How I reacted when I saw the group in the morning.
How I felt after a few beers at lunchtime.
I love Twitter. I must admit I’m a bit of an addict. Like people sitting in front of a poker machine, pushing the button continuously hoping the the next roll will give them a reward, I hope that every refresh will give me a piece of interesting news, something exciting, something to disseminate immediately.
But twitter is also a free for all. It’s a global school yard. As with any school yard of millions of people it will have its share of bullies, and nasties. It will also have the cliques. The kids of hang around because they feel special because they are good at school and feel above others, or they are nerdy, or good at sport.
So what have I learned participating in twitter? Here are some observations.
Twitter is a no place to have an argument
Many times I’ve seen seemingly innocuous tweets create a firestorm of bitterness and anger in a couple of exchanges, leaving two previously happy twitters bitter and anger and blocking each other. The thing is that any disagreement, or any involved emotion cannot be effectively conveyed by typing through a computer with 140 characters. We have evolved to exchange opinions, emotions etc. using lots of queues. Our faces, the tone of our voice. These are absent when communicating through the web. Add that you can only exchange information in 140 characters and all this argument is done in public where it can be seen by potentially hundreds of people and this could all be a recipe for disaster.
Personally when I enter that situation I employ the Psychology 101 tactics to never use ‘you’ and use ‘I’. So instead of saying ‘You are such a bully’ I would write ‘I feel being bullied here’ In the first instance I would be attacking someone, labeling them as a ‘bully’. This would most likely provoke an angry response to deny they are a bully (or whatever) and create a retaliation (i.e. ‘I am not a bully, but you are an idiot’ or something like that) We can see here that if we arrive at this point then it’s all over. The second response is still risky, but in this case you are not describing the person but their behavior. Hopefully the person you are responding to would read that as ‘You are not a bully, but the way you are behaving at the moment I feel like I am being bullied’. This most likely would create a response such as “no you are wrong, I am not bullying you’. We are still in dangerous territory here, but then you can go somewhere with it and say something ‘Sorry I perceived like that – but I’m glad we cleared the air’. So the other person is aware that their twitting created a negative response but the exchange can continue.
Most likely though my twitter radar would scream ‘Danger Danger’ and leave any nasty exchange as soon a possible. I would just create a ‘Let’s agree to disagree’ position, and leave the subject. As I say, for me twitter is no place to exchange or explain different ideas or positions.
Leave and let Live
I don’t follow on twitter people with outlooks different to mine. So no Liberal supporters, racists, xenophobes, sexist and mysoginists and soccerphobes. Twitter is mainly a fun activity. I don’t need my timeline to be filled with stuff that irritates me.
But there are people on twitter that I agree 95% of the time, but I also disagree with in some cases. For instance, rightly me and my lefty twitter followers were appalled at the way Gillard was treated. But it seems to me that there is a group of twitteres that have elevated the cult of Julia to disturbing heights. Saying that she made mistakes can be open to accusations of mysoginy. So I don’t engage.
Related to that is that I’ve seen some left twitters being quite nasty and sexist towards Julia Bishop. I know that I should employ the Lieutenant General David Morrison standard of ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”, but again see above. Telling someone off twitter is not a really good place to argue and debate a point. Other things include the phurphy that Abbott is being fed what to say in interviews because he’s wearing an earpiece, when it’s clear that when not in the studio that is the way he can hear the interviewer question. When I said that to some lefty tweeters they resolutely refused to believe me.
Usually an ‘unfollow’ is the extent of showing my disapproval.
I would guess most of people on twitter would follow some ‘famous, people. And by famous I don’t mean necessarily mega famous like Katie Perry or One Direction. My famous people would include journalists and comedians who have been on the telly. Of course I don’t follow them (why should they?) although strangely Annabel Crabb and Mike Carlton do, and I am really chuffed by this. (although I do wonder what they think about my incessant tweets about soccer and occasional dad jokes).
But in the main it is interesting how ‘celebrities’ ignore the common folk and just respond to their kin. So for instance we would have, let’s say a woman journalist which usually conducts a national current affair program after the news asking a question or make a general observation in twitter. Many people respond, but she only tweets back to other colleagues, or people ‘who are well known’. I also see this amongst comedians. Someone says I am going to do show ‘x’ and a few fans respond positively, but it is only the other comedians that are tweeted back. Interestingly print journalist are much more likely to engage. Maybe they don’t have the ‘wow’ factor of being on the telly?
