The end of voluntary student unionism

14 12 2005

I wrote this as a comment to Darpies blog who holds a conflicting but measured view on this issue- got a bit carried away and before i knew it had written a rant – so i may as well have it on my blog. 

 

Hi Matthew,
Firstly thanks for commenting on my blog – i’m glad you enjoyed it especially as you’ll probably be among the minority in enjoying such a long and dry entry. But i wanted to write it anyway because its an important paradigm shift for me. Thanks also for letting me know that things should improve in the years ahead, it’s comforting knowledge.

However i could not disagree with you more about VSU. The end of compulsory student unions is a dark day for tertiary education in australia.

 The student unions are what makes university fun! Without them university is just a degree factory. A true means to an end, something endured rather than enjoyed. University experience should be about more than jus tgoing to classes and reading the subject material and then doing exams and graduating. University is the time to have some fun and meet interesting people. This is exactly what the student unions facillitate – through the many clubs and functions which they hold – which i think you are implying are a waste.
I’m guessing are experiences with student unions have been different. One’s opinion probably depends on the experience of effectiveness of the unions at your university and one’s willingness to participate in their activities. They are only a waste if your not going to them.
Student unions facilitate fun and interaction with other students trhrough clubs and barbeques.
When first starting university and not knowing anyone university can seem daunting. Thestudent union had oranised camps for people to meet other students.

These are wild affairs where you really get to know your fellow students well. People you only met a few hours ago are suddenly dancing on tables, playing drinking games, running naked through the grounds and a whole lot of other crazy stuff –  and generally having an awesome time getting to know one anotherat the end of these you go home knowing that when you start uni there will be a few friendly faces waiting for you.

Otherwise how do you meet people at uni – contact with people is so fleeting it would be much harder to form anything more than aquaintances. Everyone has different timetables and lectures are very large in the early years – so its hard to really make friends.

They continue to faccilitate meeting and continuing friendships with people through clubs of common interest. I poersonally was heavily involved in the clubs – they provide for example scuba diving equipment which a student could not otherwise afford – so a group of students who enjoy scuba dinving can go out on the weekends and enjoy this activity.

This is now going to come to an end because even though unions provide a large overall benefit,students will think ‘why should i pay when i will not see direct tangible equal or greater $value benefit to myself’. It will not make financial sense to be in the union, it makes more sense to try and free load on the services it provides whilst not paying any money. A Because whether oen person pays or not will not make a difference – and following this common logic no-one will pay. And so overnight the unions will vanish.students aren’t going to pay if they are given a choice. This will be the end of the student unions – or if not they wil be merely a pale shadow of their former versions.

It’s true the unions squandered money. My favorite club has not passed an audit…  ever! But my experience of the arts society wasa plethora of free bbq’s, parties, booze cruises, tram crams, camps and other activities so that people can socialise at uni.  THey facilitated the friendships and good times for me and hundreds of others which far exceeded the monetary value spent. Can you put a value on friendship and a wonderful university experience? It can’t honestly be measured in monetary terms. Money given to the societies cretes these social connections for students and is money well spent.

They also provide free counseling for people who need it, and arrange other serives to make university more bearable for most people. You cannot measure the social capital which is going to be lost through this move. The mental health of students and the quality of university life will decline, whilst isolation and thedrop out rate will increase as a result of this decision. They help with student housing. Essentially killing the student unions kills alot of the fun in university.

I feel sorry for the students to come who will miss out on this. This is a dark day for australian universities.





Purely academics

13 12 2005
 
 
I am writing now from one of the most beautiful libraries i have ever
been in. The Doe library at UC Berkeley. The high ceiling is a
romanesque style woodcarving, reminiscent of Santa Maria Magiore
Bascilica in
Rome ( which i think i have pics of in my Rome photo album), the
intricate side panels are inscribed with the names of academic greats
such as
Goethe, Darwin, Kant etc.

San Francisco: one of the most intelligent and educated locales in the
world. Unfortunately i’m only hear for a couple of days.
I have decided to use my very limited in san francisco in a different
manner to the rest of my travels. Rather than see the city i am
dedicating my time to seeing two of the best universities for
psychology in the world. Stanford and University of California,
Berkeley where i am now writing this. Both these universities are in
proximity to San Francisco and are ranked 1st and 3rd in psychology in
the US and are both in the top 5 in the world. Given there are
literally hundreds of US universities this is no mean feat. Also
considering australia does not have a single psych department in the
top 300 it is worth seeing the disparity.

