#summerofsunili

I finished up at The Firm just before Christmas and commenced my ‘career break’, in which I go off to do fun and magical things, and the #summerofsunili has been rather epic.

A few things to mention:

  • I wrote an article for ABC’s ‘Unleashed’ about the United Nation’s review of Australia’s human rights record (and will writing a follow up for New Matilda about the outcome of the review).
  • Last weekend I got a little offended that someone said on newsdotboodoau that Gen Y women have no ‘female skills’ and sent off a missive to ‘Unleashed’ about how Gen Y women are actually, like, totally awesome – which received some interesting feedback.
  • The WA Chapter of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights is getting off the ground and I’m helping to set up all the interwebs stuff.
  • My work on the board at CASE for Refugees is going well, but it’s nowhere as interesting as the volunteer work I’m still doing with them.
  • I was selected to be in the ‘recruitment pool’ for Legal Aid WA, which means they’ll call me when they get funding for a position.
  • Today Geordie Guy said he reckons I should be on Q&A #insteadofdevany, and put me on the same suggestion-list as Prof Larissa Behrendt, who was nominated for Australian of The Year, as well as a whole bunch of amazing people, which is an absolutely delightful compliment.
  • And I had a reeeeeeeally interesting request from someone asking if I’d done much public speaking and if any was recorded and if I could please send them something , so I sent them a link to a video I am in speaking about depression in the legal profession, so they’re going to get back to me next week (#vaguebulletpointisvague).

Also on a fun-factor I did Raw Comedy again and followed it up with some open-mic stuff which was super-fun and I’m going to do it again. Hoorays!

Whew. Maybe I might get some sleep now?

Nah.

I’m having too much fun!

the wounds of the tear-drop nation [Sri Lanka]

I have never known a world without Sri Lanka tearing itself apart in civil war.  I was born in Colombo in 1984 to a Sinhalese family, but I was raised on values that sought nothing but peace between the warring parties.

My father often tells me the story of how he went to the house of his Tamil friend to to collect toys they had to leave behind when they fled (they eventually settled in Canada, and I visited them when I was on exchange in Toronto).   My younger brother’s BFF is a Tamil Sri Lankan he met at his Perth kindergarten after we migrated here (we call the two of them Romeo and Juliet).  The little girl I sponsor through World Vision is Tamil, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know that the actions of the Sri Lankan government has never been perfect (I personally believe they were behind the killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga earlier this year), but the news that the Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organisation said to have pioneered the tactic of suicide bombing and had for months kept thousands of the people it claims to be fighting for trapped has human shields, have been defeated by the Sri Lankan military is heartening.

However, some of the events surrounding the escalation and (I hope) end of this war leave me more worried for the future.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the end of the war.  Given the decades of conflict, this is understandable. There has been so much pain; so much loss.  The alleged sectarian violence in Sydney over the weekend is a strong warning that tensions left behind by this decades-old conflict are still hot.

But a lot of the opinions are not helping.

Of particular noteworthiness are the condescending (and hypocritical) opinions from the spokespeople of developed countries who, even a few months ago, acted as if they didn’t know Sri Lanka existed.

The civil war has raged for three decades. The estimates of the casualties are unfathomable to me. But aside from Norway in the early Naughties, most countries have barely batted an eyelid over the (then) ongoing conflict.

Then when things got more newsworthy over the last few months, every next post-colonial hack semed to have something to say.

ABC News reported that British Foreign Minister David Milliband wants greater scrutiny placed on Sri Lanka’s military and its conduct of the war:

“The position of the UK is always that serious and credible reports of war crimes should be investigated,” he said. “Serious and credible allegations have been made against both sides, and they should indeed by investigated.”

And so they should be. But will “serious and credible reports of war crimes” made against the Coalition of the Willing in the War On Terror/Iraq be investigated?

In short: Un-effing-likely.

I’m not saying that this is a Little Red Hen situation — that no one’s bothered to help before, so shut up and put up.  But misinformed drivel that merely repeats age-old and debunked propaganda does nothing more than inflame the ignorance and hurt that has kept this conflict burning for longer than I have been alive.

