Thursday, 9 October 2008

Juvenile Propaganda

As a Mum of a young toddler, I am constantly exposed to adult-created propaganda which aims to teach children about appropriate behaviour - you know in children's books, cartoons and tv shows.  Often I just take it in my stride and think to myself, "Yes it would be nice if Cassie can learn to be generous and caring like the character in this book" but yesterday I found myself ODing.  We were watching Sesame Street and, of all characters, Oscar the Grouch was delivering a sermon to his pet worm about not pushing or bullying another worm.  (I know, I need to get out more!)  Oscar gave the worm the opportunity to apologise for his inappropriate behaviour and as the worm approached the other worm, I found myself thinking to myself, "C'mon you don't have to say sorry.  Give him a smack on the head!"  I don't know what this says about me but I hope it's no more than the cry of my heart for more subtlety in juvenile propaganda!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Exploiting Children for Art - Part 2

Earlier I posted a blog about furore caused in Australia over an artist who publicly displayed naked pictures of a 12 year old.  The furore erupted when the police closed his exhibition and considered laying charges.  Many prominent figures in the art and entertainment communities were horrified that he wasn't being extended "artistic licence".  Well, it turns out that the artist in question actually visited a primary school, with the permission of the school's Head, in search of models for his art.  It was bad enough when I thought that the artist must have known his young model and had the consent of the child and her parents.  Instead it seems that he found his model when visiting a primary school.  Who knows whether her parents were aware and gave their consent?  One can only hope so but once again I have to say that I can't see any justification whatsoever for the artist's actions.  The Head Teacher protested that he wasn't fully aware of the purpose of the artist's visit so perhaps he can be excused but on the other hand it is a good example of how careful everyone entrusted with children need to be to ensure that they don't expose them to exploitative adults.

Friday, 26 September 2008

A Parent's Love

This week we bought tickets to see the Wiggles when we are in Perth in December.  I'm really excited - not because the Wiggles is my live show of choice, nor because I'm a rare parent who is not driven crazy by daily repetitions of their music (I am - driven crazy that is) but because I know that my daughter is going to love it.  Like any parent I get a real kick out of seeing her joy and excitement.

In Luke 11, Jesus talks about His Father's joy in giving to His children.  As he put it (and I paraphrase), if we as imperfect but well-intentioned parents love giving good things to our children, how much more does God love giving even better things to His children (verse 13).

Monday, 22 September 2008

It has been too long....!

My first post since June!  I have lots of thoughts in my head but obviously I haven't made time to put them down.  Mostly it's because of a 90cm, 12kg bundle of energy who likes interaction with Mum much more than amusing herself.  I find that with playgroup and other such activities, shopping (mostly for groceries), housework & cooking and then playing with Cassie I don't get a lot of spare time.

I'm feeling REALLY tired at the moment.  Cassie has been waking up quite a lot at night or far too early (4:30am) but maybe it's also the change of "seasons".  Mt Isa doesn't have obvious seasons but recently the winter has definitely gone and we're reaching into temperatures in the high 30's.  It's going to be a looooong summer.  I shall try to punctuate it with more posts and hopefully some provocative and interesting discussions on issues close to my heart.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Book Review - Belly Dancing for Beginners by Liz Byrski

"Belly Dancing for Beginners" by Liz Byrski focuses on the lives of 3 women in their 50's and 60's, all in very different circumstances, who become close friends when they tour Western Australia on an educational belly dancing tour.  The tour symbolises the journeys they each take in their lives and the issues they resolve along the way.  The story also involves the lives of their families and close friends and how those relationships unfold as the plot progresses.  The book finishes with an unexpected twist once the 3 women are back at home in Perth.