 However although this library is grand it’s still a library, it has
the same function, and the same potential for me to fill that function
as the monash uni library.Coming here and seeing the place with my own eyes has robbed Berkeley of the romantic and  almost mystical reverence i
held it in.
It’s made me realise that it’s still just a university. At university
what is more important than the surroundings is the ideas – which means you spend alot of time (supposedly) reading, and one of the
wonderful things about reading is that you can do it anywhere. I
remember reading at Humboldt university in Berlin at the same park as
karl marx once studied and formulated his ideas.. It felt like reading
a book anywhere else. Ok so the library here at berkeley has the
original texts of mark twain – whoop de doo.
I can gain the same insight by reading a copy  – and its much less
hassle to gain access to. Romantic notions aside post-grad study in melbourne would be just as beneficial. Although in practice the intelectual calibre of both pupils and staff may not match up to these Ivy-League institutions, after a clear eyed weighing up of the utility of both options, post-graduate study in australia (melbourne?) seems a clear winner.


 

It is not long now until i return back to melbourne and whilst the
travel has been a remarkable experience i am keen to get back to
australia. I’m beginning to focus on what lies ahead of me when i get
back, and what i will be doing. Hence the checking out post graduate
options . Although these two particular institutions may be hard to get into there are other less prestigous institutions with powerhouse psych departments like – university michigan, anne arbor or purdue or penn state. I’m already keen to get back and throw myself into life back
in Oz.  . It’s good to know that i don’t want it anyway – as it means i’ll never have to look back and rue a missed opportunity. That said (and in spite scottie’s experience) i do seriously regret not studying at least a large part of undergrad at a US university.

Leaving aside Business systems (horrible) and my other arts subjects
(wonderful), in psychology, I’ve spent my undergrad fairly
understimulated by psychology and have not really been
pushed intelectually.
Psychology at monash does not  reward creative ideas or new
approaches, or even academic curiosity but instead rewards how anally
one can
follow the set proforma of a lab
report. A monkey with a labotamy knows what the answers to ther
lab report are within half an hour of reading the material, and all
classes report on the same material. Therefore everyone has exactly the
same answers, and just copies off one another meaning their is no difference in the essential content of these lab reports. This is an arbitrary
proforma which changes every few years.  Their is no room for
creativity or true expression or insight in the restrictive setting of
a lab report. The most important thing about a lab
report (i’m not joking or exagerating – really!) is the formatting.

That is, the margins, the text spacing, the font used, when italics are used,
having indents for the secound line of any references and the use and
placing of comma’s and full-stops in the bibliography. i’m not joking
it makes the difference between a credit and a high distinction ( i
know from experience!). The labs are so simple that the content for
every report will be identical. So rather than being able to read more
wideley
in psychology i have had to try to spend mundane time trying to
differentiate my essay from the thousand other identical essays.
 This is hardly the academic setting which fosters an academic
curiosity for the wonders of
psychology and nor does it stimulate a creative mind and it provides
minimal room for the expression of new ideas. It sets lab reports where
i know the content and concepts within half an hour and the report will
take 15-20 hours because i am competing with obsesive-compulsive
perfectionists. So i look forward to the exams where i can at least
differentiate myself from the great unwashed by remembering the
theories we are supposed to have studied all semester (not the 2 days
before). But how does this show creativity, and intelligence – it
simply shows that i can mindlesslyparrot someone elses ideas with more
accuracy than the next mindless parrot. A necessary skill and what
exams are supposed to test but what about intelligence and creativity?

The academic psychologists have set up an institution to remake
themselves – the dinosaurs who espoused behaviourism for more that 50
years, and would have
continued to do so if it were not for someone outside psychology (a
linguist called Noam Chomsky) who showed them how obviously full of
crap they all were. To know how great an indictment this is against
psychology i’m going to simplify it:
Psychology is the study of what goes on in ones head. Behaviourism is a
theory which said that NOTHING goes on inside ones head – or nothing
important anyway – instead a person does in not because of thoughts
they have EVERYTHING is due to external events and previous
experiences. Ie. Humans are simply creatures of stimulus and response
incapable of their own actions. Now think about that for a moment..
isn’t it inherrently obvious that there is something going on inside
ones head? Well this was the most popular theory in psychology for 50
years. – I think this is the the type of psychologist monash is trying
to create- a stimulus/response automaton who could believe in such an
inadequate theory as behaviorism if that was the crap he was spoonfed
and told to
regurgitate.