There is a lot to be done from this point onwards to heal the wounds this conflict has caused Sri Lanka.   But I know there’s so much partisan hurt among so many (particularly diaspora) that I worry the hate won’t go away as quickly as the end of the war came.

But for now, I suppose, I guess I should be happy the war is over.

And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
— John Lennon

The one about loving weekends [work]

Wow, I sure need to brush of some cobwebs around here.

What up, team?

My first two months of work at The Firm had simply zoomed by. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

I’m in the Litigation team, and we’ve been run off our feet with insolvency matters.  I’ve even been given smaller, less complicated matters to open and run myself because there just aren’t enough warm bodies around to deal with all the work!

So from a work-experience perspective, this economic crisis has been amazing 😛

We’ve had a salary freeze, like most of the other firms in town, but since I’ve only had 2 paychecks (we get paid monthly) that reeeeeally doesn’t bother me.

I haven’t been blogging because the last thing I want to do when I get home from 10 hours at the office is turn on my laptop, and the weekends have also been computer-free zones.

But I’ve tried to Twitter as much as I can so follow me!  It’s totally mainstream now, so I don’t know how long it’ll last… stay tuned while you can 😛

xoxo

The one about running away from your comfort zone [stand up comedy]

So late last year I heard a promo on Triple J calling for entrants for the Raw Comedy heats — a comedy talent search that’s part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for people who’ve never done stand up before but are ego-maniacal enough to give it a go because they have a self-delusional idea that they’re funny.

Or at least that’s what the voices in my head must have told me it was for, because in an unfortunate fit of senility, I signed up.

When I told some guys I worked with last year that I’d signed up for the heats, one of them, who has actually done some stand up himself, pretty much fell on the floor laughing.

Hrm, I wonder, is my signing up itself enough hilarity to get me through to the next round?

Un-effing-likely.

When I got the confirmation of my heat schedule I was feeling a little more sane (sub-text: shit scared) and considered pulling out.

But, since that’s only for Catholics (OOOH! BOOM TISH!) — ahem, since my current module in therapy is about not woossing out of things that make me uncomfortable, I decided this is a great chance for me to get up in front of people I’ve never met before (Hi, AbstractG!) and feel the fear and try not to piss my pants (oh, gods, what the fck am I going to wear??? Shit, should I book a hair appointment??)

The poster for Raw Comedy features a headless chook running around, so I don’t have too many expectations on myself, and I’m currently in a state of utter terror yet zen-like coolness about it. I’ve always been a bit of an oxymoron, I guess.

So, if anyone is free, come to the Comedy Lounge @ the Charles Hotel tonight and laugh with me (please, with, not at, thanks) as I make a fool out of myself, all in the name of personal development (but I promise my routine will not be anything like Jeff Hewitt‘s most recent show, about depression — you actually have to be good, AND brave, to pull shit like that off)

The one about being a Brazen Careerist [Gen Y]

Months ago I found a great blog network for young professionals — Brazen Careerist.  I put off joining up until I sorted out my new blog here, but hurrah, I’ve finally signed up.

Brazen’s motto is “Define your career. Control your life” and it really epitomises a lot of the “Gen Y” trend about young people who use all the opportunities they’ve gotten to make their mark on the world .

My faves from the community are:

The “Gen Y” (or “iGen”, if you read The Worst West Australian and caught their stupid survey earlier this month) label is kinda controversial — discussions about stereotypes and West-centricity being key issues — and there might even be a suggestion that joining a blog network which will categorise you as being a “careerist” (and a “brazen” one at that) is a sure fire way to shoot yourself in the foot in front of employers and more-senior colleagues who’ll just look at you as another spoilt brat with a too-big a sense of entitlement and too-small a work ethic.

But let’s cut the stereotype stuff, ok?