I don’t really bemoan this. I know that that certain woman journalist is inundated by tweets by loonies who accused her to be a secret agent for one or the other party just because she is doing her job. The comedians may be unable to respond to everyone personally, so they concentrate and stay nice to people they actually will meet or work with. My observation is how twitter is reflecting real life. Like when I used to go to end of year functions at work with the exortation for everyone to mingle, only for the managers sticking together. It’s a natural feeling that we congregate and feel more comfortable with people similar to us and twitter reflects that. The only thing is that we can see it in action.
The quick followers and unfollowers
Because I tweet about many things I get people following me that I think: “they going to be unfollowing me tomorrow” and I’m usually right. I don’t know if other tweeters have a similar experience. In addition I also tweet in Italian, so some Italian tweeter follows me only to see undecipherable tweets about Q&A and Australian politics. Or I may say something nice about a subject that I rarely mention and I get a follow which I know is not going to last. For example the other day I tweeted that it was cruel to get a pig into the cricket the other day. Then I got some animal rights people/group following me, and I know they will defollow soon (and rightly so). I usually follow back, but at least I try to read the spiel and some of their tweets before I do. It seems that some tweeters agree with one tweet and. Immediately follow.
The most funny follows is when I happen to tweet something critical of the ALP or the Greens (which I have done) and some right wing person follows me. Poor things.
Then I get the strangest follows. An ice cream parlour in New York, a politician in the USA. I suspect thai would be some scheme to bolster your image in web browsers or something using some ‘bot’?
As I said at the beginning twitter is heaps of fun, but we must be careful about it. Being free to everyone it attracts both the best, and the worst of people. As I say it’s like a huge playground, and like a playground we need to be careful who we engage with, who can we trust and be realistic that we may not be friends with the popular guys. The great thing for me is that unlike my real experience of school bullying no one can actually hit me and if they are nasty I can defollow and block them.
I wish I could have done that at Crows Nest Boys High School.
In Australia all major political parties have always to compromise to get the majority of the vote to govern. Real Coalitions (not the de facto merger with between the Liberal and National parties) are almost unknown, and as we saw with the minority government led by Gillard, Australians in the main are not that comfortable with that concept. So both the LNP and the ALP try to convince the mythical ‘Western Sydney-type battler’ to vote for them. And we hear that this voter doesn’t like refugees in boats and loves family based welfare.
This is the type of voter that Mark Textor has honed in. I won’t go on about what damage this campaign based on fear and selfishness has done in Australian society (others have done this better than I could) but what I want to talk about is how getting this ‘battler vote’ can and has alienated the core of each party.
We know this with the ALP. The fact that in the past decade the Parliamentary Party has become fixated on polling, focus groups and has descended in matching the Textor inspired strategy in Asylum Seeker demonization has created plenty of angst in the Rank and File. And of course amongst the left progressive electorate the main beneficiary of this has been the Greens.
Textor’s strategy is not that hard or sophisticated. You only need to read the News Ltd. tabloids to see where it is going. And I would say that for Textor, the fact that the President of Indonesia is annoyed with Abbott is a plus. The ‘battler’ may have a stereotypical view of Indonesia and Indonesians. They are corrupt, we give all this aid money and they should be grateful etc. etc. Abbott ‘standing up to them’ shows to the ‘battler’ some macho strength, and thus increase the perception of Abbott as a strong leader that shows that he has Australia’s interests at heart.
This was shown in one of Textor’s tweets.
Indonesian junior official criticises Oz Government. 2 things happen: left media gets hard on. Govt gets more domestic support
— Mark Textor (@markatextor) November 11, 2013
The issue is that perhaps the Government may get more domestic support (although today Nielsen hasn’t shown that). But a continuation of the rift may start to affect the traditional constituency of the Coalition.
The boss of Australia’s biggest live cattle exporter is urging a swift diplomatic resolution to the growing rift between the Abbott government and Indonesia over the phonetapping of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.
Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman is hoping the rhetoric between Jakarta and Canberra doesn’t boil over to action on live exports, warning it would have devastating consequences for the Australian industry and Indonesian beef consumers.
And here is where we get the dissonance between the Liberals pandering to simple nationalistic sentiment, and a direct economic impact. Especially on a section of people who would be traditional Coalition voters.
One thing is to get the ‘battler’ to be jingoistic with the assistance of the choir masters of the Andrew Bolts and Alan Joneses of this world. Another is damaging Australia’s economy and negatively impacting an important traditional Coalition constituency.
And this is where Mark Textor’s clever strategy of winning the Battlers’ votes comes crushing down.