Rather than make psych interesting monash has made it a tedious and
mundane labour which is simply a means to an end.
I know it would have been harder at a US uni but i think i would have
enjoyed the extra stimulation of being asked to actually think. Also in
case you think this is a rant of sour grapes –  I have a High
Distinction average in psychology,  i’ve been sent letters of
congratulations from the vice-dean for my academic excellence in
psychology. I say this
not to big-note myself but to show that this is not just a sour-grapes
biased rant of someone who couldn’t work within their tedious
system.It’s not
because i haven’t been able to conform to their orthodoxy that i
complain but because their system could have been so much better and
made study so much more interesting.

I’m going to stop the digression there even though i haven’t
articulated it properly- its a sore point which i could harp on about
for hours.  Post-graduate education should not be like undergraduate( I
hope).

On another academic note i re-realised a discouraging prospect which i
had somehow
managed to supress from consciousness whilst i’ve been traveling- it’s
still 2 years untill i undertake postgraduate study. And then it will
be another 2-6 years of study after that. This means that if i want to
become a doctor in psychology (which i do) i’m looking at another 8
YEARS of study!!!!  All the sponteneity i’ve been enjoying these last
few months, choosing what country i’m going to be in on a whim is
coming to an end and now i know what i’m going to be doing for the next
8 years. Thats juxtaposition gives me a feeling i cant quite describe –
like anxiety which sits in my belly. Heres my life for the next 8 years
people:

2006 –     Finish both Business Systems and Arts(psych) Bachelor
degree’s
2007 –     Honours
2008-2012  Phd or DPsych.

That is  sooooo long! I mean  i wouldn’t finish till i’m nearly 30! 8
years ago i was 14.. I just hope that the style of education
drastically improves as i move into post-grad. This would mean i spend
the rest of any remote
semblance of youth at a university. I wouldn’te get out ‘into the
world’ until i was already middle aged! What about doing other things
in life? Why have they made it such a long and arduous process! My
father only had to do the equivalent of 1 year post grad to begin
practicing psychology! And his tertiary education was FREE. I’d have to
come out this and then pay back tens of thousands in deferred tuition
fee’s. So yes a bit of a crisis going on but i know i’ll do it anyway.
What it does mean though is that i can’t wait until i finish university
to look at other life goals. I’ll have to get a move on with these
whilst still at uni.

Moving on.. yes i will soon be returning to Melbourne.
Someone once said something like: "you shall reach the end of your
travels, when
you return home and know this place for the first time". I know what
that means now. Traveling europe has given me insight not just into
other
cultures and forieghn cities but also given me perspective on
melbourne. It is near impossible to judge a city when you cannot
compare it to anythhing in your own experience. So before traveling to
other cities i was unable to accurately guage my native city. Now
however i have traveled to many of the famous cities around the world
and
am now truly aware of how lucky i am to live in melbourne – one of the
greatest cities on earth. Melbourne with its warm sunny summers, sandy
beaches,  oodles of festivals and culture, high standard of living,
clean, cheap – just an awesome place to live. Granted it has some
shortcomings – but overall i will come home loving melbourne more than
ever.





Flirtation with Misanthropy (an insomniacs rant)

9 11 2005
I havent been able to sleep at all the last two nights and i figure i may as well write something to pass the time.
I love the internet cafe’s in the united kingdom – alot of them use the same software which is so easy to hack and hence so free :). I think i’ve paid about a pound for internet access the whole time i’ve been in the uk.
 
Although i enjoy writing in this blog, i do not enjoy the pleasures of anonymity like many some other bloggers. I am hamstrung by the fact that most people who read this will know me. This means that i get judged on what i write and i pull alot of punches on what i write.
 
Its a shame that I cannot complete me rid myself of the tyranny of what ‘they’ (the great mass of unnamed people) think. However it is probably one of the untalked about and pervasive forces in society today. But why even bother with status in the first place? Why care what others think of us?  I  have been asking myself – why do i care what other people think? Who are they to judge me? 
 

