Posts by BenWilson

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  • Polity: Protesting too much: responses…,

    Or perhaps a better way of saying it is: If we truly want to see the end of the Me Me Me philosophy, we have to start with ourselves.

    Also, even with our war scars, I think young people are looking at a much harder time than we are economically. It's on us to work out how to fix that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Polity: Protesting too much: responses…, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    My generation was screwed. Bent over a barrel of user pays philosophy while my parent’s generation benefited from lower taxes and invested them in tax free capital gains on rental property.

    Yeah, but we can wear that as our war scars. A shitload worse has happened to other generations and goes down (if they survived it) as their genuine contribution to a better world.

    We survived neoliberalism so our children wouldn't have to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Polity: Protesting too much: responses…,

    Re: The Raw Deal Generation. As a founding member myself (1990 was my first tertiary year) I get the bitterness, but I choose to direct it only towards those actually responsible, rather than downwards to my own children. I will never find it in myself to vote for Goff as Mayor, for instance. But, by and large, this bitterness is moving towards ancient history and the true remedy will be time - we are poised on the brink of being the demographic of power in this country, as the Baby Boomers retire and (I hate to say it) die. We can fix the injustice ourselves of the indebted generation...

    If we choose to. I can't say I'm entirely sympathetic to the large number of my compatriots who recklessly took on massive debt they never intended to pay back and never have. Our education was still mostly free, in the sense of being about 80% subsidized, and a lot of those loans were frittered away on non-educational shit. For example, one of my mates boasted that his student loan funded about $3000 worth of CDs. Others bought cars, overseas holidays, drumkits, and so on.

    Of course I don't forgive Lockwood Smith on that account. This is what happens when you allow unfettered access to debt to children.

    And for the most part, student loans get paid back. I paid my first one back in a few years (I've got a smaller one now, which will most likely get paid off in a few years again). Those that spiralled out of control are the minority. I don't know what could be done about them, but I suggest that treating them like any other unrecoverable debt makes sense - the holders could pass through bankruptcy, just like we do for bad business debts. Then the record is eventually cleaned, after a short period of minor institutional penury that is hardly unjustified. It is a big mistake to forget that a lender takes risk too - that is why they charge interest. Debts that can't be expunged by becoming unrecoverable are odious. We can and should simply treat the fraction of bad debts out there as outright losses against the investment made by the government into educating all the other people. In the long term, it was probably a good investment, if you take the fuxored view of the government being a business investing in the nation for profit.

    Of course a better view, which is looks like Labour is finally returning to, is that education is a right and a good, rather than simply a business. If we pass through a phase of both views concurrently, it would perhaps be a stepping stone back to a more equitable future, one with an actual vision of a time coming (if it isn't here already) in which human work for money is not how our social organization can continue.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Polity: Protesting too much: responses…, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I was interested in what he had to say.

    Ditto to that. Rob's kicked off some very interesting stuff here. I would love to see him under his own masthead. The fact that this is NOT a partisan Labour website makes that all the better, because he gets robust disagreement from a number of established commentators here. If anything, this blog is mostly inhabited by people who tend towards the Greens, and so a tussle with a Labour strategist is excellent mix.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Polity: Protesting too much: responses…, in reply to linger,

    One of the many problems with user-pays education is that it quickly removed the “public good” perception among students themselves:
    “I paid (and am still paying) for this, therefore it is mine.”
    That’s an attitudinal change that will take generations to reverse.

    Very much so. I'm currently doing post-grad and I find students are astonished at the idea that I'm not doing it entirely for vocational reasons. Indeed since I already had a well paid career, most are astonished that I'm doing it at all. The idea that education has value in itself is like a thing of the past. This head scratching is not limited to students either. Even the general population, and most ironically, quite a few people in the education profession, think I'm some kind of nutcase for willfully putting myself through the "horror" of postgraduate tertiary science education.

    Will it reverse? I don't know. A big driver of it that I see is demographic changes among students. Foreign students seem to be a much larger proportion than before and they tend to be doing it for vocational reasons, and their attitude of the complete valuelessness of anything non-vocational does rub off. I don't rate our chances of driving any kind of systemic change in attitudes of foreign students.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The CRL and the nature of change, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think it is starting to dawn around here that there aren’t many levers left to pull.

    It's a prison that the political right choose to live inside. There are endless levers, but they make arbitrary rules not to pull them. Having no levers left is the endgame for the minimal government ideology, which makes it self defeating, because they become weaker the stronger they get.

    That's the ideological battle anyway. When it comes down to actual humans implementing any of it, I don't think either of the two main parties is that ideological. As Key shows practically every day with his newest and latest backpedal. Listening to him talking policy is like listening to people explaining the movements of the stockmarket, with a brand new story every day. Often within a day.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Access: Treatment for itching and shyness, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Dog hair on clothing, a chair on which a cat recently sat, grass on a windy day or dust anywhere, are all problematic for me. Then there is nothing sharp enough to relieve the burning itch. Or enough pressure from fists rubbing eyes.