I would expect some of the Liberals constituency (and donors) to tell Abbott to pull his fingers out and resolve the issue. Bugger the ‘battlers’. Money speaks
So I’ve been back from my trip for a couple of weeks. The return to my routine was so swift, it still surprising how quickly this happened.
As I think I wrote in a blog post before I as happy to be back in familiar surroundings. Having a ‘home’ has plenty to recommend it. I can drive/walk/cycle and use public transport knowing where to go without worrying that I caught the wrong train, or that the freeway is going the opposite way I want to go. I don’t have to check out at a certain time. I can stay as much as I like.
But the flip side is that the things in life that create worry, or stress are back. These are different from the type of stress in a trip, which may involve things like whether to tip or not, or making sure you got your passport. These are ongoing, continuous. They are a companion that you know can’t get rid of. They can be draining, stressful and sad.
I’ve searched on the web about articles that deal about how travel can be used as a way of not only exploring new places, but also a way to alleviate the constant sense of melancholia and anxiety that may be present in your every-day life without much success. Perhaps those who write on the web about travelling are young and haven’t reached that sense of low level sadness that comes to some who have reached middle age.
Travel for me lifts me out of the daily murk. I know that it doesn’t resolve things, and even when I travel flashes of issues you’d rather hope didn’t exist come back in your head. But being in a new country, a new climate, being in an hotel creates a temporary new reality. It is a chemical free benzodiazepine. And fortunately it’s extremely expensive, otherwise it could be addictive.
I was talking to a colleague about the fear of flying. Which for me is a very relaxing experience. Usually there is a crescendo of stuff to do before the day of departure. But once I am on the plane there is nothing more than can be done (and hopefully the real important stuff was done) and all I have to do is read, snooze, decide what music to hear on my noise-cancelling headphones, watch movies while I am fed and asked regularly if I want something to drink. There is nothing I can do. I am FORCED to be a couch potato. All whilst I am taken to a place where I am going experience new things and have fun. What’s there not to like? Of course there is the chance of total engine failure or a fueling error that will make my comfy seat plunge into the sea, but the chances of that happening are so infinitesimally small, I am not overly concerned.
My main issue is that after a while I often have a inevitable need to fart. But as an experienced economy flyer I have learned the ‘deep seat therapy’ method where you can expunge you air into the foam of the seat, and it is surprising how little smell results. The roar of the engines cover any suspicious noise. Now THAT’S safety. Sometimes I wonder after a long flight if they ever removed the upholstery where I sat there would be a big brown stain in the foam.
Meanwhile though I am back here. And I make plans in my mind about going again. But deep down I know that life and money will prevent me from travelling far away for some time. So I will longingly read the travel section of ‘The Age’ on Saturdays and look at the offers in Flight Centre windows….Melbourne to Milan return from $1,480… I could save that…….
I am writing from a sultry, humid, but not altogether unpleasant Singapore. Experience has taught me that if it can be afforded, a stop over somewhere (especially closer to the destination) is a good idea on the way to Australia. It was Dubai on the way to Italy, and Singapore now on the return trip.
In some ways being here makes me realise how far I am from my birthplace, somewhere that I want to keep some connection with, but also how I am closer to home. Somewhere where I lived most of my life and I feel really confortable in. And this is giving me a conflicting feeling.
After we landed we went straight to our room (thank heavens for transfers) and after a shower we crashed and slept for a few hours (this was the idea after all). Then after dinner we went back to bed and managed to get to sleep about 2.30 am local time. As we were trying to convince our bodies, that yes, it was sleepy time, not the middle of the afternoon, I was lying in bed and the underlying conflicting feeling that has accompanied me for this whole trip came to the fore with force. Now that I am far away from Italy, now that I am just a few hours away from home I tried to reconcile the swirling of feelings: Sadness that something that I’ve looked forward for so long was over. The happiness that I’ve was coming back to my home, members of family, my bike, my TV. Coming back to things that worry me and that I was able to momentarily forget while I was away.
