The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


If More Proof Was Needed …
October 17, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: America, Attitude & Aptitude, Corporate Evil, Culture, Death, Social Divide

A few weeks ago I wrote about everything I thought was wrong in America.

For such an amazing country, it’s mind-blowing to me that there is resistance to dealing with the issues undermining it.

Worse, there’s resistance to even talking about the issues undermining it.

In the post, I highlighted one issue in particular.

Gun control.

Despite the mountains of evidence, the NRA continues to ignore the damage and dangers of gun ownership.

They fight aggressively against any challenge to it.

Any.

They use ‘government control’ as their reasoning behind their obstinance.

That if they give in to this, what else will the government want to take away.

It’s a fucking stupid argument made worse by the fact I received this in my letterbox recently.

Admittedly it was addressed to the person who used to own our house.

A cop.

But that doesn’t take away the fact an organization felt it was necessary to send out a pamphlet about how to deal with school violence – specifically violence that goes ‘beyond the active shooter’.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me ill.

School should be a place of safety.

I know that’s unrealistic, but there’s a massive difference between worrying about bullying and worrying about being shot.

And yet the NRA choose to ignore their role in this situation.

Preferring to blame the shooter rather than acknowledge any role the guns play in allowing people to kill on a mass scale.

The fact this pamphlet had to be sent out at all should be enough for America to realise the gun laws in their country need a major overhaul.

Sadly it won’t be.

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America Has A Portion Control Problem …

As many know, America is the most obese nation on earth.

When you know this, I guess it’s less of a surprise when they say anyone who spends 2 weeks in America will put on approx 8 pounds in weight.

I could talk about the many, many reasons that contribute to this situation – from poverty to profit to, as I read recently, that the biggest fear for anyone who has guests is running out of food … hence they overcook by significant amounts.

Anyway, this is all an excuse to show you this picture …

As you can see, it’s a mountain of onion rings.

If you look carefully behind them, you’ll see the look of shock on my sons face.

Now you may think that is an optical illusion, but it’s not … it really was that big.

But here’s the amazing thing.

That wasn’t a portion of onion rings … that was a half portion.

HALF!!!

Seriously!!!

Apart from the fact if you ate that amount there isn’t enough toothpaste in the World to stop your breath smelling of onion for 19 years, that was the starter.

The bloody starter.

Now I like onion.

I bloody love onion.

But even I couldn’t eat more than a few strands and so there was an enormous amount left which – I presume – was then thrown away.

A while ago – 3+ years to be exact – I wrote about the insane portion control of the Hard Rock Cafe in NYC.

What made it worse was they were running a campaign at the time about stopping hunger.

Well given that obesity is a cause of so many illnesses in America – illnesses that have a huge, detrimental affect on the economy – I can’t work out why the government don’t mandate portion sizes at restaurants. Yes, I know for many people, they take what they don’t eat back home … but how much of that is actually eaten versus kept in the fridge for a few days and then thrown out.

The irony here is that fast food restaurants – the ones who often get the most abuse – are way, way, way better than more ‘formal’ restaurants.

Part of that is because they don’t want lawsuits against them … part of that is that they know their audience so well that they know how much they actually eat and part of that is that they have a huge number of stores, so they don’t have to win on quantity but simply offering the convenience of giving people what they want when they want it.

But these big ‘restaurants’ aren’t like that and that’s why I feel they are particularly guilty of creating food wastage.

For me, it is one of the worst things in society.

We have people hungry and we have people getting ill because of obesity.

It wouldn’t take much to actually start helping to reduce this, but sadly America has been sold the belief that quantity always trumps quality and until that attitude starts changing, then the allegedly most powerful country on Earth, will continue to act in a way that seems weak.



We Are All The Same. We Are All Different.

So for the past 2 days I’ve been writing a lot about equality.

It’s a subject very close to my heart.

To be honest, it always has been but being a Father has raised it’s importance.

In some ways, having Otis grow up in China made things easier as it meant he was exposed to different cultures from day 1 but I didn’t want to take that for granted, so when we knew we were going to move to the US, I spoke to a friend of mine – a Brit, who is black and lives in the US – about the [thankfully small] issues his kids faced being in the US and what he thought parents should teach their kids to stop that happening.

His response was phenomenal.

In essence there were 2 parts.

The first was the obvious one – treat every person from every culture the same way – with respect, appreciation and consideration.

So far so good … but it was the next bit that really made an impact.

Don’t tell Otis different cultures are all the same.

Don’t ‘whitewash’ our differences, acknowledge them … enrich Otis with understanding about different cultures history, struggles and values.

Or said another way … celebrate the differences but treat everyone the same.

Brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant.

In a World where so much hate is built simply on ‘being different’, helping break down those walls through knowledge and understanding is even more powerful than just saying ‘don’t see the colour, see the person’.

Of course it’s vital to treat people the same, but understanding the background isn’t just a mark of respect – it’s a way to celebrate strengths and understand behaviours that you may otherwise judge for no other reason than your own in-built prejudices.

So among Otis’ books on animals and dinosaurs and Peppa fucking Pig, he has books that explore the cultures associated with Africa [‘Africa Is Not A Country’ & ‘Sundiata’], Mexico [‘Tequila Worm’] and the Middle East [‘My Fathers Shop’].

Now I appreciate some people may think we are going a bit over-the-top with this.

After all, Otis is only 2 and a half.

But, as I have written before, I’ve learnt not to care what others think.

I’ve learnt people often mistake being a parent with being an ‘expert’ on kids.

I’ve also learnt kids develop so many of their behaviours by being masters of mimicking how their parents behave.

[Jill hopes she can stop him fall victim to ironic t-shirts and Birkenstocks]

At the end of the day, we believe we have a responsibility to him – and society as a whole – to encourage the values and beliefs that can enable him to be a good human being … someone who doesn’t just contribute to society in terms of what he achieves, but in terms of what he helps others achieve.