    Yup, scratching and rubbing never help. But it’s maddening that they feel like they do, temporarily. We’re primates, with a natural instinct to scratch at itches because that’s how we deal with insects.

    Phenergan worked to get me sleeping, but the waking was so horrible it was worse than the condition. Groggy and irritable for hours. It was like being hungover every morning. I can’t claim to have this one licked – insomnia is another condition in itself and “sleep hygiene” may have a lot to do with it. But I’ve been sleeping a lot better since I started exercising every day (for about a year now).

    ETA: I slept a lot better in Melbourne recently. I'm wondering if I'm not just allergic to Auckland.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Access: Treatment for itching and shyness, in reply to Sacha,

    It's a strange disability. It is debilitating, but not in ways that people see. How do you measure a condition that degrades your ability to concentrate and sleep? That sounds like a mental health condition. Which is not to say that it doesn't affect mental health - I think most physical health problems do. But I found the chemical cures worse than the condition - phenergan helped me sleep definitely, but the waking was horrible, hours of grogginess. I don't really want to try mood altering systemic treatments.

    I can say two other things that have helped. I don't use soap of any kind, except when washing hands. There just doesn't seem to be any point. Most soiling is water soluble. What isn't is typically oily, and soap cuts through that - along with any skin oil I have in there. I'd rather just leave the oilyness on, frankly. With some exceptions, of course - I'm not going to leave grease on my skin, or stinky fish oil. But those typically go on my hands, and I'll get them off with soap or alcohol, and then if necessary, remoisturize.

    The other is physical exercise. I'd say this goes for most people, not just me. It seems to improve mental wellbeing a lot. Of course I have to do exercise that's appropriate for my condition and there are many disabilities that are much more limiting on that front. For me, swimming in warm chlorinated water is not good.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Access: Treatment for itching and shyness,

    Aye, it's a curse all right. Mine's so bad I am treated via the hospital system, and have been on strong immunosuppressants over the years.

    It's a problematic condition because it has multiple causes and treatments, all used overlappingly. I've had a particularly severe flare in the last week due (I think) to the Auckland climate and pollen situation, by contrast to hot, dry Melbourne where I was the week before. I look like I've been badly sunburned. Even at the best of times, I look red.

    It's quite life-affecting. I have to moisturize frequently, or with very sticky moisturizer (I prefer this, because it just works better). I pretty much coat myself with ointment on a daily basis, and before and after any swim (which is a bloody pain in summer when I might be swimming several times a day). I have to take pills daily, and get blood tests monthly to monitor their risk of giving me cancer. The long term degeneration to my skin from topical steroids is the worst part, though - I now have skin that tears easily. That affects a lot of activities. No more martial arts - I would end up bleeding everywhere from minor cuts caused by fingernails when breaking holds. Gardening has to be done with care - everything that can scratch will, and ungloved hands will get infected. I've had cellulitis from infected eczema several times. Also, the skin being thin means that I flush red like a beetroot when exercising, even when not particularly puffed at all.

    The itching can, at times, be maddening. Antihistamines do help, as does moisturization, and good temperature control. But even with all of that, when 20% of your skin surface is inflamed, it's pretty hard to just shrug it off. It can trigger other problems big time. The worst is sleeplessness, which cascades to other health problems, including more eczema in a feedback loop. But susceptibility to infection is quite serious too.

    And of course, it's embarrassingly unsightly. Can only really shrug that one off - it's like being fat - everyone is going to have an opinion on it. And of course I have to field questions from many well meaning people about every herbal remedy and treatment imaginable, as if in 45 years I haven't tried almost all of them, and got hundreds of hours of professional advice from hospital and private specialists who do actually grasp the underlying science as well as can be for such a difficult issue. I had one of the doctors at Greenlane recently tell me I was the most knowledgeable person about eczema he had ever met outside of the actual profession. But that isn't going to stop people telling me to put honey on it, or to ask if I've ever considered not scratching, or to try meditation. Usually, when these questions begin, I'm already meditating, twice as hard - once to control the itch and another time to control the urge to be rude and seek the path of quickest termination of the discussion.

    I'm not bitter on these people. I expect it. It's a normal human thing to want to tell people about your tiny corner of knowledge of a massive field, if only to show that you sympathize. Share your personal anecdote about an inch round patch of eczema you once completely treated with over-the-counter steroids and the amazing willpower not to scratch that one itch. I get it, because I have to get it because it happens constantly. I find the fastest way to curtail the discussion is to just nerd out on it. Explain quickly the outline of my travails. Bore them with detail. Then quickly turn it back to being about them in some other direction.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Incoming: Summer,

    I'm in Melbourne visiting in-laws, and occasionally old mates when I can escape the remote vortex that is Frankston. I've already done 600 km just commuting to the city.

    Love this town, though. Quite a different vibe to Auckland. Plenty of quaxing going on here, but.

    Merry Christmas PAS. Be safe.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 9532 posts Report Reply

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