As much as I hate to say this, I know stereotypes kinda come from somewhere.  And maybe little bits of the stereotypes are true of some people, and when they get bunched together, you get the general idea of a group.  But not everyone in the group is all of the stereotype. Ever. Unless they’re in a movie, or something.

I know a bunch of people who are intelligent, driven, energetic and want to be Prime Minister one day.  However, I also  know people who are incredibly happy to be stay at home mums or tradies. The fact I know more of the former rather than the latter sorts of people probably has a lot to do with where I grew up and what school I went to, not the year in which I was born.

This applies just as much to a group of people who are 20-25 as it does to people 40-45.  I think generational stereotyping is just silly.

But the label seems to have stuck, and if people are insisting on calling a trowel a spade, sometimes all you can do is be Roman.

So, let’s put on our togas and say that there are other traits of Gen Yers that are a lot more positive — like being passionate, socially & political engaged, educated and sensible, and having a strong desire to contribute back to society — and I think it’s really cool to be able to be part of a community that showcases these positive aspects and encourages others to take us seriously.

Brazen explains this philosophy really well:

The media often paints Generation Y in a negative light – citing high job turnover and impatience with paying dues as negative Gen Y traits. But we know better. We know that Generation Y does not want to job-hop every two years; we know that Generation Y will be the most productive generation in the history of the workforce, and we know that the single best way to connect with Generation Y is to meet them on their turf – online.

I reckon that by calling oneself a “brazen careerist” we’re actually taking the label into our own hands and moulding it into what we want it to be, rather than continuing to let others (particularly market researchers, who, honestly, have barely got a clue) control how everyone else sees us.

I’m really looking forward to contributing to the Brazen Careerist community and interacting with the great bunch of people who are part of it.

Another one about Sri Lanka: civil war, or genocide? [war]

So Sri Lanka’s been in this big civil war for longer than I’ve been alive.  It’s such a lovely place, but it’s been tormented for so long.

My mum’s gone to Sri Lanka for a my cousin’s wedding.  The last time she was there, there was an air raid on the air force base next to the airport.  My mother was actually on board a plane that was taxiing on the runway at the time.  The time before that, there was that tsunami thing.  Right now, the fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels has escalated to some of the worst combat I can remember.

Wow, she gets all the fun stuff, huh?

I was surprised hear that SL was the top breaking news story on news.com.au last night (although it was to do with a Australian UN worker who’s trapped in the war-zone, so I guess it’s not that surprising), because for so long the conflict there has been overshadowed by various other goings-on around the world.  There was an article about that trend on New Matilda late last year.

The UN and Red Cross have claimed that over 250,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in the north and east of the island, but Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has told the BBC that those international organisations have got that wrong:

“I’m not saying they are lying but they are exaggerating,” he said.

He also ruled out any ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, saying it would give the Tigers a chance to reorganise.

“The purpose of this offensive is to eradicate them,” he said.

Hrm.  That seems kind mean, doesn’t it?

Well if it does, then this should make you worry:  Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (who is the brother of Mahinda, Sri Lanka’s president; assassinated newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge claimed the president and the government are responsible for his death) is a US citizen who might be getting indicted for genocide and war crimes in the next couple of weeks.

Yeah. Now that’s Dodgy (with a capital D!).

In news via Twitter, constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein has been preparing a 1,000-page model indictment against G Rajapaksa and army commander Sarath Fonseka for allegedly violating Section 1091 of the United States Criminal Code:

The model indictment is scheduled for publication within two weeks and will be presented to the US Congress, the Department of Justice and the State Department.

The lawyer represents Tamils Against Genocide, a non-profit organization based in the United States, whose mission is to obtain US or international indictments against the two US citizens or green card holders currently serving in the government of Sri Lanka for alleged complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, including torture and extrajudicial killings, against Sri Lanka’s civilian Tamil population.

Now, Fein is clearly not just some schmuck.  He graduated from Harvard Law School with honours, clerked for a federal judge,  had a bunch of high profile government-law positions and has written for Slate about impeaching Cheney.  I think I like this guy.

