24 December, 2010

Such is the Mystery

...the mystery of why I Just.Don't.Blog anymore. Well it's partly laziness (of course) - this *is* Yours Truly we're talking about. But I think it's mostly the insidious Facebook to blame.

And ex-Facebookers probably blame Twitter for no longer Facebooking.

But how do these conclusions possibly make sense? After all, Twitterites are well-aware they're limited to 160 characters, necessitating short, sharp, concise, to-the-point tweets. This should cut out all the filler material and make Twitter-viewing far more information-rich and enjoyable when it comes to keeping up with friends (at least in theory).

Somehow, Twitter has done the opposite for most people I follow. For every one person who posts "Baby Benson arrived this morning, mum & baby healthy, more info soon!", I seem to get hundreds who do nothing but tell me about expeditions to the corner shop to buy milk and bread. I think it's because they expect 160 characters to be too short to be meaningful; and so they've given up completely on quality, and just post day-to-day drivel. It spreads by peer pressure. When all your friends post garbage, why not get into the swing of things with garbage of your own?

So but anyhoo, I was thinking about Facebook. And I realised that quite often these days, I post in Facebook things that previously would have gone into a blog. Opportunity is the biggest part. Facebook is there, I have it open anyway to see what my friends are up to, and it's easy. Couple that with social interaction and instant gratification - I get dizzily excited seeing who has "like"d my posts today - and it's a gimme. Blogging just doesn't provide that kind of feedback. I'm not left to wonder if someone, ANYONE has read what I typed.

But it must be acknowledged that like Twitter, there are space limitations. Posts can only be so long. People will only read so many "replies" where you try to jam in more rambling parts of your update. There are apps and addons to enable bigger posts (Notes being the main one), but they're in the "too hard" basket for many people to bother reading, and it's a clunky and inelegant Facebook addition.

When it comes to quality for blogging, Facebook just doesn't cut it. Blogs do.

So in my heart of hearts I know full well that I'm pumping out drivel in Facebook. But it's easy. It's just a little sad that it partly satiates my desire to write, actually write. Sadder still if my writing "skill" becomes an unused muscle which slowly begins to waste away.

16 December, 2010


My kids began their schooling in Finland as part of a cultural melting pot, in a special immigrant class. Irony: Finland has very little immigration, a very short history of immigration, and really, most of the general population have not much of a clue when it comes to the real issues surrounding immigration. Australia, on the other hand, is a nation of immigrants. Australia is arguably not particularly good at integrating them (why integrate when they can always find fellow countrymen there to socialise with anyway) but you would think that as Aussie kids they'd be quite accustomed to being surrounded by cultural and religious diversity.

Not so. Two years in Wellington left them insulated from all except disadvantaged indigenous kids and redneck white-European families. (Before someone protests intolerance  I'm well aware there were some exceptions. But when the only main types of "culture" which pervade your school life are those two, it has a massive impact on growing minds.)

So it has been a mixture of wonder and amusement as I hear them tell stories of their classmates, their attitudes, their beliefs, and their dietary habits. One in particular, a nasty Eastern-European boy with a mouthful of attitude, constantly belittles my children for eating pork. I am grateful for the fact that my kids are old enough (just) to appreciate that they're NOT filthy for eating it, and that TardBoy's religion makes him feel that it's wrong, and his mouth is too big. We've also discussed the fact that one other kid has the same religion, doesn't eat pork either, and yet never says cruel things to those who do. One of Jay's close friends. He has class.

That kid is from Somalia. I'm going to call him Hakim-Khalid. My kids have expressed amazement at these Somalian kids. There are another 7 kids in the class named Hakim, or Khalid, or Ali-Hakim, or Khalid-Abdi, or a combination. Many of them couldn't write, couldn't cope with learning their ABCs, and have blackened, rotting teeth. When they first attend school, they turn up without warm clothes and accessories, until well into the snow season - not for a lack of clothing but a lack of understanding how to protect themselves from cold. Hakim-Khalid is typical in that his tiny stature is evidence of having lived a very harsh life before he got to Finland.

Several months into school, we were discussing some of the immigrants I had met while learning Finnish, and particularly the subject of given names. I use a "Finn-ised" first name and my husband's surname, so people are quite unaware I'm an immigrant until I open my mouth. Those who have black skin are not nearly as lucky, and likewise those whose name is difficult for a Finn to pronounce. While Finns are almost never openly racist - since they rarely open their mouths to a stranger at all - there's the racism you'd expect from any nation anywhere in the world: If I'm choosing someone for a job, I'll just never know if someone with a very foreign name can actually function well in the local language. Easier to throw that application in the bin and go with the man named Tapio Leevi Nieminen, who is so obviously Finnish.

Jay was very thoughtful about this and asked if his Anglo first and surnames might stop him getting work when he was older. My husband was frank about it. "It might make things a little tougher. But it will be MUCH easier than for a Somalian."

Again, he was thoughtful. Then he observed, as if it were the first time he ever noticed, "Kids always ask me why I came to Finland. They never ask Hakim-Khalid why he came to Finland. Why not?"

Now there's a thorny question. It's impossible to answer without being harsh and being racist. "Jay, unfortunately, most Finns don't care why Hakim-Khalid came here. They all know, already. Or at least, they think they know. He's black, therefore they think he's probably a refugee, who came to Finland for a better life. And many people will treat him like he's a waste of public money who doesn't deserve to be here."

Silence. "But everyone likes Hakim-Khalid, Mum. He's cool."

"Yes, he is, once you take the time to get to know him. But strangers decide why Hakim-Khalid is here, just from the colour of his face. They don't understand why a white foreigner is here. That's why they ask you, and never ask Hakim-Khalid. If he's so cool, why doesn't anyone ever ask him why he came to Finland?"

It gave Jay something to think about. I don't like upsetting my kids, but I like them to have a view of what the real world is like. If you don't understand the world, how can you ever change it for the better? Jay is going to stand right beside some racist haters, at some point - and when it happens I'd like him to think about how people treated his black friend, and I want him to speak up and tell them it's wrong.