I agree with Chamfort who says ‘public opinion is the worst of all opinions’. Because it will not subject itself to rational riguer is polarized,emotional, simplisitic. Complexities and subtelties must be obliterated and it must be simple enough to appeal to ‘the people’ and that is generally a euphamism for ‘the lowest common denominator’. Yet media holds public opinion as soverieghn. Daily there are articles about public opnion on issues. And whats worse – people are influenced not by the merits of an argument but by what most other people think. The reason is that most people couldn’t be bothered putting the effort into weighing up and making up their own mind it’s easier to simply let someone else make the decision or to ‘go with the flow’. And really who cares? As long as the pokies-pub is still open and Big Brother is still on it doesn’t really matter what happens.
Why is this kind of opinion important?
 
The greeks were the first to realise this.
Aristotle was unperterbed when criticised by someone and when questioned on this he says
‘Should i be angry if an ass had kicked me?’. Instead any criticism was reviewed by ones own mind and only if true was it taken to heart.
 
Much later Schoppenhaur similarly says
"Each reproach can hurt only to the extent that it hits the mark. Whoever actually knows that he does not deserve a reporach can and confidently will treat it with contempt’.
 
 Regardless of the accuracy of the opinion of society – where do they get the moral right to judge?

 
 ‘In every country the principal entertainment has become card playing. It is a measure of the worth of society and the declared bankrupcy of all ideas and thoughts’
 
George Orwells big brother may not have eventuated in modern society, but we have a much more nauseating and depraved version which is just as ubiquitous. Media is a two way mirror and reflects what people want to see – hence it is a measure of mainstream society. Media’s rapid descent downwards in an effort to reach as large an audience as possible by waring with other stations to reach the lowest common denominator. Its not just an intellectual descent – the dumbing down of media, but also a moral descent. In england there are topless women on the front page of the most widely read papers (Daily Mirror and Daily Sun), full of stories about so and so’s ‘fantastic affair on the kitchen sink’. Australian media is not too far behind with the success of shows like ‘who wants to marry a millionaire’, ‘temptation island’ a testament to the voyeristic carnal appetites of ‘they’. If Schoppenhauers word are true for a nation of card players, what do they mean for a society who’s principal entertainment is passively viewing the sexual indiscretions of others?
 
 ‘We shall gradually become indifferent to what goes on in the minds of other people when we acquire an adequate knowledge of the superficial and futile nature or their thoughts, of the narrowness of their views, of the paltriness of their sentiments, of the perversity of their opinions and of the number of their errors… we shall then see that whoever attaches alot of value to the opinions of others pays them too much honour.’
– Schoppenhauer
 
How i wish this was true…
 
Whilst I agree with the logic behind this statement i cannot bring this academic understanding into action. To do so although emancipating, would require amputating a prized section of my identity. To alienate myself and walk alone along the road less traveled as an aloof misanthrope. The sacrifices are great and i do not have the emotional strength required. Even now i am imagining being judged for these words. I am conscious of how sanctimoniously condescending this writing sounds. I am conscious of the naturally verbose language my mates will ridicule (take the piss out of?) me for –  let alone the content. I am conscious of the apparent hypocracy of this view given my own often enthusiastic participation in the more hedonistic aspects of society.
  
For example far too often after one too many drinks, my ethics, social mores and inhibitions are drowned in alcohol and I act in ways I never would whilst sober. All those close to me can recall seeing this  numerous times, often in comical ways. A few drinks too many out on the town and as if by magic morph into a person who i do not like at all.  It’s analguos to   R.L Stevensons respectable Dr. Jekyl drinking the potion which unleashes the amoral and devious Mr Hyde.  I’v played with the idea of giving up the grog. It wouldn’t be the first time i’d resolve to. But it would be the first time not straight after doing something really embarassing. Those  other times were just  futile and empty promise as penance for whatever dumb thing i’ve just done (though i sincerely mean it at the time).
 
But ultimatly i know i wont. To do so would remove me from ‘having a beer down the pub with the boys’, ‘coming over for a drink’, and especially ‘coming upstairs for a "coffee’" – (my Mr. Hyde may be unseemingly lascivious at times but is far more Casanova than my Dr. Jekkyl). Alcohol is the social lubricant of society. To rid myself of it is to rid myself of a cornerstone of social activity. Not to mention the source of all my funniest stories (which are also the ones i can’t post here :P). And so i go out on the piss. And i have a good time. I do not enjoy the pleasures of anonymity but despite myself, indulge in the pleasures of conformity. 