The allegations about extrajudicial killings are nothing out of the blue for me.  I’ve heard a bunch of stories about people getting taken away in “white vans” and never returning (and this has happened to both Singhalese and Tamil people) and then there’s the whole war-on-journalism thing.  And Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje’s 2001 book Anil’s Ghost is the story of an ex-pat Sri Lankan forensic anthropologist who had been sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organised campaigns of murder on the island.  Things over there are seriously messed up.

But what is out of the blue, at least for me, is this allegation from an article about Fein’s indictment (from a site called TamilSydney via TamilNet, so I know it needs to be taken with a grain of salt):

Mr. Fein said that Sri Lanka was a unique nation whose history reveals an ongoing cultural genocide, adding, “the myths of the Mahavamsa say that Sri Lanka belongs to no one but the Sinhalese, and the text celebrates kings for slaughtering Tamils. Secondly, the teachings of Dharmapala, celebrate the purity of the Aryan race and establish the idea of racial supremacy. Because Dharmapala is as sacred to the Sinhalese as Jesus to the Christians, the Sinhalese believe and act with the notion of racial supremacy. This legacy is being continued by Sinhalese Buddhist monks and this legacy is used by Buddhists in classrooms in the South, as an instruction in genocide.”

Um, is this true, you guys? Because if it is, I am jumping on a plane right now to go an smack some people in the head.  What atrocious horrendousness, people? Atrocious. Horrendousness.

I am a Singalese Buddhist but my brother’s BFF is Tamil (how Romeo & Juliet) and, dude, I am not racist or biased just because of the family I was born into.  I want all people to be happy and get along and stuff.  The whole thing has upset me for some time. because it never seems like ending and the people in charge (of both sides) have been arrogant douche-bags (or, if they’ve been alright, have been shot or blown up).

So here’s my stance on this thing: I hate the Tamil Tigers, right — they’re terrorists, they pioneered suicide bombers, they make women and children fight.  But gods-damn, I hate bigotry of any description and war and violence at that, so if those government bastards did get involved in war crimes, I want them to rot. Slowly and painfully.

I don’t know if there’s a solution that doesn’t involve getting all of those bastards in jail first, and then getting decent people to take over and settle this.  But something more has to be done… just don’t know if, during all these economic troubles and Middle East mess and  climate change crises etc etc, if the world has the capacity to deal with this, too.

By the way, a group of Tamil students have started a hunger strike in Sydney’s St Martins Place in an attempt to get the Australian government to take action and they’ve posted YouTube vids of civilian casualties on their blog: http://fastuntoaction.wordpress.com/ (warning: there’s heartwrenching music and horrific images).

Update: The ABC has a news story on the footage, and in good journalistic form, it’s pointed out that the videos haven’t been verified and no one is sure when and where this was taped.

The one about virtually stuyding MIT courses [geekism]

One of the many DVDs I have watched since starting leave was 21 — the film about Kevin Spacey’s team of card-counting brainiacs from MIT who bring down the houses of Vegas at the blackjack tables.  I was lucky enough to be taken to Vegas for my 21st and when I got carded (I always got carded) and they realised it was my actual birthday that very day, people gave me chips.  I promptly lost them to the dealer.

But I’m sure if I had the ability to count cards (or, like, anything numerically higher than 10 fingers), I’m sure I’d have won.  It’s such a shame that I suck at maths and can’t play blackjack and can’t study at MIT.

Or so I thought.  I got sent the awesomest link ever today, and discovered that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes pretty much all of its undergraduate and graduate course materials online, for free, via their OpenCourseWare (OCW) program.

I cannot start to explain how geekishly cool this is.  There are like thousands (guesstimation; I didn’t count, because I’d run out of fingers) of courses available in fields such as architecture, chemistry, politics and nuclear engineering, and you can download readers and lectures that are available (and I repeat: for free) under a Creative Commons license.

Now, they make it very clear that this does not lead to graduation with an MIT degree, but, like, for mega-nerds like myself, the idea of just having this stuff available is tinglifying.