This trip has brought to the surface unexpected reactions. While I was in Bergamo, the town where I grew up and has the more emotional punch for me, I flipped out. We were waiting for the funicular to go to the low city to the high city. And we were confronted by a large group of tourist. Not sure where they came from but they spoke a Slavic language. We were running a bit late and the next port of call was going to see my childhood home with my son. This for me was to be one of the main reasons for the trip (I discussed this in my previous post) as the cable car could only have 50 people it ws obvious we were going to miss out. They were not moving, the organiser of the group was continously talking to them and then going back to the ticket office. Then I did something which was so out of character that I might as well run naked through Bourke St. Mall. I barged through to the front shouting (in Italian) “Someone has to move here! ” You know when you do something and then it is like somebody else was doing it instead? That was me at that moment. It was like somebody else was doing the pushing through. I am the meekest person in the world. The one that tries to avoid conflict even if I am in the right. And here I was doing something which was clearly wrong and obviously making everyone around me very angry.
The other thing that I thought (which was ridiculous as well) was that my partner and my son would follow me, which they had no intention of doing. So when I went to the front they were still at the back, my partner fuming and my son laughing bemused. With 50 angry people behind me telling me off (there were some Italians as well as I then found out) Then I snapped out of my state and realised what I’ve done, I quickly ducked down to go under the side rail and joined my parner and son which were (to put it mildly) very unimpressed. As the group went on the funicular, and laughed at me as they were doing so, I was thinking why did I do such an impulsive thing. I put it down to flipping out in such and emotive day, but this was partly the reason.
A few days later while discussing this incident with my family (they were not going to let me forget in a hurry) my son made an observation that was breathtaking in its accuracy and I never realised. That somehow I wanted to re-assert my territory, and thinking about it later I realised how spot on it was. Here I was in my ‘home town’ a place where I grew up, where I had a strong emotional link. A place that I was taken away from. But the tourists represented was I’ve become, a tourist as well. I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted to be a local again, to be part of the city again, to regain something I’ve lost. My barging through was an expression of reasserting that I wasn’t like them, I belonged here.
After the ‘fuck what have I’ve done’ feeling, I have put it down to my emotional state. Many other people have flipped out more publicly and in a worst manner and survived. And of course my reflections on this incident has been useful.
Coming back after so long has reduced the longing of my childhood in some ways. The imaginary Italy that I’ve created for more than a decade has been replaced now with a reality with my partner and son. The only thing that makes me sad is that things like a much needed home renovation, and other issues with family, school, work etc. will mean that a relatively quick return (within 5 years) may be impossible.
In a couple of days I will be back in Melbourne, to my job and my house. And somewhere in Eastern Europe someone will tell their friends of an idiot they encountered in the queue at the Bergamo Funicular.
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
Thinking of Australia. Thinking of the ‘migration experience’. Some willingly going there and leaving behind a life they no longer want in their country of birth. Some forced to leave by economic reasons, by poverty, or the trauma of war.
Like SBS says, there are one million stories, and mine is quite uneventful. My father’s career was stalling, Italy was going through a terribly violent period of political terrorism, so when an ex-boss proposed to him the idea that he build a factory in Australia, he jumped at the chance.
It is impossible to say whether it was the right decision to move. I can’t run a control test of my life, whether to stay in Bergamo or to move, as in a ‘Sliding Doors‘ type scenario.
When I migrated my whole existence was to adjust to a totally new reality. It was sink or swim. What I left behind was irrelevant and perhaps a hinder in my realisation that I had to let it go to make a hash of where I was now.
But as I get older, my past returns to me often. When someones decides to emigrate it is a decision they will be responsible for. They will have to wear the success or failure of it.
When the decision is made for you, like in my case, there is still a lingering thread of anger that your life changed radically without your consent. This feeling got stronger as I became older. Perhaps as you have less life in front of you than behind, you start questioning things that were left on the backburner. Since I left Italy I adjusted to a new country and new schools and a new language. Did my (what it was called then) HSC. Did undergraduate and a postgraduate university studies. Got a job, changed, started new studies, got retrenched and got a new job. Also partnered, and had a child.
In the meantime the life that I left in Italy went its own parallel way. Friends that I had, that I initially corresponded with, are now lost. Things changed, and time moved on.
Slowly my past in Italy receded from my conscousness But as I got older the issue of my migration became more prominent. The fact that I left when I was 13 is probably an issue. That is the watershed between childhood and adolescence and my migration to Australia happened smack in the middle of it.
The question remains that something that I thought I resolved decades ago has come back with vengeance. Bergamo, my childhood, came back in my thoughts more and more. That is this was partly a trip as a pilgrimage. As I’ve done somewhat before. In previous trips to Italy I’ve come to the neighbourhood of my childhood to see how it has changed. But now I realise that this place draws me in because my 13 year old never want it to leave it. It is in my memory and often appears in my thoughts. Being there with my son was a strange feeling. My Australian life (which is now of 40 years standing) and my my old Italian one (which became also one based on memory over the years) were juxtaposed for that time, like some weird ‘Twilight Zone‘ moment.