Burger King

13 10 2005

3.49

Im sitting in
burger king at the moment. Its cold and wet outside. I just thought I
should write about the experience in here and the new marketing
campaign launched by them. Ive written a few blogs from exotic
locations about exotic stuff and I feel like writing about something
more mundane for a change.

 

I’m looking at my Large coke – probably about the most generic drink u can buy. On the side of the cup it says:

 

This cup makes a statement about you. It says "Hey, look at me, I’m an ambitious and decisive person." You  could
have gone larger, butyou didn’t. You could have gone smaller, but you
decided against it. No you know exactly what you u want in life, and
that you should always have it your way".

 

And no this is not a self deprecating marketing campaign – they’re  serious.
It would be hilarious pathetic – except that it actually works. I could write a book just
about this cup. It is a great example of some of the problems Im
starting to see around me.

 

 I
believe in the past people defined their identity largely though what
they did ie. U were a blue collar or white collar worker and more than
that you were a accountant or a plumber etc… Now people are defining
themselves through what they consume. I never did marketing but I think
it works something like this. Because marketing companies are trying to
imbue their products with qualities they don’t really have. This is
what Burger King is trying to do. A pair of Christina Dior sunnies is
not intrinsically any ‘sexier’ than a pair of no name ones – it’s the
millions of dollars in advertising which makes people associate sexy
with Christina Dior. People want to be these things (sexy, cool etc
)and they do this by buying products so that hopefully the brand name
will be associated with them by others. This is a two way process and
in doing so they associate themselves with this brand.

 

 Giving
australian examples I’m familiar with – many guys will define
themselves as either a ‘ford guy’ or a ‘holden guy’ they will drink
either carlton or VB, they may express a penchant for certain brands
over others such as nike over adidas, etc. The rub is these items are
very very similar, so companies are trying desperately to differentiate
their product – yet this is how people are defining themselves, through
the clothes they wear the car they drive the area they live.

This is commonly
what it means to be cool now days. To wear the right brands – perhaps
the ones which are just a little obscure so only other people who study
the same consumer cool will know. So you can smirk on the inside at
people who only kind of understand these unwritten rules of associating
yourself with brands and whos attempts are just a bit too obvious. It’s
a subtle line, how peopleassociate themselves with products and brands.
Its also a fine line with how marketers imbue theirproduct with
coolness or sexiness. Burger king have overstepped the mark here but it
provides a concrete example of what is going on in marketing.

 

So people, who want to be ‘bold and ambitious’  or
cool collect a compendium of brands about them which they think say
this. This plays a very large part of their identity. So ingrained is
this that certain brands are associated with different ‘identities’ eg.
Adidas and kappa for Australian Italians (no they don’t wear it that
much in
italy
folks!), or billabong and quicksilver for ‘aussies/surfies’. These
brands make up peoples identities. Just before I was walking down the
escalators and saw a girl who had a tattoo across her lower back
fashionably showing above her low cut brand name jeans – it read
"Tiffany and Co".

 

One of many
problems with this is that their is often only a trivial difference
between these items. The difference is a mere fabrication of spin by
marketers desperately striving for differentiation of the same
products. Because guess what!? A tracksuit is still a tracksuit whether
its adidas, or nike or Kmart. So trivial differences become the sales
point hence we are bombarded with a vast array of the same product with
trivial differences – such as toothpaste with baking soda, or whitening
formula, or power mint burst etc.. So that u will buy 1 particular type
of toothpaste rather than the 20 near identical other ones available.

 

 

Sadly this also becomes peoples meaning in life. To get better brands of the same thing. So that instead of driving a toyota
they can drive a bmw or a ferrari. What’s the difference between a rich
person and a normal person today? Instead of a ford or holden they
drive a mercedes or bmw, instead of a normal tv they have a widescreen
plasma tv, instead of having a house in bayswater or glen waverly they
have a house in toorak. These things are still the same – they perform
the same function with very similar resuts. Its just the status which
other people attach to them which is supposed to justify the often
ridiculous difference in price.  Ie.Its the same crap with a different (more expensive) smell.   I’ve met a number of sales people who have pictures of a Ferrari  or
porsche as their motivation to go out their and ‘make those sales!’ .
I find this ironicly tragic. Ironic
because theyre perpetuating the system they’re trapped in. And tragic
because rather than dedicate their life to helping people – they
dedicate it to changing the type of badge on the car they drive.