And I am rather tempted to set myself up to study 21W.730-1 Expository Writing: Exploring Social and Ethical Issues through Film and Print and 21W.747-3 Classical Rhetoric and Modern Politics.

I know I totally won’t. But it’s so cool to think I could if I could be bothered 😉

The one about my first job [life lessons]

Tomorrow is the last day of my first job out of university.

And boy, was it ever a case of “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times“!

There were definitely some exasperated Fb status updates for quite a solid period of time in the last year.  I was working long hours, holed up in a beige cubicle that had no sunlight, no air-con (seriously, we had to order pedestal fans. How retro) and no love. My boss, who’d been working on this bitch of a case for like, half a decade, was about a million times more frustrated than I was, and that rubbed off on me too.  The stress was chronic and contagious.  My co-worker and I were not getting along.  I’d been told I’d be there for 6 weeks, tops, and that I’d get to return to the fun stuff straight after.  Everyone else seemed to be having a GREAT time.  I was miserable.

But despite all that, I am still so grateful I had the chance to do what I did.

First of all, I did it. I survived. I learned a HECK OF A LOT, and not just in terms of the Work-work, either:

  • I learned about how I deal with stress (and, subsequently, how I can change things to make it better);
  • I learned patience;
  • I learned about the impact of hope (things got SO much better when we could see the light at the end of the tunnel; even though we were still miles and miles underground); and
  • I learned that even when things seem their worst, it’s probably not going to effing kill you, so [have a bit of a whinge if you must, then] get the eff over it.

I also learned a heap about grammar and proofreading (although you might not always see the impact of that on this blog…) — most of what I did involved proofreading the largest legal judgment so far handed down in this country (if you happen to find mistakes in it: STFU. You try doing it for 8 months and see if you don’t miss anything) — and met someone whom [shit: who?] I look up to in so many ways and who[m] I will forever idolise as a mentor in my career and life in general.

Oh, and, I also had the opportunity to work with one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the judiciary.  His Honour had the most amazing capacity for knowing the tiniest details about the most mammoth (and horrible) litigation imaginable (for example, facts that occurred over a span of some two decades, two decades ago) as well as the capacity to explain the most complex applications of legal principle in such a clear and effortless way.  Just being able to listen while he spoke and read what he wrote was my honour.

Then, once I emerged from that part of the year, things got exponentially better.  I can’t express how amazing the last three months have been, and what a joy it has been.  I’ve learned SO EFFING MUCH about law and writing and a bunch of other things.  Plus I have been able to work with the most wonderful colleagues who are each incredibly brilliant in their own way.  I am going to miss them incredibly but I also feel thrilled knowing we’ll always stay friends.

Gods. This is such a lame, soppy entry. I’m going to stop now.

The one about blogs and branding and bitching, oh my! [online shenanigans]

Yesterday, via Twitter, I found my new favourite blog: Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist.  Now, I’m not sure how I hadn’t found this blog earlier, because it is written by a co-founder of my favourite blog-network, Brazen Careerist, but as the old saying goes: better late than never.

Penelope’s blog is on a bunch of topics relevant to a young, vivacious upstart such as myself (the tweeted post was entitled 5 Career tips women should run from; and my fave post is 5 Time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss — about hating that knob who wrote 4-Hour Work Week, which I stupidly bought and now refuse to finish) but this one particular post, called My name is not really Penelope, got me thinking about myself and my decision to start a new blog/website (I know, I know; it’s not a very hard task– what blogger who writes about their life online and has a vanity domain doesn’t think about themselves every 3 seconds? Also, I am a Leo).

The post is about how “Penelope” changed her name a few times to accommodate (among other things) her views about patriarchy, her boss and her editors, and also mentions the whole “personal brand” thing as well as how she got busted for mentioning stuff that was recognised by others and the shit hit the fan.

Returning to me (of course) let’s start with that last thing.  A bit over a week ago, I was (figuratively) hit over the head with the revelation that people had read some things I had Tweeted or blogged about and, as a result of what I had said out there in the public forum, became upset or decided that I was not a very nice person (or something like that).