The weirdness was increased by the fact that the building was basically unchanged since I left it in 1974. Of course there have been minor changes, but even small things like the hedge around the garden in the front, the grate on the front doors, the car garages, the lobby looked exactly the same as I have left them.
The sense of weirdness was fortunately diminished by a fortuitus meeting. As I was in the yard and explaining to my son about how I played there etc. a man who was fixing the back door heard us and in broken English asked us if we needed help. In Italian I explained why we were there and he exclaimed that he remembered my parents. He was now retired, and helping around the place. He had been living in the block of apartments even before we arrived in the 1960′s. We reminisced about people that lived there when I was a child. He told me that probably I played with his kids that now are about my age and they payed for a holiday for him and his wife to Australia two years ago.
I am glad that I came back to my old house. I still did have a sense of loss as we drove away. I had a strong feeling that I’d like to come back as much as I liked, but can’t living so far away. I still haven’t resolved it. That 13 year old in my still feels the loss of his home and childhood. Despite rationally my brain tells me that realistically, while Bergamo,and Italy may still be part of my life, the past is a foreign country. And it will remain so forever.
One things I always wanted to do is to go and visit the Alto Adige and Südtirol region of Italy. Various reasons for this. It had the Dolomites, which of course are unique. But also because I was always fascinated of this piece of Tyrol, which ostensibly is ‘Italian’ but it’s spirit is German.
The fact that there are ethnic/linguistic minorities in European countries is not exceptional. I think – as a generalisation – that many people from English Speaking countries maybe don’t see the substantial differences in some European Nations. These states really developed when the the concept of an unified Nation State developed in the 1800. Germany and Italy, did not exist as nations before the mid 1800′s with Italy being created in 1870 and Germany in 1871. Interestigly these two nations took the idea of national identity to violent extremes 60 years later with fascism and nazism, but I’ll leave that to historians.
The United Kingdom was created after plenty of wars and conquests etc. but with the exception of Ireland (and some Scottish separatism) it was fairly sorted out by the start of the 20th century. Italy is still now a country with fairly weak sense of national identity. The mediaeval imprint of family, then close friends, neighbourhood, region etc. seems still be imprinted in the Italian DNA. When I see medieval towers in Italian cities which were owned by different feuding families I wonder how much of that is still imbued in the Italian character. Even Mussolini said that governing Italians is not difficult, it’s futile.
But back to the Süd Tyrol. The way Italy got this region is somewhat disputed, was it annexed? Or was it part of it’s retribution for fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which was aligned with Germany) in the First World War? The history of this region is quite troubled, and even now, the relationship between the majority of German speakers, and the minority of Italian speakers is can be problematic. And of course there is a section of the German speaking population that doesn’t want to be part of Italy, or Italian citizens.
So we went to the town of Ortisei/St Ulrich/Urtijëi. You would have seen that the first name of in Italian, the second is German and the third is in Ladin, one of those languages that have survived since Roman time in Alpine valleys. I was wondering whether me speaking Italian could fe resented. As far as I saw there were no problems. Perhaps because I was speaking English as well, and I wasn’t identified as an ‘Italian’ as such, or I was a tourist, but I never felt that my use of Italian was an issue, in fact it was welcomed by those who couldn’t speak English well. What impressed me was the fact that the population can switch between three languages with ease showing a triumph of multilinguism
It was strange to be in a place that was in Italy, but it didn’t feel as such. Most of the people either spoke in Ladin or German, and the architecture was definitely Tyrolian. I was thinking how it would be perfect for me if such a place exited, but instead of German the other language was English. I could use both languages everywhere and so would everyone else. I would feel perfectly at home.
Of course the main reason of going to this part of Italy was to see the Dolomites, and they didn’t disappoint.
They were stunning, and as someone who studied Geology/Geomorphology at uni, it is even more astounding that these mountains were formed as coral 250 millions of years ago in a tropical sea about 30 degrees of latitude. So basically the Dolomites are a Great Barrier Reef who was over geological time uplifted and with tectonic forces located where it is now. In early days, before the concept of evolution and geologic tome was known, seeing fossils of marine fauna in this rock so high and so far from the sea confused the beegesus out of people.
As Carl Sagan said:
“The surface of the earth is far more beautiful and far more intricate than any lifeless world. Our planet is graced by life and one quality that sets life apart is it’s complexity.”