 

Also in the end
all people who identify this way are merely conforming to the consumer
society in which they live. People defining themselves through brands
or fashion statements – doing the same things as the marketing
companies do – desperately trying to differentiate themselves on the
surface because underneath this superficial veneer -they are all the
same.

The end result
is that under the material veneer a homogeneity permeates our culture,
marked by rampant consumerism and vacuous personalities. And it doesn’t
just mark Australian culture it’s the same the world over. The
insidious  consumer culture has made its mark through all the countries I’ve traveled. 

 

The key thing
the current system and advertisers keep promoting is power through
choice " Have it your way" say posters all around this burger king. Its
like Henry ford once said – “you can have your T-model ford in any
colour you like- as long as its black”. The creed of today is ‘you can
choose what ever you like – as long as its from western consumer
culture’.

 

Be bold and ambitious!  choose a large coke instead of a regular or bolder still –  choose a pepsi!! Hang on –you want to define yourself through something other than what you consume? Sorry that’s uncool and ur not going to have any friends and your going to fail in life now + noone is going to want to sleep with you

 

By the way I  realise
how ‘uncool’ it is to even be thinking this way – let alone writing
about it or worse yet publishing it on the internet! Its a sad state of
events when its uncool to critically think about things such as the
society we live in or the meaning of ones life! “Pssst Tom-didn’t u get
the memo? Were just supposed to go through life pretending that its one
long and happy ride of good times and instant pleasures.  Your supposed to focus on improving the compendium of brands you surround yourself with. Now don’t question it,  don’t think about it,  "Just do it" stupid!

 





Chew on this…

16 09 2005
I read this book at the start of my trip called "Growth Fetish"  by Clive Hamilton and alot of my thinking has been influenced by it. My last entry was taking his ideas further and applying them to my personal situation and what i have seen.  As luck would have it i dont have to because chapters from his book are freely available on the web! This is one of the best books ive ever read so take the time to have a look. Íf u really dont have long at least check out the 2nd and 3rd chapters. Do it!  
 
Check out Clive Hamiltons website http://www.growthfetish.com/
 
Or else go straight to the chapters:
 
2nd Chapter – Growth and Wellbeing
3rd Chapter  – Identity
 
 
 
 




Keszthely

15 09 2005
Well im in a small town in hugary called kesythely – off the backpacker trail coz i just wanted some time out. Ive been overstimulated with gorgeous sights and activities for over two months now and i was starting to get desensitized to some of what i was seeing in Hungary. Have spent the last few days in an apartment i rented just thinking and writing alot in my journal. Wont bore you with most of it, as theres alot of it but ive changed my attitudes to a lot of things. Been a personally eventful time not doing much in Keszthely . Heres one example from my journal.
 
I went to Heviz today because its supposed to have really relaxing thermal lake to swim in. When i got there it was like an old person tourist resort! Becasue apparently the water had "curative powers" – so hundreds of old folk pay to go and spend time at Heviz.
That is to say they enjoy their old age doing nothing but wearing floaties in this lake hoping that the water will cure their old bones.. What a great life. (NOT!)
These people lie around all day in floatation devices that look like they are made for infants doing nothing but focus on their pain and hoping they will feel better. They kid themselves that they are living the good life, doing nothing but sit around lying in the sun and the water and geting fancy "medical/curative" treatments such as massages and mud baths.
Underneath this illusion the place is no more than a glorified retierement home. Day after day slowly witnessing themselves and their friends gradual slide towards infirmity and death. No way in hell do i ever want to be that inactive that all i have left to do in life is focus on my aches and pains, trying in vain to relieve the pain in my old bones whilst waiting for death. That is the trap of idleness. Once many people retire they have nothing left to do and so they indulge in this "luxury" – "living the good life". I never want to be this idle!
The crazy thing is that in their own eyes and the eyes of many these people have "made it". They have been able to retire and laze around all day. This seems to be the goal of lots of people ive talked to. In fact alot of people are willing to subjugate themselves to a lifetime of boring work just so as to ensure they can retire as quickly as possible.
 
