Musings of a morbid mind

The general ravings of Scott Baldwin

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Response to Wall Streets Response


Wall Streets response to Occupy Wall Street

I find it quite insulting. My mother was a primary school teacher, and she worked very hard. Not only did she have to drive almost an hour each way to get to school, after working a full day, she'd then have to come home, prepare dinner for the family, and then sit at her desk until late at night preparing the next days lessons. All for such a small salary. The only benefit was the decent amount of holidays she had, half of which were spent preparing for the next semesters classes.

I find this response arrogant, and displays the ignorance of someone who has only ever worked on Wall Street. I find it laughable that these people think they could possibly settle for a teachers salary. They don't seem to realise the extent of the lifestyle change they'd have to make to adjust to the disparity in income. I am a reasonably well paid software engineer, and earn significantly more than both of my parents combined, yet I don't think even I could deal with the lifestyle change that I would require to change my career to teaching, even if I could walk straight into a teaching job today.

I do respect what these very smart people do, and I don't think anyone is suggesting they change jobs. Part of the problem with occupy wall street is that there is a lot of confusion about what is being asked for. Things like eliminating corporate corruption, the unfairness of corporate criminals going unpunished while defaulting mortgagees are kicked out on the street, the ever increasing disparity in income for the super rich, corporate bailouts, and a plethora of other issues all thrown in together. My personal concern is that the system we have been building is unsustainable. Sure wealth disparity is a natural part of life, and from an economic point of view it can be a very good thing. However, there is only so much disparity that the majority will accept before there is a revolution. If you want to base your right to be greedy/wealthy on the concept of “the trickle down effect”, you have to be sure the wealth is trickling down, not accumulating at the top. Maybe occupy wall street is a warning that we are approaching a limit that is unacceptable. This response from Wall Street sounds to me very much like “Let them eat cake”.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You don’t incarcerate ‘clients’

I’m not going to fill up more of the internet explaining how disgraceful Australia’s refugee policy is. Many, and much more eloquent people have done this already. I just want to draw attention to the sickening abuse of the word ‘client’ that the private security firm Serco use to refer to the people they guard. This is a classic PR trick. Take a term with harsh connotations and water it down by using a more generic or (as I argue here) a completely different word instead. For example, calling a “Garbage man” a “Sanitization Professional”. The technique can also be very effectively used in reverse, such as renaming “Female circumcision” to “Female genital mutilation”. In this case it takes a practice that is protected by religious traditions, and calls it out for what it is.

We need to be very careful of the words we use to name things, in particular when naming relationships. Our language plays a pivotal role in defining how we think, and consequently how we act as a society. Personally I don’t want to be part of a society that mandatorily locks asylum seekers up. Everyone should have the right to seek protection from persecution, without incurring further persecution. To call the people who have been mandatorily detained ‘clients’ is misleading and attempts to hide what we are really doing to these people. Call them “prisoners”, “inmates”, or any other synonym thereof, but the only client that Serco has is the Australian Government.

If we call these refugees ‘prisoners’, then we are forced to conclude, at the end of the processing; when roughly 80+% of them are found to be genuine refugees fleeing from persecution, that we ‘imprisoned’ a vulnerable person who did nothing wrong. If we continue to call them ‘clients’, then it may just be possible to convince ourselves that they are merely purchasing a service from us, a transaction entered into willingly on their part, and the conclusion is a successful ’transaction’. Everybody is happy, and the responsibility has been very subtly shifted. The Australian public can go on burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the grief and trauma we are causing through our Governments policies. Denying someone’s freedom should never be seen as a business transaction.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A rose by any other name, a milonga in any other venue