I was quite surprised because I didn’t think anyone who wasn’t registered on Twitter would be stalking me (because I get notified every time someone properly “follows” me) and for about a nano-second it crossed my mind that I should protect my Twitter updates. But I realised that doing so would defeat The. Whole. Point of Twittering (I am looking straight at you, @mattkeogh) and I love Twittering so I would never actually to do that.

This happened on the very day I registered my new domain name, but it was entirely coincidental as I did not know about the shit-on-fan issue until after I’d already signed up (and the decision to do was made well before that), so I hope nobody thinks I did the whole “it’s time to grow up” thing because I got told off (but boy, did I get Told Off).

Now, I don’t think I said anything defamatory, and I feel as if everything I said was justified in the circumstances (which weren’t very nice, for all involved) but I have promised not to be mean and stuff anymore.

Which sucks, because, as I have said, I am not one to hold back on an opinion and, as I tweeted the next day, self-censorship makes Baby Jesus get butt-raped my gay-pedophile Catholic priests (oh yes, I went there. Again).

But that little event was a good lesson about how “my brand” comes across to people who come across it.  And as I really have no control over who stumbles across my blog or my Twitter because it’s just Out There (you know, in the ether, floating around there with The Truth) it was a sombre reminder than I need to control what I can control.  That makes my stomach churn because it sounds like that lame Irish blessing/prayer thing, but meh, I don’t like paying taxes either, and sometimes we’ve just gotta do what we have to do. Sigh.

I know what happened shouldn’t surprise me too much since I had been (and, of course, continue to) blog and Twitter under my real name.  But it’s kinda funny that I (apparently) came across as mean when there’s that popular school of thought that suggests using fake names on the interwebs promotes more, unnecessary bitching.  The “Greater Internet Fuckwad [sic] Theory” is presented in this diagrammatic formula:

I know you’re more likely to bitch about someone when you know they can’t hear it, or it won’t get back to them. At least not with your name attached to it.  But saying stuff on the internet certainly isn’t the same as whispering behind someone’s back.

There’s that other old saying: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I was asked whether I would have said what I said if I had known that it was known that I was saying what I was saying.  My answer was an unequivocal yes.

I don’t think what happened was purely about me bitching.  I felt attacked, and I attacked back.  Because I did not have the opportunity at the time to attack directly, I vented on the internet to keep myself from blowing up and, as I thought at the time, making things worse.

It turned out that I made things worse, only that happened a week later.  Frankly, I think I was being polite by not making an issue out of it when I could have.  If I was being purely selfish, I would have said what I wanted to say and let it all out, there and then; and I do think that would have been worse than what I did.  If I’d had the opportunity to say what I had to say before The Shite Hiteth The Faneth, this probably would not have blown up the way that it had.

(This is my blog and I can rationalise if I want to, thankyouverymuch.)

So it got me wondering: what’s going to happen to me by saying what I have to say (and saying it online)?

I have made assurances to people who have asked to be kept offline that I won’t say stuff about them.  That’s fine.  But what about everything else?  Because, essentially, everything else that I say online was also called nasty and horrible.

I don’t change anything on here. However I may appear is It.  That’s all, folks: nothing more, nothing less.  As my old tagline said: I tell it like I think it is.  And I don’t regret that and I don’t intend to change that.

But what happens when what I say gets me into touble? Will I lose friends?  Will I lose the respect of people who “know” me in real life?

I guess the outcome depends on whether I respect their reasons for disliking what I say.

Because if I don’t respect their reasons, I probably don’t respect them, and if one more cane toad under the tires is good for the country, one more schmoe who’s opinions don’t matter is good for me.

It also depends on whether I respect them for bringing their issues to me and explaining them to me and discussing them with me.

Because if I don’t even know they have an issue with me? Psh, bitsch pleez, how could I possibly lose sleep over it?

My conclusion is that if people are happy to let me keep saying what I say, or refuse to ask me why I say it, they can either stop reading what I have to say, or forever hold their peace.