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


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.

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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.




Finally …
September 18, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Attitude & Aptitude, Comment, Daddyhood, Family, Fatherhood, Insight

3 days after I arrived in the US, I ordered a new car.

This was momentous for a bunch of reasons.

1. It was only the 2nd car I’d ever bought.
2. It was the first car I was going to have after 15 years.

Of course, because I’m a sad bastard, I wanted all the gadgets in it which meant I’ve had to sit on my hands for 4 months while the bloody thing was built for me.

That might not sound much, but for an only child, that is like being sent to Guantanamo Bay.

Well, after driving Jill mad with continual ‘Youtube video car review’ watching [hey, what can I say, I was really excited about getting it], it’s finally arrived.

Actually, to be specific, it arrived earlier last week but typical of karma getting her own back on me, I was away so couldn’t get to it.

I cannot tell you how hard that was for me. Yeah, I know, it’s a first world problem but it was still bloody painful.

Well, not I’ve got it, I am beside myself with joy.

Every time I look at it I smile a massive smile.

Part of that is because I can’t believe it is mine mainly because I don’t think I deserve it.

OK, so you probably feel I don’t deserve it either, but what I actually mean is that deep down, I don’t feel I should ever be in a position to own such a car. I’m not trying to act humble or anything, it’s just that when I think of my parents – both of whom were smarter and better humans than me – they could never of had such a thing so the fact I can reinforces both how lucky I am and how unfair things are for others.

To be honest, this feeling is one of the reasons I insisted we get Jill a new, new car.

Without going into too much, she’s had a bunch of hardship in her life [and I don’t just mean being married to me] so being in a position to get her something she never thought she would ever have, gave me incredibly happiness.

Of course the ultimate revenge is the fact that the moment you drive a new car out of a dealership, it is worth a good deal less than you paid for it, but what some fail to realise is buying a new car isn’t about practicality but emotion.

I’m not even talking about it in terms of materialism or status … for me, I’m talking about it in terms of being a proper adult.

Well, as ‘proper an adult’ as I’ll ever be.

I appreciate that sounds wank – and it probably is – but now I have a family, a car lets me feel I’m able to do my bit for them.

To take them on adventures.

To let us be more spontaneous.

To just go out and explore more easily.

I get many of you will think this is all an excuse designed to try and justify my choice of car – and maybe I’m kidding myself and this is simply a case of me wanting to have a car, especially when I’m living in the city of cars – but I really feel this will fundamentally change the life we are living here in a great way and that excites me hugely.

Let’s just hope I don’t crash the bloody thing …



Is Marcus A Devious Bastard?
September 14, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: A Bit Of Inspiration, Brand Suicide, Comment, Marketing Fail, Standards, Talent

A few weeks ago I wrote about a Facebook ad Marcus sent me.

It was for some tech support social platform and – alarmingly – featured an illustration that looked very much like me.

As in, it looked EXACTLY like me.

Well either Marcus was behind it or he’s frequenting some very weird places on the net, because he just sent me another one.

Yes, another!

Same company.

Same social platform.

Same – but in a different pose – illustration of me.

WHAT. THE. FUCK?

I know we keep talking about the personalisation of ads, but this is ridiculous.

It also shows an alarming lack of strategy, because anyone worth their salt would know I wouldn’t want to be part of something I’m part of.



A Car Ad On Social Media That Doesn’t Totally Suck …
September 13, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Advertising, Cars, Comment, Creativity, Marketing

On face value, the title of this post is quite a big call.

But, when you remember there’s so little good car ads about, it’s not that hard to ‘stand out’.

And while the visual element of this Porsche ad is pretty boring, there’s something about that line of copy I really like.

In just 12 words, it’s managed to capture the sense of awe a Porsche should make you feel.

And while you could argue these 12 words could be used for any car brand, when you know that Frederic Porsche once said …

“I want to build cars that are not something to everyone but everything to someone”

… you realize how good that copy is.



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.



The 11th Of September Is A Day No One Wants To Remember But Has To Remember …
September 11, 2017, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

Today is a hard day for a lot of people, but in terms of people I know, it will be especially difficult for both Dave and Andy. And to both of you, I send a big, big hug and hope today is one where good memories start shining through. On a positive, my dear Aunt Silvana – Mum’s Sister – turns 90 today, so a big, wonderful hug to her from all of us here. Rx