I used to be confused by my dads apparent wish to never retire – but now i see that if you choose well with your work it brings meaning and a productive life, it also keeps ones mind sharp – "use it or lose it" as the cliche goes. Often when people retire they have nothing left to do as their meaning often came directly or indirectly through their work (eg. sucessful business man, bread winner, home maker). Into this meaning vacum they have nothing better to do than sit around waiting for death.
Stats show that the average man dies within 5 years of retirement! I think now i see why. I dont think now that i will ever stop working – or rather i will die working… This is a massive paradigm shift for someone who has until recently made an art for of doing as little as possible.
 
An example of this has been my own approach to work.
I have often been proud of how little work i actually do "working smart, not hard" i used to say. I used to boast that i got paid to go bowling, swimming, go-karting etc. That i wasn’t really working. Then i perfected this further geting a job where i was paid to sleep. I then minimized my work further by doing alot of my study for uni whilst i was at paid work. Again i was proud of being able to minimize the amount of work i do into as small a time as possible.
No more.This pride in avoiding and minimising work seems immature now and i have found a new appreciation for work on this trip. Work is not a "necesary evil" which must be endured.  That is to say the old way of "trying to find a balance" between work and life is over. Instead a good life is now achieved through living fully through ones work. 
This is just  a transcript from my journal – Alot of the premises and lead up  for the above are in other parts of my journal, I might try and get them up at some stage. 
 




Bosnia – Mostow & Going to Sarajevo

7 08 2005
Im writing this post after coming back from Bosnia to croatia – tomorrow i head on to the island of hvar. Im at an internet stant in The American Dream Cafe. Its filled with american kitch, from neon sighns to pictures of the statue of liberty snd a lifesize highway police officer -im the only foreighner in here-  when i ordered a coffee here they brought me a turkish one – oviously the tast of the local clientele who inhabit this cafe… One thing ive noticed whilst traveling the east is the universal fascination with the west. Anything western is instantly cool, hip and happening. It seems to represent coolness, success, abundance and a better life. Ive seen many similarly named cafes over here from bar hollywood, to cafe dallas etc. Its as if the owners are trying to capture some of the magic glow the west incites in people here.
Just before i left australia i had got a mowhawk haircut , it was a bit more extreme than i would have liked as i thought that although it was cool in australia i would look like (even more) of a freak overseas. But the other night out in Mostow/Bosnia it was the most common haircut! People in Bosnia are right up there with their fashion. trying as best their meagre incomes will allow to emulate the west. In mostow People were walking between bullet riddled buildings, wearing their latest style jeans and christina dior sunnies.
 
The cafe i am in is filled with locals, i imagine going through the motions they must see on their tv screens. The importance of television should not be underestimated. although people were living above and below bombsites, and couldnt afford to fix up the bullet riddled houses they lived in most had "shelled out" and bought sattelite dishes attached to their homes so they could pick up the forieghn televeision shows. This kind of outlay to see forieghn movies is indicative of the fascination particularly in bosnia. Interestingly ive seen less satelites in croatia, which has a higher standard of living. Perhaps the more depressing ones surroundings the greater the need for escapism from ones surroundings. So they dress as they see on the televisions and are here in the american dreams cafe, doing what i suppose they think westerners do – drinking their budweiser and smoking marlboros. But paradoxically by doing so they only reinforce the differences between themselves and the west. Westerners do not try to imitate and emulate someone else, they are not straining to be something else- we just are.  We dont think about trying to be western. As long as eastern europe is consciously trying to be western theyll never really be westerners.  Because in their attempts is a hidden admission that they really are not "western" and are displaying their feelings of inferiority for their own position.
 