Liz Byrski writes a compelling story, one which I always find hard to put down.  Her use of older women as protagonists has filled a niche in the reading market and she is to be commended for bringing some of the issues faced by women as they age into the light.  I also enjoying novels which are set in places that are familiar to me and there are plenty of West Australian references throughout this book.  She researches her subjects thoroughly but in some ways it feels like her attempts to weave the findings of her research into the story are a bit clumsy.  The characters, as sympathetic as the protagonists are, also often feel a bit contrived.  However, if you can look past these issues, Liz Byrski's books are well worth reading and this one is no exception.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Exploiting Children for Art

An Australian artist is at risk of being prosecuted over photographic works depicting children as young as 12 - 13 in semi-nude poses.  His exhibition no sooner opened recently than the Australian Federal Police closed it down, seized his works and commenced an investigation of the situation with a view to charging him.

What I find interesting is that a number of prominent Australian figures have come out in his support.  Their reasoning:  they don't want Australia's cultural reputation to be devalued!  (See link.)  I wonder where the "privilege" of art stops and the laws that apply to everyone else start.  If it's OK to exploit children for the sake of art by photographing them semi-nude and then letting the general public gawk at them, would it be OK to emblazon them with tattoos and photograph them?  Would it be OK to carve artistic images in their skin with a knife?  Would it be OK to photograph dead children?  The reasoning of those in support can't be given any credibility and I'm surprised that such prominent figures would want to be connected with this kind of work in any way. 

The law has deemed children younger than 16 or 17 (depending on which State we're talking about) to be too young to be able to consent to sex acts.  The reason for this is their sexual vulnerability during their young teen years.  Even if they think they are consenting to sex, there are so many factors involved, especially when the other party is an adult, that the law has decided the matter once and for all.  So what is so different from photographing young children and then displaying them for the world to see?  How can a child of 12 or 13 consent to this?  Even if their identities are protected, it makes no difference in my view.  Their bodies are still on show for others to see and someone else has decided that this constitutes "art".  There are 2 worrying things about this:  one is that someone could think of the idea in the first place and have no internal indicator that tells him it's not an appropriate expression of his artistic creativity.  The other is that there are people who would find this "art" interesting or palatable and not detestable.

I'm afraid I don't care about the reputation of Australia's art industry when it impinges on the welfare of children.  I fully support the actions of the Australian Federal Police and am thankful that we have a police force with a clear view of what's appropriate and what's not when children's welfare is concerned.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Saving the World

Having a young child is taxing of time, energy and creativity.  That's no startling new information but lately I've been wondering how I can be a bit more outward focused rather than being totally consumed by motherhood.  Admittedly, I do have to fight a belief that I should be trying single-handedly to save the world, but even so I felt I could be doing a bit more than I currently am with my resources.  My noble thoughts had drawn a blank and I was feeling a little bit despondent until Saturday.  Cassie, my daughter, and I went to a birthday party.  It was for a little chap we didn't know that well but we'd been invited, the house wasn't far away and I thought we'd go.  In fact I did prevaricate because his Mum had told us that she expected about 27 children to turn up and the image I had of complete chaos was a bit daunting.  Nevertheless I thought we'd turn up and if there were the expected 27 kids and chaos was ruling, we could stay a short time and then go home again.  So I bought him a present and a card, dressed Cassie up in her party dress and off we went.

As it turned out, there were not 27 children there; there were 4 including Cassie.  One of those was the party boy, another was his sister.  His Mum was over the moon that we came.  I didn't have to leap a tall building or ride off on a daring steed, I simply needed to turn up to a local kid's birthday party to make a difference to someone else's day.

Of course it doesn't stop there but it's good to be reminded that making a difference doesn't necessarily mean a huge expenditure of time and energy.  

It's been a while

Wow, it's a while since I last posted anything.  Since then we have moved back to Australia from Malawi.  Hang on a minute, since then I've become a mother AND moved back to Australia from Malawi.  Not to Perth, where our "home" is, but to north-eastern Australia; to a remote mining town called Mount Isa.  It's very different from living in Malawi - the power works, the phone works, the internet works (most of the time) and so far no one has asked me for money.  It's a nice change for now and our 16 month old daughter is enjoying all the local activities.  It's still a distance from family and friends but we're closer than we were and the phone calls are a lot cheaper.  How long we'll stay here we're not sure but for now it's home.