Middle-Aged Wisdom, Loving Your Neighbour and Pointless Power Struggles

The family will argue this point but one aspect of my personality that has calmed down with age is my need to control everything and my desire for power. woman-281473_1280


Some call this ‘wisdom’, and for many of us it takes a long time to get there.


Many of us are guilty of getting so caught up in aspiring to symbols of wealth and power between our twenties to forties, that we forget what’s really important in our lives. It has taken me fifty years to discover that large nugget of wisdom.


I feel morbidly sad these days when I watch the news and witness the latest worldwide atrocities provoked by the need for power and greed, and I defy anyone with a heart not to be affected by them. Only recently in Australia we’ve been shocked by terrible cases of abuse in juvenile detention centres, as well as the death of a young man who was bullied about, and never recovered from, the death of his brother a few years ago at the hands of violence.


Do we feel this level of visceral pain about the plight of others more pertinently as we get older because we become more sensitive to death, because the world’s a more scary place or because we have more time on our hands to seek answers about our own existence and our place on Earth? Perhaps it’s because we have more exposure to the news. I don’t know, but if someone had told me when I was younger that one day I would feel such a pervading fear about what is going on in the world, I’d never have believed them.


This perpetual need for ‘power’ over others seems to be at the root of many of our problems in the modern world, whether the need is driven by a desire for land, to impose faith and relationship rules or by politics. You only have to look at the comparison between the ideals of Trump and Hitler.


Remember when we swore that what had happened in World War 2 would never be allowed to happen again?


It’s easy to blame capitalism for our problems, and the greed which goes hand in hand with that idealism, but modern day warfare is just as prolific in third world countries. Education research this week suggested that teaching children to be competitive in their studies – a strategy once thought to promote thinking – actually encourages the need for one-upmanship in adulthood.


I studied French Literature at university and one French philosopher’s piece of writing always stood out for me when he said that ‘even the working class own dogs’; the analogy being that we all need to have some level of power, and it doesn’t have to emanate from money.


That innate desire to be better than our neighbour will never change. Scientists would argue that competitiveness is in our genes from conception, presumably to aid survival; and history justifies that argument. There have been wars on a macro level for time immemorial – usually to do with increasing power in regard to territory or religion – but the current desire to wield superiority over our fellow human beings on a micro level is very disturbing in a word that is supposed to be progressing.


In spite of everything we have learned about mental health over the past few decades, such as how unfairly sufferers were judged and treated in the past and the effects of trauma on the brain, there are still carers out there, in positions of trust, who use their power to abuse helpless victims.


Evidence of this in relation to the behaviour of Catholic priests, for example, has been heavily documented and the inquiries are still ongoing, but let’s not forget that child abuse occurs daily in our homes and can be verbal, physical and sexual.


And terrorists are now targeting children. 


And then there’s the type of bullying that isn’t even publicly recognised as bullying by the majority, where the abuser is more covert in their operations and intentions, such as online bullying or bullying in the workplace, which has to have a correlation with the increase in mental illness and suicide.


When exactly did ‘loving our neighbour’ end?

There Are Two Sides To Every Victim Story

What a sad week it has been in the news; a week when the adage that there are two sides to every story has never rung more true. throwing-154588_1280

There’s not a lot I can add to the extensive debate surrounding the Depp/Heard story, but when I began this post, soon after the news first hit the press, the reaction of the haters who had come out to bag the victim – that is THE VICTIM –  forced me onto my soapbox.


If anyone ever questioned why women hold back from reporting domestic violence, this case has confirmed the answer. It’s fear and vilification. For in the days since it was first reported, we know every reason why Heard decided to make up a story about Johnny beating her up (money), we know about every dollar that she doesn’t earn (motive) and every manipulative reason she might have for humiliating him. While, he has kept schtum – a tactic I assume he has been advised by his lawyers to take, to appear less vitriolic than his crazy, lying wife, I imagine.


Or simply to make it go away.


The point is, only Depp and Heard know what really happened behind the doors of their mansion, and the rest remains speculation unless it goes to court; which is unlikely due to the power and influence of the accused.


But whether you have a personal opinion about Amber Heard or not, it takes a brave women to take on an icon such as Johnny Depp, a golden boy of Hollywood, who apart from trashing a few hotel rooms and making some dodgy films, has rarely put a foot wrong in the media. Who would dare defame a cinematic legend who has played the protagonist in many memorable and much-loved children’s movies such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Pirates of the Caribbean, and who is such is a role model to kids, as well as being a supporter of sick children.


The same man who held a special place in our nineties teen hearts, until Kate Moss unceremoniously snatched him away from our dreams. Which was okay, because she was boxing at her own weight. Kinda.


But sadly, such misplaced idolisation is why men like Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Bill Cosby all got away with their sordid little crimes for so long, because they held power and influence in their respective industries and had the dollars to shut any salaciousness down.


And that can’t be right.


I’m always prepared to look at a story non-judgmentally if there are no proven facts. I don’t know if Depp abused Heard, and if he did I would never excuse any violent act against a woman, but we are human and it wouldn’t exactly be unheard of for a big star, possibly under the influence and excesses of drink and drugs, to lose it one day and make a terrible mistake. How many of us creative, drama queen types haven’t lost physical control in the heat of the moment, when we’re fighting to save the last smouldering vestiges of a relationship?


I remember throwing a plate of baked beans over the old man once.


And women like Amber make easy targets for the press – pretty, successful, younger than Depp – attributes that the public fawn over until they overstep their mark, when they’re quickly hunted down and redefined as immature, sugar-daddy-loving, gold diggers.


How could her claims possibly be credible?


And talking of impulsive young people …and we all know what three year old boys are capable of and how easily it is to lose sight of them for that few precious seconds. Because it happened to me once in a busy mall with NC and then again when both the old man and I were with her at a garden centre, until ‘whoosh’ she wasn’t suddenly, because she’d fallen into a freezing cold lake. And frankly those seconds of frenzied fear were some of the most awful seconds of my life as a parent so I can’t begin to imagine what the parents of that little boy felt as they watched him confronted by a gorilla.


A fucking gorilla! Which is the stuff of nightmares or movies.


And I agree that it was terribly sad that the decision had to be made – quickly, because no-one knows exactly how a potentially dangerous four-hundred pound animal is going to react in a stressful situation – to kill the ape in order to save the child. TO SAVE THE CHILD!


And the gorilla will be mourned, deservedly so.


But should the parents really be vilified for taking their eyes off their child? Were the boys parents wrong to assume that zoo enclosures should be safe from the natural curiosity of a child?


And albeit a terrible outcome and a horrible loss, if it happened again, that animal would be taken out, again. And this public, crazy outcry leads me to suspect that we are grieving less for the unfortunate gorilla whose own curiosity got the better of him and more for the underlying shame of what we do in zoos.


We all make mistakes because we’re human and we’ve all had those parenting fails where we’ve said a hasty ‘thank fuck’ prayer afterwards when we were lucky, got away with it and something awful didn’t eventuate. Those parents were lucky that their boy was saved and should not be shamed for the death of Harambe. Neither should the McCanns, although they’ve paid more heavily for their decision.


What right do we have to judge or throw stones? By definition, a ‘victim’ is someone who has been ‘harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action’.


In other words, they’ve suffered enough.