Anyway dubrovnik was beautiful and their were lots of tourist sights to see, but that brought heaps of tourists and in some ways their influences have marred the uniqueness of dubrovnik (see last post). We decided to head somewhere more off the tourist track – mostow in Bosnia.  When we got there our first sights were of ugly buildings pock-marked with bullet holes, the obvious sighns of war increased the further in with bullet holes scaring every surface and large burnt out shells of buildings transformed into a testament of the recent strife that engulfed this region. We found accomadation with a nice old lady who insisted of speaking to us in german – even though none of us knew any german. Then we  went out to see mostow. I’ve never been anywhere like it before – the sighns of war were everywhere, burn out buildings, bullet – riddled buildings and the gaping holes left by artillery. What i found interesting was the way people lived in a battlefield. People carried on in spiteof their macabre surroundings similar to other parts of europe. We walked past a hairdreser where the level above had been blown appart. Their were bridal shops next to the shattered buildings. The most interesting for me was an outside cafe, similar to those in spain and croatia which was built on the first level the skeleton of a building, people sat, laughing, drinking and listening to american pop music – apparently oblivious to their surroundings.   Their were also lany less tourists throughout the city which was refreshing. The tourists who were in mostow congregated around the old bridge, that seperated the different ethnic groups (bosniak, croat and serb) which were trying to wipe each other out as recently as 1995 the only real "tourist" attraction in mostow.  The other noticable sights were the abundance of gorgeous women. It was ridiculous how many stunners were roaming the streets – without boys in tow.  This led to a unanimous and enthusiastic decision to check out the nightlife in mostow. That night when we got to the old town their was some of the best nightlife i’ve come accross – because the entire young population of mostow was concentrated around two bars. Their were so many people the party spilled out and engulfed about 100 meters of street as well. I don’t know what they put in the water in mostow.. but it does the girls there a world of good. By far the largest grouping of stunners ive seen. We had a good night socialising with the people on the streets.
 
 When we arrived in mostow, i decided i wanted to see more of Bosnia and that i’d go to Sarajevo. The the other boys decided to head back to croatia and hit the beaches of korcula. While Korcula is supposed to be quite pretty, Ićm already sick of the tourists around such beach resort islands and ićm probably going to be doing a few of them with the boys. I decided I still wanted to see more of Bosnia and that id go on to Sarajevo by myself.
 
However during the prevous night in Mostow i met a fascinating guy called Dave. He is

one of the most knowledgable and interesting people ive ever met. I wont give you a description of dave: suffice to say hes very interesting and if u wanna know more check out his blog by clicking here. Turned out we were staying at the same pension. Anyway after a night out in mostow (see previous post) id lost the other guys and came back with him, we ended up having a long chat and turned out he was going to sarajevo as well with another guy nick – who has been traveling for the last 3 yearspretty much straight, has been everywhere and is bloody intelligent (he also has been doing this with a bag not much bigger than a standard school backpack, so i hooked up with these two intriguing charecters and traveled out to sarajevo…
 
The scenery on the journey was amazing – our bus wided through pristine,mountainous pineforersts. The river alongside the bus for most of the trip was a brilliant aqua- ive never seen natural water that colour before. Small cotteges dotted the countryside beside huge lakes – it was like traveling through a postcard. Its such a pity that during the war both sides covered the countryside with mines, making travel through the forests unsafe. They robbed the rest of the world of a beutiful countrside and themselves of a valuable source of income – even more poignant given that Bosnia has nearly no industries.
 
Anyway im running out of time on the internet so ill move through sarejevo quickly. We met the cousin of the lady we stayed with in mostow and she took us to our room which was about 100 meters from sniper alley (a notorious stretch of road where serbian snipers indiscriminantly killed men women and children for the length of the war)  then me and dave went off to  check out the sarajevo tunnel museum while nick went to the hospital (he was having pains in his chest turned out to be fine). We were lucky in we got the chance to talk to the family of the house where the tunnel was built, i forget the name fo the guy we spoke too but during the war he had been on the front line and then had come back to help building the tunnel at his home. Then we checked out the holiday inn (significant during the war) and then went for awalk through the town. the war damage was obvious in sarajevo but not nearly as bad as in mostow. Although on the ground "sarajevo roses" were another reminder of what had happened here. these were shell craters filled with red cement whenever anyone had been killed by that shell. They were all over the city. Checked out the mosque and also the latin bridge where gavrillo princip killed franz ferdinand (precipitating ww1)  – for such a significant bridge there wasnt even a plaque comemorating it! we walked over it and thought it couldnt be it because there wasnt a plaque or anything  – i mean this bridge was where ww1 started and they hadnt commemorated it at all! shows that tourism isnt yet being fully milked as an industry in bosnia anywway. One of the most memorable parts ofsarajevo will be my conversations with my travel companions (and listening in when i realised i was clearly out of my depth), both these guys were incredibly knowledgable and the more i got to know them the more impressed i was.
unfortunately this interet is coin operated and the bar has run out of coins..its about to log me off but  i have more to write, oh wel. Bosnia was a fantastic experience and im really glad i went. anyway tomorroww im heading on to hvar to meet up with the boys again.