Of course we know he will face challenges.

Peer pressure. Unexpected circumstances. The allure of mischief.

And while we can’t dictate how he handles those things, we hope we can prepare him to deal with them in a way where he can hold his head high … which is why on top of being loving, supporting parents, we will buy him books on understanding different cultures, give him dolls to play with and encourage him to play with his beloved pink kitchen.

Being a Father is one of the most amazing things that has happened in my life.

I feel embarrassed to admit I had no idea how good it would be … and while being a good parent is basically a matter of trying things with good intent, I want to say a big thank you to Karrelle Dixon … because he may not realise it, but he made a big difference to how my little boy will grow up. Not in terms of respect, but in terms of understanding … and when you think about it, that’s one of the most wonderful gifts you can give anyone.

I hope my parents would think we’re doing good with their grandson.

I think they would.



Equality Is About Letting People Be Free To Express Themselves, Not Conform To The Majority …
September 20, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: America, Comment, Culture, Equality, Happiness, Insight

Equality.

A little word with big consequences.

It’s also a word that – in my opinion – is often misunderstood.

I have been very fortunate in my life.

I’m white.

Male.

British [with a large dollop of Italian]

Loved and supported by wonderful parents.

But if you don’t have one of these attributes – or god forbid, have none of these attributes – your life is going to be impacted negatively in some way.

Now there is definitely a movement to try and improve things … to ensure people who have been subject to prejudice in the past to be treated fairly in the future … and that is a great thing [even though it should never be something that needs to be consciously done] but the word ‘fairly’ often translates to being allowed to act like the majority act.

On first impression you might think that is a good thing, but it isn’t, it’s saying that rather than be able to express yourself without fear or judgement, it’s saying you are allowed to express yourself as long as it is in ways the majority regard as acceptable.

At the heart of it, it’s still based on prejudice and that’s why equality shouldn’t be about acceptance by your standards, but acceptance of the other person being able to express themselves freely and honestly.

The thought of that might be tough for some, but if you accept that fundamentally people are good – and they are – then all it will do is inject more good into our World, and we could all do with a bit of that.

Big thanks to Nika and Maya for helping me see this more clearly, though judging by this photo of Otis at his multi-cultural, hippy-led, pre-school [and I mean that in the best way], it seems he knew this before his old man.




Everything Wrong With America In A Picture …
September 12, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, Comment, Culture, Empathy

What I find interesting living in the US is that debate is often viewed as attack.

OK, that is not exclusive to America, but in comparison to the many countries I’ve lived in – it certainly seems to be more of a trigger switch in people than I’ve experienced before.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone is like that and I’m thoroughly enjoying being in the US [though I do miss China, which might sound weird to some] but it hasn’t taken me long to identify a range of subjects where you feel the tension in the room go from 0-100mph in the blink of an eye.

Religion, politics, race, wealth/poverty, abortion, healthcare and gun control are basically conversation hand grenades and yet they’re the very subjects America needs to talk about so the country can move forward rather than stand still and rip itself apart.

Now I appreciate these would be touchy subjects in any culture, but in America, the mere mention of any of these subjects results in either aggression or total shut down and frankly, I find that very disturbing, especially for a country that talks about freedom of speech.

Of course in my experience, I’ve found the people not willing to talk about certain subjects are often the ones who have something invested in keeping things exactly as they are, which is probably why the NRA continues to push weapon ownership – as the above photo demonstrates – despite huge amounts of evidence that gun ownership is contributing to gun crimes. [Which, let’s be honest, is hardly a surprise]

Perhaps the thing that bothers me most is this belief that if you give any counter argument a moment of consideration, you are seen – or made to feel – a traitor to your cause.

Not smart.

Not fair.

Not informed.

You’re a bloody traitor.

The irony of this approach is it’s been proven that when people feel they’ve been listened to, the level of aggression they feel is vastly reduced, even if the outcome remains the same.

America is a wonderful country but it’s a land of extremes.

Forward thinking yet insanely conservative.

Religious yet war loving.

Deeply patriotic yet massively divided.

If Trump really wants to make this country great again, then a good place to start might be to encourage the spirt of debate again.

Contrary to what the President may think, debate doesn’t mean the wheels keep spinning and nothing gets done … it means that before a decision is made, people have talked and discussed the situation without aggressiveness, put-downs or abuse. He might find this hard to believe, but it may even lead to better decisions … but more than that, you can’t be a nation that celebrates ‘freedom of speech’ when – as the Dixie Chicks learned – anyone who expresses their opinion finds out it has just cost them a huge amount.



LaLaLand In A Picture …
September 7, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, America, LaLaLand

This is what I am dealing with …

Bravery doesn’t cover the half of it. Ahem.



When Culture Bleeds Into Culture …

You know you lived in Shanghai when you’re driving, see the sign above and think it’s a Chinese street name rather than how American’s roadsigns say ‘pedestrian crossing’.

I wish I was joking, but I’m not.

How I passed my driving test is anybody’s guess.

I’ve got to be honest, while I am really enjoying my time in the US, I am finding it harder to adapt to certain things than I thought I would.

Not just because I feel my frame-of-reference is more Asian based than American, but because there are some things I am being subjected to that I just never encountered before.

To be honest, this is a post for another day – because it’s actually been quite challenging for me – but let me just leave you with this as a ‘teaser’ for next time.

I had just been in a very, VERY boring meeting with someone.

When I got out, I was asked how it had been.

I replied, “I feel I’ve just been brain raped”.

Their mouth almost hit the floor. Literally hit-the-floor.

Trust me, there’s so many more stories like that. I’m amazed I’m still allowed in the country.