I’d heard the rumours when I was back in Melbourne. Cachirulo had moved to Villa Malcolm. Even 12000 klms away, that just sounded incongruous. Villa Malcolm was at the heart of nuevo tango. All the beautiful young things went there, those too young to have felt the need for plastic surgery, those that were experimenting with wild outrageous moves involving an embrace that moved fluidly between fully closed, and dramatically open, and even off axis. Snooty little porteñas who wouldn’t condescend to look at a gringo let alone dance with one. Arrogant porteños who cared more about how freaking hot they looked on the dance floor, than who they bumped into when trying to lead their latest DNI inspired sequence. Cachirulo was in comparison the ‘ultra-orthodoxy’ of tango. The rules posted on the wall at the former venue, Maipu 444 stated: “We dance strictly milonguero style”, “We follow the line of dance” “heels stay on the ground”, “we use the cabaceo to invite” etc…. The organizers Hector and Norma were very strict about this. I even have a friend who dances nuevo and made the mistake of venturing to Cachirulo be asked to leave if he insisted on dancing open embrace. As opposed to the lasa fair first come first served approach to seating at a normal Villa Malcolm night, Hector insisted on seating everyone explicitly in a spot that he felt best suited… (I want to say them, but I can’t, the seating arrangements at Cachirulo serve the milonga more than any individual). I have heard Hector referred to as a “tango Nazi”. Regardless of your feelings on all of the protocols and traditions of Cachirulo, it attracts some of the best social tango dancers in Buenos Aires, and as such fast became one of my favourite milongas. I spent 7 months going every Saturday night to this milonga back in 2008-2009, many times arriving at around 8pm and staying ‘til they played La Cumparsita (some time around 4:30am). Even managed to get invited to their Christmas party in L’anus. Sure, there were still some egos, and attitudes, but I consistently had fantastic dances at Cachirulo, and the DJ there, ‘Carlos Rey’ became my favourite DJ in Buenos Aires.

It was with more than a little apprehension that I ventured to Villa Malcolm last Saturday night to see for myself. I received a very warm welcome from the organisers, and after chatting a little, Hector showed me to a reasonably good seat on the men’s wall. As I sat down I began to notice the lengths they had gone to to make it look and feel like Cachirulo in Maipu. The seating had been arranged exactly how it was in Maipu, and the tables had been covered in a similar style. There was of course the wall of women on the opposite side of the dance floor to the wall of men. For a few seconds I even forgot that I was in Villa Malcolm as I looked around at some of the familiar faces. Milongueros came up to me and greeted me with the traditional Argentine kiss on the cheek. One even said to me in spanish, “You returned”, and then followed it up with “It’s like a drug no?”

I looked around again, and saw Villa Malcolm, and it just felt so bizarre, like a collision of cultures. I couldn’t forget the poor night I had here just over a week ago at the infamous “Tango Cool”, being snubbed by the snooty porteñas, and began to worry that I may have similar fate tonight. The fearing that it was the venue itself that was jinxed was hard to shake, plus it had been over 2 years since I was last here. I saw one of my old favourites dancing with her regular partner, and smiled at her as she danced past. She returned the smile. This gave me confidence, and next tanda saw me dancing with this wonderful woman. Carlos Rey was still spinning the discs, and as the night wore on, and I had some wonderful dances, I began to realise that a milonga has very little to do with the venue, and much more to do with the organisers, the DJ, the day of the week, and the people it attracts.

So I guess it’s no surprise where I’m heading this Saturday night.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Back in Buenos Aires

It’s been almost 2 weeks now that I have been back in Buenos Aires, and it’s been a real mix of emotions. Joy, sadness, happiness, anxiety, relief, exhilaration, frustration. Buenos Aires tends to amplify everything. The highs are ecstatic, the lows devastating… but one thing’s for sure, you know you’re alive.

I have been out dancing every night except for one. This too has been a mixed bag. One milonga I went to I was snobbed off all night by snotty little porteñas’ who think their excrement smells oh so sweet, and wouldn’t even condescend to look at a gringo, let alone dance with one, even though their tango isn’t all that great, and spent most of the night dancing with beginners. Fortunately not all porteñas are like that, and I have had some magic moments. The second night I was here, I was taken out to a milonga way out of town, that doesn’t even appear in any of the tango magazines. It was a donation milonga (i.e. no official entrance charge but you are asked to give a donation), and I had the most awesome time. I was reminded of why we tango dancers insist on coming to Buenos Aires, every single dance was pure heaven. The connection with the music blows you away, the presence in the dance, just perfect.

I had forgotten just how difficult life is here. Not so much for me, I know how privileged I am, and even though getting certain things done can be challenging at times, I know I have it pretty easy here. Life for the people who live and work here; the lower classes, and even the struggling middle class, have it very tough. Let alone those who have no job or home. Just taking a ride on the subte (underground) brings it home. hardly anyone smiles, and if you look close enough you can see a deep weariness chiselled into most of the faces, and a resigned frustration in their eyes. Having said that, if you engage most people, they can soon become jovial and animated if they like you.