streets and show the wider community that we exist? This is the reason we need our spaces, more now so than ever. Here in Sydney, LGBTIQ spaces are on the decline. I blame our dependency on apps like Scruff and Grindr, which have taken out the middle man of the gay club and bar scene. Sex can be had in our own homes without having to head to a bar or sauna. But that’s another post.

Like my sister and my boyfriend, we were in Bali for a purpose, which was to celebrate my close cousin’s wedding where my sister and I were honoured to be a part of the bridal party. It was difficult for us both, as we were both there in this exotic locale celebrating an event to which we both can’t have for ourselves, and not to mention an event half way across the world which shook us both.

What really upset me was the lack of any response or condolences or a reaction at all from non LGBTIQ people, both in my family or further out. Only a couple close former work friends took time out to send me a message to talk about what had happened. To which warmed my heart. 49 people died viscously. I mentioned in passing to a family member that I was feeling a bit down because of what happened, yet sadly, this person wasn’t even aware. A blank face stared back at me. I guess we all live in our own microcosms of communities online through our online platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which is a great thing as we always will have our finger on the pulse, yet also negative as we run the danger of narrowing our scope. What is important to one person may not be to another. Like in this case. As obviously majority of my friends on Facebook are Gay or Lesbian, much news I consume is very LGBTIQ-centric.

Today, the United States Congress in the worst possible way has insulted this entire tragedy and those who died as well as their families by voting down measures that could ensure this does not happen again. This tragedy has been politicised, the issue at hand morphed and distorted. It has been taken out of our hands as a community. The fact remains that people have died. What is to become of their legacy? It pains and scares me to think of possible future occurrences that could be prevented so simply and with a finality.

The perpetrator of this massacre has become known to be a very broken and hurt person. A person who in hindsight  appeared not able to live with his sexuality and who appears to have wrangled and fought with the clash of his ideological beliefs in contrast with his sexuality. I actually pity this man. A man so torn and disrupted, who has now abruptly and savagely ended the lives of so many people. I wonder what he was thinking, what experiences he went through for him to do this.

I hope that the families of those who died can find some solace somehow and someway in the future.

I also hope we can all continue to look out and support each other. I hope we can all continue to be ourselves in public without fear of persecution, and I hope we can give love to all who need it.

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2016, Australia, Opinion, Sydney, Thoughts, Uncategorized

The Folly Of Nationalism.

Pride in one’s nation can be a very dangerous thing. An accident of birth determines so much of one’s circumstances, whether being born as female or male, in differing socio-economic circumstances and geographic location determines one’s life to a substantive degree.

The fact that so much human misery and destruction, both to ourselves and to this planet we inhabit is due to what is in essence tribalism and factionalism magnified in macro makes me personally deride national pride. I know this may be a very controversial point of view, but I am against national pride, patriotism and nationalism as these concepts so easily lend themselves to the politics of hate and exclusion, namely right-wing political ideologies filled with hatred and racism such as Fascism.

Being a self-identified Social Democrat, my standpoint is one of inclusion, fraternity and opportunity for all, not to mention basic human rights that should be afforded to all. REGARDLESS of skin colour, gender, age and sexuality. Universal healthcare, education and welfare support to name a few. Luckily, I live in a nation that gives me access me these things, however we are facing a crossroads, one in which we can easily begin the long downward slide into rugged individualism, economic rationalism and 100% free marketeering. The aforementioned concepts of universal healthcare, education et al should not be a source of pride, they are EXPECTATIONS to me. All in all, I don’t want us, a post-colonial nation which has suffered from so much cultural cringe as well as a lack of identity, to become something akin to a 51st state of the USA.  The political, economic and social policies and goals of the current government, a conservative economo/finance-centric one, would have us simply become a facsimile of the United States. I know the likelihood of this is slim, but I find that some political factions in this country would dearly love this country to forgo and forget its important and indelibly widespread, and far-reaching social-based policies which have helped shape us as a nation. Policies, which established by the almost hallowed yet ultimately doomed and somewhat naive Whitlam government in the early 1970’s that have really become enmeshed and a vital component and makeup in our national identity.

Mateship, a buzzword so easily thrown around in a disparaging manner, especially with regards when describing the ‘true-blue ocker Aussie identity’, to me belies the sense of humanist spirit summed up in the classic phrase ‘egalite, fraternite, liberte’. The term mateship to me has a very real cringey self-involved aspect linking to the identity of the average Australian as a sun burnt, beer swilling tradie white Aussie battler, yet we all know this is far from the reality. It to me equates far more to the crux ideal that we are all in this together, that we are all a community and that in short, we are still affected by the plights and suffering of others.  We only need to look at how we have mistreated political refugees in recent years as well as the indigenous peoples of this nation not to mention the very real lag in progress for Gay marriage to see we have a long way to go. So, due to my political ideologies which have more concurrent concerns on the state and welfare of the human being as a part of a greater community than nationalist pride, I find this question, in fact the entire concept of national pride somewhat disturbing.

Australia has had somewhat a strange and if not at times quietly turbulent history. This nation was established on the plight, plunder and suffering of the indigenous populations and peoples that inhabited this land for many an epoch before the first European man set-foot on our shores. The colonies that formed the core of what would later become Australia in 1901 were established simply due to the fact that the British required pre-eminence and predominance in every aspect of society at the time in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Competition in trade, military strength and cultural influence was fierce between the imperial powers. Colonies were established simply to deny the other colonial and imperialist powers of the day namely France and Russia a foothold on this continent. Purposeless colonies established in order to restraining other nations from gaining a piece of this incongruous continent. A somewhat strange and wasteful notion. A continent with untold mysteries and clearly very misunderstood. For decades it was believed a large inland sea bisected the continent, where unbound arable lands were to be found. A localised El Dorado, almost. Water has always been much more important than gold here. The truth was, this land was and still is harsh; unforgiving yet also beautiful and compelling in its hardness and alien nature in comparison to Western Europe.

The European policy of Terra Nullius, or ‘Empty Land’, which essentially equated the British or any other European imperialist power having right and reason to plant a flag anywhere that was not according to them inhabited [Farming, structures], meant that this land was forcibly and unjustly stolen from the indigenous tribes that very much inhabited this continent.

Add to this the penal and convict legacy of this country, as well as prevailing casual racism, the mistreatment of immigrants as well as indigenous peoples, and it makes me hard to have pride in my country of birth. In many ways I’m very lucky to be born in a nation that has afforded many including myself so many liberties and freedoms. Of course this is undeniable. A dark side of our culture has come to the fore in the past, and I’m sure will continue to flash and flare in the future. The Stolen Generations, the Cronulla riots of 2005, the plight and abject suffering of the asylum seekers and refugees of Manus Island are some examples to name a few.

No nation is perfect, no nation-state to me deserves pride and patriotism invested in it. Our governments and politicians who are the apparatus and nervous system of all nations deserve to fear their citizenry and treat them with an accordance of respect and deference, as the citizenry are the nation, not the artifice of national identity. Nations are simply lines drawn on a map, the reality is often much messier and much more prosaic and obtuse. There is never black and white, but always grey.

Yes, I know I sound like a raving rabble-rousing left-wing Marxist ideologue apparatchik but the truth is, nationalist pride for me is a very perilous concept, one that can create competition, enmity and disparity which can lead to human suffering and bloodshed.

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